Personal and Social Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research Team 

Paul D. Hastings, Lindsey Partington, Ryan Hodge, Meital Mashash, Michael Knapp, & Elisa Ugarte

Project Description

People are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine in diverse ways that may both provide insight into their mental health and well-being under these challenging conditions, and carry implications for our understanding of personal, community and societal functioning during periods of enduring heightened stress. In one study, we are looking at the extent to which people report engaging in other-focused behaviors like helping neighbors, self-focused behaviors like protecting time for personal interests, compliance with public health guidelines like social distancing and sheltering in place, and other actions. We are also looking at people’s emotional experiences and interpersonal relationships in this unusual living context. As well, we are looking at a number of psychological, social, financial and other factors that may help to explain why they behave in these ways.covid spelled out on scrabble board

In a second study, we are specifically looking at how parents are feeling, thinking, behaving and coping with school closures and having children at home all the time. The COVID-19 pandemic and public health measures have placed new demands on parents for coordinating their children’s scholastic engagement and daily activities, and their lack of peer contact and opportunity for group activities, often while parents are also trying to maintain their own work responsibilities. Parents have responded to these challenges in a variety of ways, and we are interested in learning about the ways that have worked well, or not so well, for both parents and children.

Participants are being invited to also provide biweekly reports through the spring and summer, as the quarantine continues and progressively is lifted, to assess changes in their behaviors and emotions, including their methods of coping with the changing situation. Understanding what personal, social, community and financial factors contribute to people’s abilities to cope adaptively and effectively with the COVID-19 public health response is important both for developing effective assistance for families experiencing more difficulties, and preparing for future broad-scale crises.

We began by piloting some of the new measures of responses to the pandemic that we developed. Almost 750 UC Davis undergraduate students responded to the measures in April 2020. The students ranged in age from 18 to 49 years, with the large majority (94%) under 25 years old, and with 594 identifying as female and 150 identifying as male. Almost everyone reported that they were engaging in social distancing most or all of the time. The students also reported engaging in comparable levels of other-focused and self-focused behaviors, with many reporting that they did both of these things to the same extent. There were some differences in how male and female students responded to the measures, as well as some differences in how younger and older students responded, and we will be examining how gender and age are associated with people’s reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine in the main studies.

For More Information on this Project

The first study, open to anyone, takes about 30 minutes to complete, and can be reached through this link:

The second study is open to parents of children between 2 and 18 years old.  If you are a parent, and you are living with one more children from 2 to 18 years old, you can receive a $15 gift card for completing a 30-45 minute survey. Please use this link:

For more information about the Healthy Emotions, Relationships & Development Lab these studies are running through, please visit lab website: