Changes in Internalizing Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Transdiagnostic Sample of Youth: Exploring Mediators and Predictors

Simone P. Haller*, Camille Archer, Annie Jeong, Allison Jaffe, Emily L. Jones, Anita Harrewijn, Reut Naim, Julia O. Linke, Joel Stoddard, Melissa A. Brotman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is a chronically stressful event, particularly for youth. Here, we examine (i) changes in mood and anxiety symtpoms, (ii) pandemic-related stress as a mediator of change in symptoms, and (ii) threat processing biases as a predictor of increased anxiety during the pandemic. A clinically well-characterized sample of 81 youth ages 8–18 years (M = 13.8 years, SD = 2.65; 40.7% female) including youth with affective and/or behavioral psychiatric diagnoses and youth without psychopathology completed pre- and during pandemic assessments of anxiety and depression and COVID-related stress. Forty-six youth also completed a threat processing fMRI task pre-pandemic. Anxiety and depression significantly increased during the pandemic (all ps < 0.05). Significant symptom change was partially mediated by pandemic stress and worries. Increased prefrontal activity in response to neutral faces pre-pandemic was associated with more intense parent-reported anxiety during the pandemic (all Fs(1.95,81.86) > 14.44, ps < 0.001). The present work extends existing knowledge on the mediating role of psychological stress on symptoms of anxiety and depression in youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-218
Number of pages13
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Funding

FundersFunder number
National Institutes of Health15-M-0182, NCT02531893, ZIAMH002781, 00-M-0198, NCT00025935, 02-M-0021, ZIAMH002786, 01-M-0192, NCT00018057, NCT00006177
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

    Keywords

    • Anxiety
    • Children and adolescence
    • Depression
    • Stress
    • Threat bias
    • fMRI

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