Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Malecki, Christine

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


BACKGROUND: Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately one in four people in the general public have experienced moderate to severe levels of stress, which precures the development of depression. Young adults were extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 related stressors developing into mental health disorders (Wang et al., 2020). PURPOSE: The study aimed to explore this vulnerability in a young adult, undergraduate sample. The main purpose was to explore to what extent profiles of sources of social support networks can strengthen or weaken the proposed association between various types of COVID- 19-related stress and depression and whether social support was a stronger buffer for women or men in an undergraduate sample. METHODS: The study was a cross-sectional, self-report study of N = 240 undergraduate students from an introductory psychology course. Questionnaires for self-reported depression (Center for Epidemiological Studies- Depression [CES-D]), social support (Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale- College Adapted [CASSS-C]), and COVID-19 related stressors (COVID-19 Traumatic Stress Scale and a modified part of the COVID-19 Adolescent Symptom & Psychological Experience Questionnaire [CASPE]) were used. Using latent profile analyses (LPA), the study investigated social support as a network of support received from various sources (i.e., family, close friend/significant other, peers, and faculty). Moderation and Moderated Moderation analyses were conducted using PROCESS Macro for SPSS. RESULTS: The study found elevated levels of depression and various types of COVID-19 related stress. Women reported experiencing more depression and more stress overall than men. Older participants and participants who were juniors and seniors reported more stress than younger students like those who were freshman and sophomores. Reports indicated that social support was perceived from various sources and that there were no significant differences in levels of social support by demographics. In addition, results indicated that all types of COVID-19 related stress were positively associated with symptoms of depression. However, both symptoms of depression and COVID-19 related stress (all types) were negatively associated with social support. Three profiles of social support emerged ranging in levels from Higher, Moderate, and Lower with no significant gender differences between them. In addition, profile membership did not moderate the association between COVID-19 related stressors and depression. CONCLUSION: Young adults in college experienced prevalent symptoms of depression and experienced numerous types of stress during the pandemic. Social support broadly served as a protective factor against these negative outcomes. Findings indicate a demand for mental health assessment and intervention in higher education.


113 pages




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