Virtual Brock event to explore behaviour during pandemic

Brock researchers will share their findings on how the global pandemic is shaping lives at a free public webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The Centre for Lifespan Development Research at Brock University will host “COVID-19 and the Community: Learning more about people’s behaviour and experiences during the pandemic.”

The live virtual event will address topics such as lying about symptoms, the effects of lockdown on active Canadians and the pandemic’s impact on young people’s lives.

With Halloween party season approaching, Tony Volk, Professor of Child and Youth Studies, will speak to his research on how young adults are coping with and either adapting or failing to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic, including breaking rules about in-person gatherings.

“Young adults are at the centre of this second wave,” says Volk. “Understanding what personal and demographic factors help them cope is critical, as is understanding what measures are likely to make them take proper precautions.”

Tim O’Connell, Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, will share some early findings from his study of how the pandemic has altered participation in outdoor recreational activities and what impacts the changes have had on people’s mental health, the magnitude of which he has found surprising.

O’Connell’s research, which has just finished its third phase of data collection, has captured the different phases of lockdown, from the early rushes to spend time in public parks and outdoor spaces to the resulting closures due to overcrowding and the effects of slowly reopening as restrictions eased.

“In general, as is evident in the news, outdoor recreation areas have been inundated with people and are regularly overcrowded since the start of COVID,” says O’Connell. “The resurgence of interest in outdoor recreation is something that has changed due to COVID, with people now making life choices — where to live, work and play — based on access to outdoor recreation resources. This is a different phenomenon than in the last 10 to 20 years.”

Alison O’Connor, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology working with Associate Professor Angela Evans, will discuss her work on deception during the pandemic, which looks at both why people lie about their behaviours or symptoms and what might help promote honest communication.

It is important to not add shame to those who lie about illness, but rather to have compassion for individuals who may feel afraid, stigmatized or embarrassed to disclose information,” says O’Connor. “We need to understand the barriers that prevent people from telling the truth and to try to understand why the lie was told.”

Rebecca Raby, Professor of Child and Youth Studies, and her PhD student Laurel Donsion have spent the last few months trying to understand, in detail, how children and young people are experiencing the pandemic, conducting repeated interviews with participants to learn more about their wide-ranging experiences.

Raby says she has been surprised both by how knowledgeable the participants are about COVID-19 and by the extent of their loneliness, noting the pandemic has “exacerbated current inequalities” to affect children’s experiences.

“We need greater recognition, through research but also the creation of policy, that children’s experiences, feelings and views during these times are worthwhile and important,” says Raby. “We also need greater attention to how different children’s experiences are based on a number of factors, including social inequality, and we need to ensure that attention is paid to quality in online teaching so that children who cannot go to school right now are properly supported.”

The webinar takes place Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. In order to gain access, please register online.

Please note that this webinar will not discuss or recommend specific treatment or public health interventions, nor is it intended to provide individual advice. Brock University is not recommending any specific resources or health-care options that may be discussed at this event. Individuals should consult with their health-care team or treatment provider for all health-care recommendations and decisions.


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