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American Psychological Association

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International Perspectives in Psychology

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DOI: 10.1027/2157-3891/a000038


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and other social dynamics created a myriad of challenges and changes for individuals, groups, and societies. The impacts on youth are particularly noteworthy given developmental processes of adolescence and emerging adulthood. As psychologists, we have much to offer in studying how 2020 influenced their development and in shaping effective supports. To be useful, the work must be nuanced, iterative, and attentive to their lived realities. We argue for a dynamic research framework to study these developmental processes. Through such an approach, psychological science can provide insight into diverse young people’s experiences of COVID-19 with a focus on addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 4, and 16 on increasing a sense of well-being, making education more equitable, and developing more peaceful societies. This paper lays out three theoretical frameworks – Synthetic, Augmentative, Generative, and Experiential, Meanings, Observations, Viewpoints, and Experiences, and the Developmental Peacebuilding Model – that can be used to capture the dynamism of meaning-making and development within changing contexts. We then provide examples from our research with young people in the United States and Ireland. This paper ends with a call for psychologists across the globe to understand and address COVID-19’s impacts on youth through iterative and integrative research methods with a focus on meaning-making. In coordination with macro-level metrics, such work can help understand lived psychosocial impacts on diverse groups of young people, while highlighting opportunities to support SDGs 3, 4, and 16.


Accepted version. International Perspectives in Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 2 (April 2022): 105-111. DOI. © 2022 American Psychological Association. Used with permission.

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