While the vaccine rollout continues to ramp up, the effects of the pandemic continue to trickle out in minor ways. One of them being students coming home to parents.
What once seemed to be nothing but a short-lived virus translated into a devastatingly extensive pandemic. In fact, in a surreal way, the pandemic’s first “birthday” was just a couple of months ago. Regardless of one’s political stance on COVID-19 and what it should mean for the community, the pandemic has undoubtedly touched almost every corner of life. The term “new normal” has held merit, as exemplified by how car keys have become as necessary as the cotton mask many have come to get used to — or vehemently oppose.
But with news of authorized COVID-19 vaccines emerging and becoming available in a record amount of time since the virus’s unfolding in the U.S., the power dynamic between people and the virus have shifted in the former’s favor. The vaccine rollout has allowed many individuals some respite, although it will continue to be bittersweet for many others.
This is true considering not just this immense loss of life but also factors such as the surge of different variants of COVID-19 potentially being less resistant to the vaccine, in places like California and India.
Also, there are other ramifications of the pandemic. In a more narrow scope, according to Pew Research Center, since COVID-19 cases have spread, over 50 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds have begun to live with their parents.
In fact, the number of young adults living with their parents grew across the board for all major racial and ethnic groups; among the adults who moved due to the pandemic, many attributed it to their college campus closing or losing their job (or other financial reasons). Still, despite the fluctuations — such as a decrease in the fall — the number of full-time students who lived with their parents went up eventually around December 2020.
Thus, there is some relief here. Vaccine doses first became widely available to essential workers — such as healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and more — around March with the first dose being administered around December. This marks a remarkable keenness to creating a vaccine in record pace but also delivering to people just as quickly in the U.S.. Since mid-April, everyone over the age of 16 has had the opportunity to get vaccinated.
This means that according to President Biden’s promise since being elected, the vaccines have vigorously expanded to as many American people as possible. For instance, there have been monetary incentives to some essential workers so that they might obtain their vaccine as well as for the general population to gain easier access to vaccines, such as being able to be vaccinated sans health insurance. In Biden’s first 100 days, the plan to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible has stood true. This, further, makes sense considering how crucial this has been to his plan to confront COVID-19, even when former President Trump was in office.
As of early May, the CDC stated that 257 million vaccines were administered in total in the U.S. and more than 110 million individuals that are 18 years of age and older are fully vaccinated (which means two weeks after the final dose of vaccine). The vaccines in the U.S. include the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (single dose), the Pfitzer-BioNTech vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine while there are a few that other countries are utilizing.
For students, vaccines have slowly allowed the opportunity to return to what they’ve known, albeit carefully and with masks at this present time. According to UC San Diego’s Return to Learn Weekly program, students no longer need to test weekly if they’ve been fully vaccinated, as long as they don’t continue to present symptoms. Further, in a message earlier this month, there is a plan for Fall 2021 teaching to be primarily in-person and of normal occupancy.
But this news has come with something curious as well. A return from home to campus for many young adults has woven a recognition of the parent dynamic with their children.
A change in environment can change one’s headspace, but in a prolonged period, there must be deeper ramifications.
In a research article by Jennifer Caputo, a researcher of Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, analyses indeed displayed that those who have experienced independence (such as in their own apartment or in-campus dormitories) reported an increase in depressive symptoms upon returning to their parents’ places. What makes this thoroughly intriguing, though, is that this data stands despite the recognition of other factors such as mental health issues like depressive symptoms and evaluations of relationships with parents.
This implies that the depressive symptoms can be attributed not to living with parents per se but with returning to them following an emergence or resurgence of independence. The symptoms, after all, are higher than those who still live independently and the statistics were different between teens who never moved out.
Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University mental health researcher and a co-principal investigator of a nationwide survey on mental health, reported that half of students in fall 2020 were not faring well and had depression and/or anxiety. She did not specifically state where the students were studying from. This points to an awareness that these statistics do not merely shift the blame on COVID-19 or even a new, alien problem with young adults.
With COVID-19, times have been taxing both physically and mentally. After all, the struggle of COVID-19 is still gloomingly present. For instance, India has reported thousands of deaths daily with possible links being the new variant among other factors like prime minister communications on the still-present virus.
In regards to depressive symptoms, potential loneliness and lack of physical companionship seem to be part of the costs one has had to recognize when they left campus to home, on top of their classwork. While technology, such as Zoom and other platforms have risen to meet the challenge of connecting people, such do not necessarily bridge the gap between present communications with loved ones and that loss of independence.
The consequences are clear as detailed by Caputo. Perhaps one of the reasons why there has been turbulence in living with parents is due to this lack of control that followed a time of some order. This could be further exacerbated by a society that honors self-sufficiency and autonomy.
For some, though, the idea of returning to a home one grew up in has been comforting.
“I knew that we’d be shipwrecked. [So] I’ve been able to build better relationships with my family,” Marshall College sophomore Sonia Hamid said. “[Of course] I needed my alone time. But [being with them] isn’t a suffocating feeling. I was in San Diego for more than a year. Being in their vicinity made me interact with them more. When I came back, it was a mixture of ‘I’m home’ and stability. COVID, in a twisted way, gave me permanency, something stable.”
Though Caputo stated that parent-children relationships prior to their child’s move-in were not really impactful, there have been some first-hand experiences of consistent, steady relations with parents even after returning.
“[In my first year] I went home almost every weekend. [So] I think I’m thriving being at home,” Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Timothy Nakamura said. “[There is] more food and overall more privacy. I’m an only child and not having that privacy just was weird to me when I was on campus. It doesn’t really feel too much different since my parents both still work during the day. At night we all eat dinner. I think we’re all pretty close since we don’t have direct relatives here. It’s really just us.”
With the potential return for the fall semester or quarter for many in higher education, the question is if these depressive symptoms are more likely to vanish or manifest in new forms. On a positive note, perhaps the tools and recollections we’ve gained combined with our increasing ability to return to what we’ve known may better gear us for the year to come.
Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels.