High Parental Education Protects Against Changes in Adolescent Stress and Mood Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sarah Collier Villaume*, Jacquelyn E. Stephens, Ednah E. Nwafor, Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor, Emma K. Adam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought dramatic changes to the daily lives of U.S. adolescents, including isolation from friends and extended family, transition to remote learning, potential illness and death of loved ones, and economic distress. This study's purpose is to measure changes in adolescents’ perceived stress and mood early in the pandemic. Methods: The present study drew from a racially and ethnically diverse sample of high school student participants in an ongoing intervention study in the Midwestern U.S., 128 of whom provided reports of their daily stress and mood both before (December 2017 to March 2020) and during (March–July 2020) the COVID-19 pandemic. We expected to see increases in perceived stress, declines in positive mood states, and increases in negative mood states, with larger impacts on individuals from households with lower parental education levels. Results: Multilevel models revealed increases in perceived stress primarily for adolescents from low/moderate education families during the pandemic. Impacts on mood states also diverged by education: adolescents from low/moderate education households reported feeling more ashamed, caring, and excited than before the pandemic, changes that were not shared by their peers from high education households. Although changes in mood that arose with the onset of the pandemic became less pronounced over time, increased levels of home- and health-related stress stayed high for low/moderate education adolescents. Conclusions: During the COVID-19 period, we observed disparate impacts on adolescents according to household education level, with more dramatic and negative changes in the emotional well-being of adolescents from low/moderate education households.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-556
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Adolescents
  • COVID-19
  • Disparities
  • Household education
  • Mood
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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