Due to shifts in societal and educational expectations alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, many emerging adults live with their family of origin for extended periods of time. Little is known about patterns of parent-perpetrated maltreatment in emerging adulthood. Therefore, this study evaluates the relation between forms of parent-perpetrated maltreatment, including economic abuse, and COVID stress, on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress.
423 emerging adults who were enrolled in college in the United States in March of 2020 were recruited via MTurk to complete an online survey. An age-related COVID questionnaire and six empirically validated measures assess levels of COVID-19 exposure, lifetime maltreatment, economic abuse, and mental health status.
13.0% of participants reported maltreatment that most recently occurred over the age of 18 in their household of origin. Mean COVID stress level was found to be significantly higher in the Maltreated Over 18 group compared to the Never Maltreated group (t(345) = -3.03, p = 0.003), and in the Maltreated Under 18 group compared to the Never Maltreated group (t(346) = -3.20, p = 0.002). In accounting for the contribution of demographic variables, maltreatment chronicity, economic abuse, and COVID stress, our model predicted 38.6% of variance in depression symptoms, 37.2% of variance in anxiety symptoms, and 42.9% of variance in traumatic stress.
Findings indicate need for increased maltreatment screenings within the emerging adult population and calls for age-specific interventions to address the mental health disparities experienced by emerging adults with maltreatment histories.