September 30, 2021

Pandemic has teens feeling worried, unmotivated and disconnected from school

By 3nt1nd1444so

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many U.S. teens were more worried about the disruption to their education than the possibility of getting sick. A May 2020 survey of high school students found that they reported academics and work habits to be among their biggest challenges, ahead of mental and physical health. Nearly three-quarters (72%) indicated they were “very much” concerned with how COVID-19 would impact their school year.

As a researcher who studies adolescent development, I was interested in whether and how teens’ school stress changed as the pandemic dragged on. So during the fall of 2020, my colleague and I surveyed adolescents about their academic concerns and the changes they noticed in school social dynamics.

Our study, published in School Psychology, revealed that some school challenges increased, while others stayed about the same.

Education concerns
The 452 adolescents, aged 11-17, that we surveyed reported that they still worried about how COVID-19 would impact their schoolwork. And concerns about academic motivation were most common. Teens most frequently worried about not being able to motivate themselves to do, or focus on, schoolwork.

These academic worries were elevated among older students who were further along in secondary school, for whom graduation and college planning are more imminent.

While our study did not collect academic achievement data, links between school stress and poorer academic outcomes highlight the importance of alleviating students’ academic worries in order to reduce potential pandemic-related learning loss.