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Polygence Scholar2021
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Isabel Wang

Great Neck South High SchoolClass of 2022Great Neck, New York


Isabel is passionate about connecting science with humanity. She was named a 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar for her research on mental health during the pandemic. Her project was inspired by her time volunteering at a senior center. There, she realized that mental health has become a major public health issue during the pandemic. Many residents suffered from social isolation and loneliness. Some even experienced death anxiety. This motivated her to explore how different groups were coping with stress associated with the pandemic.

Project Portfolio

Coping During Covid-19: How Locus of Control Influences Coping Response in an Uncontrollable Situation

Started July 13, 2021

Abstract or project description

The Covid-19 pandemic is a fundamentally uncontrollable event that has caused detrimental effects on the mental health of the global population. Among a group of predominantly Asian high school students in the New York suburbs, the current study explores the relationship between locus of control (LOC) and coping strategies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Rotter’s LOC scale and the Brief COPE Inventory were used to examine this relationship. Responses from 215 participants were analyzed through regression analysis and two-tailed t-tests upon the stratification of data by gender identity and LOC classification. Our results show that an internal LOC has a significant correlation with problem-focused coping behaviors (p<0.05). A similar trend was observed between internal LOC and two subcategories of problem-focused coping: active coping and planning. This suggests that an increase in internality corresponds with increased use of problem-focused coping strategies. Meanwhile, we found that external LOC has significant correlations with emotion-focused and avoidant coping (p<0.05). Similar trends were observed between external LOC and subcategories of emotion-focused and avoidant coping. When the data were stratified by gender, nonmen scored significantly higher than men in all three general coping categories. We also observed gender discrepancies between LOC and problem and emotion-focused coping. This indicates that the trends observed between internals and externals are more nuanced than they appear. Our findings suggest that both gender and LOC influence coping response in suburban adolescents in an uncontrollable situation. Both can serve as helpful tools in psychological interventions during the pandemic.