Adolescents' sense of mattering and connection to well-being during pandemic isolations

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MacLeod, Jocelyn
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In winter 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 or the COVID-19 pandemic (World Health Organization (WHO), 2020) resulted in forced periods of home isolation. Social isolations were encouraged in some countries and strongly enforced in others to reduce the spread of the virus and “flatten the curb” (Marques et al., 2020, p.1). Manitoba school closures resulted in a loss of sports and activities and face-to-face contact with peers outside of the family home. Initial surveys flagged mental health risks to youth and health care providers, and schools sought protective factors. This research looks at how youth experienced these periods of isolation and their sense of mattering and connection to well-being during this time. During a pandemic or period of crisis, there could be a new kind of urgency to feel that one matters or to support others in developing this feeling of mattering (Flett & Heisel, 2020). Using a qualitative research approach, this study aims to 1) understand how adolescents describe their sense of mattering during the pandemic within the context of their personal experience and 2) understand how this may have been related to their well-being. The growing body of quantitative research on mattering points to its power as a protective factor in well-being (Schlossberg, 1989; Marshall, 2001; Tucker et al., 2010; Marshall et al., 2019); in the case of feelings of anti-mattering, however, there can be a detrimental impact (Giangrasso et al., 2022). The findings show that youth recalled experiences of disruption to their habitual routines and daily lives. They sought connections with friends and peers only after the initial month or two of isolation. Overall, a sense of mattering was shared by all participants. Many felt a sense of mattering when family or friends spent time with them. All youth reported a sense of mattering when they took action to connect and improve the lives of other people or take part in shared responsibilities. Proximal relationships in the family home strengthened this sense of mattering more than relationships with friends or school. Finding ways to help youth understand how they matter and showing them that they matter could have positive impacts on their overall well-being and may even create a chain reaction that leads to an increased sense of mattering and well-being for others. What the youth shared in this study suggests the need for ongoing research in the area, especially with the adolescent population.
youth, mattering, adolescent, school, teen, well-being, pandemic, isolation, lockdown