Teens in containment : between distress and relief

Ados en confinement : entre détresse et soulagement

Ados en confinement : entre détresse et soulagement

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May 24, 2020 4: 00

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Teens in containment : between distress and relief

Kristel Tardif-Grenier

Associate professor, psychoeducation and psychology, UQO,

Isabelle Archambault

Professor, University of Montreal

Véronique Dupéré

University of Montreal

THE SCIENCE IN HIS WORDS / The containment leads to major upheavals in the lives of adolescents at a period in their development where they need to mingle with their friends and break free of their parents. In the context of containment and distancing of physics that we currently know of, their psychological well-being is a major concern.

Our research and our expertise as teachers in psycho-education have brought us to interest ourselves in this question.

From 8 to April 30, 2020, we have conducted a study with 1251 young people aged between 12 and 17 years of age, distributed in all regions of Quebec. Quantitative data (statistics) and qualitative (texts written by adolescents to describe their experience of containment) have been collected through an online questionnaire disseminated on the social networks, as well as through partners of the school environment.

Overall, and unsurprisingly, the results suggest that adolescents experience more distress (38% of boys and 51 % girls exhibit a significant level of depressive symptoms and/or anxiety) than normal (19 % of boys and 40 % girls).

However, there seems to be some heterogeneity in the way in which the adolescents live containment. Two main profiles stand out : for some youth, the confinement causes the distress, while for others, it is rather a source of relief.

Of the worrying symptoms

Approximately one-third of adolescents perceive themselves as being a little more stressed than usual since the beginning of the confinement, but feel much more sad than before and reported worrisome levels of depressive symptoms.

“I cry a day. I feel powerless in the face of the suffering of my friends. I think I live with a lot of frustration buried and a bunch of other emotions that I don’t even understand.” — Ariane*, 17 years old, Montreal.

Depressive symptoms predominant are the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness and a lack of confidence in the future. These symptoms, if they persist, could have long-term consequences on the psychological well-being of these young people.

These are young people who live a elevated distress also tend to use adaptive strategies say negative to cope with the situation of confinement. For example, they are more likely to blame themselves, to denial, to renounce, to find solutions to their problems or to consume alcohol and/or drugs.

Ados en confinement : entre détresse et soulagement

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However, they are also more likely to seek support, help and advice of others than young with less signs of psychological distress. We can assume that they are looking for more support because they feel the need, given their level of distress. However, it is also possible that these young people use usually more to the support of their peers. The containment, which the cut to this important source of support, could therefore affect them more.

Another important element in the discourse of young people who are at a elevated distress is as they report live hard to the proximity imposed with the members of their family.

It is difficult with my family, we do not endure more, and I look forward to return to a normal routine with the guy that I like and see my friends ! — Chloe, 17 years, eastern Townships

I find that family life is complicated because we don’t stop pounding on the feet. — Loïc, 16 years old, Montreal

Since the beginning of the containment, decision-makers and experts spoke of the adversity, the family lived by the children to justify the return to school, however, some teenagers live possibly of such difficulties.

I can’t see my best friends, and it is this that encouraged me between arguments with my mother and difficulties with my father. — Camille, 14 years old, Laval

A certain well-being

A second group of adolescents, in which is found in about one-third of the participants in the study said that they felt happier and less stressed since the beginning of the confinement. They present low levels or means of depressive and anxious symptoms. The analysis of their texts has brought to light that these young people are many to perceive the containment as a relief and a moment of releasing the pressure of school.

The school is a great source of stress for me and I believe that without this moment of forced stop, my mental health would be in less good condition. When there is school, I don’t have the necessary time to go outside, to have fun and to practice a hobby. — Leah, 15 years old, Laurentides.

They also see the confinement as an opportunity for introspection.

The confinement period that is exactly what I needed, I worked a lot on myself and I take more time for me. — Emily, 14 years old, Ottawa)

It addresses issues that were in the us for a long time. — Justin, 15 years old, Montreal

Another peculiarity : these teens mention take advantage of the confinement to be closer to their family.

My mother continues to work, but at home now. We got a bit closer since we dined together on lunch hour. — Maeva, age 13, Quebec.

I miss school and my friends but it allows me to spend more time with my family. — Juliette, 15 years, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

Teenagers who seem to live in the containment, more positively, use of adaptive strategies significantly different. In fact, they were more likely to find a positive meaning to their situation, to accept it and take it with humor.

The importance of taking action and understanding

In sum, these results suggest that there exists a certain heterogeneity in the experience of containment in adolescents. It is important to very short term solutions and to intervene with young people who are most in need to prevent or slow down the increase of depressive symptoms.

At the same time, a more thorough study is needed, both to better understand the characteristics of young people who are doing well to identify the factors contributing to their well-being, in order to better support and empower all adolescents in the context of containment.

* All names are fictitious

* * * * *

This text first appeared on the website of the franco-canadian of The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.

“The science in her words” is a forum where scientists of all disciplines can take the floor, either in open letters, or excerpts from books.

Ados en confinement : entre détresse et soulagement

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