Dodge, Lansford and colleagues investigate slow life history strategies and increases in externalizing and internalizing problems during the COVID-19 pandemic

In  a recent publication in the Journal of Research in Adolescence, Kenneth A. Dodge, William McDougall Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, Jennifer Lansford, Research Scientist at the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy, and colleagues, investigate slow life history strategies and increases in externalizing (anger and argumentativeness) an internalizing (anxiety and depression) problems among US youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is but one of many instances of environmental adversities that have recurred in human history. Human coping strategies are shaped by adversities, including infectious diseases. Biobehavioral resource allocation strategies, known as fast, reproduction-focused, versus slow, development-focused, life history strategies, evolved to deal with environmental challenges such as infectious diseases. Dodge and colleagues  investigated longitudinal relations involving slow life history strategies, based  on 141 young people and their mothers observed prior to (ages 9 and 13) and during (age 20) COVID-19.

Results demonstrate that stability of resources supports growth and development, a slow life history strategy, while adversity drives people toward present needs, a fast life history strategy. Authors note that slow life history strategies that have been the hallmark of human evolutionary success still prove to be adaptive in alleviating youth externalizing and internalizing difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.