Psychological well-being of ruminative adolescents during the transition to COVID-19 school closures: An EMA study

Caroline M. Swords, Emma K. Lecarie, Leah D. Doane, Lori M. Hilt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Adolescents with moderate-to-severe levels of trait rumination are at heightened risk for psychopathology and may be particularly vulnerable to disruptions caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As most past research documenting the impact of COVID-19 on adolescent well-being has been cross-sectional, it is unclear exactly how ruminative adolescents responded to the onset of the pandemic as it unfolded. Methods: We used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to explore changes in rumination among adolescents during the initial transition to distance learning in the United States. A subsample of 22 ruminative youth (Mage = 13.58; SD = 0.96; 54.5% male; 86.4% White) from a larger study provided EMA data throughout January–April 2020 (M responses per participant = 105.09, SD = 65.59). Following school closures, we hypothesized that adolescents would report greater rumination (i.e., focusing on emotions and problems) and depressive symptom level would moderate this effect. Results: Surprisingly, rumination decreased, and this effect was moderated by depressive symptom level for emotion-focused rumination, i.e., those with average and below-average depressive symptoms experienced decreases in rumination. Conclusions: These results suggest that the first wave of stay-at-home orders and the transition to distance learning were not immediately distressing to vulnerable adolescents. However, more research is needed to determine whether the results from recent research are generalizable to other adolescents and to examine the long-term impact of the pandemic on adolescent well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-193
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Adolescents
  • COVID-19
  • Depressive symptoms
  • EMA
  • Rumination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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