Ecological-Systems Contributors to Internalizing Symptoms in a US Sample of Adolescents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Daneele Thorpe*, Rebecca Mirhashem, Jenny Shen, Chantelle Roulston, Kathryn Fox, Jessica Schleider

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Internalizing problems are common in adolescence and increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although rates of anxiety and depression have since improved, the general increase in the prevalence of mental health problems and disruptions to mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in huge gaps in care. Although research has primarily focused on proximal correlates of internalizing problems, a growing literature suggests that factors outside youths’ immediate microsystems are equally crucial for their mental well-being. Thus, it is important to investigate multisystemic correlates of internalizing problems to inform individual and community-based interventions to address the current mental health burden. Method: Leveraging secondary data from a nationally diverse U.S. sample of 2,954 adolescents (ages 13–16), we examined the associations between factors at multiple levels of youths’ ecologies–spanning indicators of threat and deprivation–and their depression and anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, in follow-up exploratory analyses, we examined if these associations differed by adolescents’ racial/ethnic groups. Results: Consistent with socioecological models, we found that indicators of threat and deprivation in the adolescents’ immediate home and more distal neighborhood environments were associated with depression and anxiety symptoms. The patterns of associations were similar across racial/ethnic groups in multigroup structural equation models. Additionally, we found that mean levels of internalizing symptoms and socioecological predictors significantly differed across racial/ethnic groups. Conclusion: These findings have important implications for understanding multi-level contributors to adolescent mental health, which may inform research, practice, and policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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