Growing up under COVID-19

Insights into Impacts and Young People’s Responses to Changing Socio-Ecological Contexts as a Result of the Pandemic


  • Barry Percy-Smith
  • Sara Rizzo
  • Chermaine Tay
  • Enrica Lorusso
  • Laurie Day
  • Leanne Monchuk


COVID-19, young people, socio-ecological contexts, affordances, family, political, personal development, participatory action research


Many studies about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people have focused onthemas victimsor villains in the crisisand with a predominant emphasis on their schooling. This paper draws on participatory actionresearch (PAR) with young people in the UK, Italy, Singapore and Lebanon to provide insightsinto the impactsof the pandemicandthechanges it brought intoyoung people’s everyday personal, familial and social worlds.Using Bronfenbrenner’s socio-ecological framework, the paper provides a more balanced view of the impact of the pandemic on young people,including examples of how itbrought about new opportunities foryoung people’s personal development, social actorship and political agency,in spite of the pandemic’s detrimental impacts. We apply the concept of “affordances”to understand how youngpeople have creatively, critically and reflexively responded to changes to the socio-ecological contexts that frame their lives. These are manifest through new social roles, identity development and a heightened sense of communitarianism, political awareness and active citizenship. The paper raises questions about what young people need in terms of nurturing environments to grow up inand highlights key considerations in safeguarding young people’s rights in future public health crises and post-COVID rebuilding.