Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic sent adolescents home to shelter-in-place in relative social isolation, potentially disrupting support networks, and compromising youth mental health. This may particularly impact already vulnerable groups, such as girls and transgender/gender diverse (TGD) adolescents, who experience a greater risk for depression and anxiety disorders than their peers. The present study investigated the moderating effect of gender on adolescents’ internalizing symptoms throughout the first wave of COVID-19. I hypothesized that the onset of the pandemic would increase TGD adolescents’ internalizing symptoms to a greater degree than their cisgender peers, and girls’ internalizing symptoms more than boys’. Data were collected cross-sectionally with three timepoints: pre-pandemic (Sep 2019 – Jan 2020), mid-first wave (Sep 2020 – Jan 2021), and post-first wave (Feb 2021 – May 2021). A community sample of Wisconsin adolescents (N = 5,487; Mage = 14.7, SD =1.4; 80.07% White) completed surveys through a school-based screening program. Internalizing symptoms were measured with the pediatric symptom checklist for youth. Rates of internalizing symptoms were highest for TGD adolescents at all timepoints, followed by girls, who were significantly higher than boys. Gender moderated the effect of time on internalizing symptoms. Specifically, internalizing symptoms increased for girls, but not for boys or TGD adolescents. These results suggest that during future widescale disasters, intervention efforts should focus on those with previous vulnerabilities to mental health struggles such as girls and TGD adolescents.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude




Lori Hilt

Included in

Psychology Commons