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Lynn Fainsilber Katz and Nicole McNichols are featured in this UW Daily article about emotional development during the pandemic.

Will the pandemic leave me emotionally stunted?Experts weigh in on the social and mental health risks of isolation for young adults

By Nuria Alina Chandra The Daily

As you sit on Zoom for what seems like an endless number of hours each day, longing for the embrace of a friend or partner, you may find yourself wondering, “Will this pandemic  permanently change me?” “Will my ability to form relationships be altered forever?” or “Will I find future physical contact too overwhelming?”

According to Dr. Lynn Fainsilber Katz, research professor in child clinical psychology and developmental psychology at the UW, several important developmental tasks occur during the period of late adolescence (ages 18-24) such as exploring identity, establishing autonomy, finding intimacy, and establishing long-term relationships. 

“[It] tends to be a period where a lot of this kind of identity exploration happens with others,” Katz said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made some of these developmental tasks more difficult, or even impossible, and it is unclear what the long-term effects will be. 

“We don't have data on this,” Katz said. The best anyone can do is make educated predictions, according to Katz.

As a clinical psychologist, Katz is not concerned about long-term effects for most young adults.

“It will just be sort of a delay,” Katz said.“They’ll just sort of pick up where they left off.”

However, Katz is concerned about those experiencing mental health challenges during the pandemic, because mental health problems are associated with difficulties forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships in the long term. 

This is particularly relevant given that researchers have noted an increased prevalence in mental health disorder symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been highest among young adults.

Associate teaching professor in the department of psychology at UW, and teacher of PSYCH 210: The Diversity of Human Sexuality, Nicole McNichols, Ph.D., imagines two possible outcomes after the pandemic slows down or ends. 

In one scenario, she thinks, “There are going to be emotional and developmental aspects to this which are really stunted that we don't even know about.” 

In an alternate scenario, she hopes that people will be having as much consensual sex as they want and that there will be a heightened drive to be around others. 

“Maybe there'll be such an appreciation and sense of gratitude for that in-person experience that it will make up for [lost time],” McNichols said.

Read the entire article here.