Award Abstract #2024124

RAPID: Influences of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak on Racial Discrimination, Identity Development and Socialization

NSF Directorate:
SBE - Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
NSF Division:

Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences

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Program Manager:

Peter Vishton

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Charissa S Cheah [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Shimei Pan (Co-Principal Investigator)
Cixin Wang (Co-Principal Investigator)


University of Maryland Baltimore County
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore MD 212500002

NSF Program:
DS -Developmental Sciences
Social Psychology
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The ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has, as of February 23rd, 2020, resulted in more than 78,811 infected and at least 2,445 deaths. Beyond the tragic health toll of this outbreak, there has been increased targeting of minority groups of U.S. residents. The Coronavirus outbreak has refueled stereotypes (e.g., eating “strange” foods, having unsanitary lifestyles, being disease-ridden) that are veiled under health-related fears. Racial discrimination significantly decreases well-being and increases psychological distress as well as mental and physical health. Most studies on the effects of racism on identity, resilience, and parental socialization, have focused on discrimination among adolescents and emerging adults. This innovative interdisciplinary study will significantly advance our understanding of risk and resilience in response to acute social stress among families with children in three different age groups, early childhood (4-7 years), middle childhood (8-11 years) and early-to-mid adolescence (12-15 years). Findings will identify key developmental and social processes that influence how identities of racial minority parents and their children are formed. The influence of an acute but prolonged threat to their social identities resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak may provide insight into the general nature of this process as well.

This interdisciplinary team comprising a cultural developmental scientist, a school psychologist, and a computer scientist will study multiple forms of COVID-19 racial discrimination and the subsequent impact on the identity development and adjustment of minority parents and children. The study will focus on how parents socialize their children about issues of race and identity in reaction to this event at the early part of 2020 and again 6-9 months later. Protective factors for adjustment in parents and children will also be identified. In addition, large scale texts of outbreak-related social media (Twitter) posts will be analyzed to account for how public opinion, anxiety, and discriminatory attitudes evolve with the peaking and fading of this epidemic and provide objective indicators of the larger public social discourse climate across the year. Infectious diseases will continue to emerge and re-emerge globally, and their negative impact on psychological and social health is understudied but highly significant, leading to both significant social and economic consequences. Knowledge from this research may help inform the types of services and education that can promote well-being in targeted marginalized groups and the larger public during future similar events.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.