DOI: 10.1177/21676968231200094 ISSN:

An Exploration of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships Experienced by Emerging Adults During the Covid-19 Lockdowns in England

Emily Setty, Emma Dobson
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Romantic and intimate relationships are crucial for the socio-emotional development of young adults. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting ‘lockdown’ restrictions imposed by the UK government limited opportunities for in-person relationships in England during 2020-21. This paper discusses young adults’ experiences of their relationships during lockdown, based on findings from 36 qualitative interviews conducted during 2021-22. The data suggests that relationships were shaped by socially and contextually contingent processes of meaning making and experience. Lockdown served as a defining condition, which constrained and reshaped these processes. The findings emphasise the importance of understanding relationships as entailing dynamic interactions between individual subjectivity, interpersonal experiences, and social norms. Identifying the evolving contextual conditions in which these processes occur is vital. While this study specifically examined the impact of lockdown, its implications extend beyond through shedding light on how young adults navigate social conditions and make choices for themselves and their relationships.

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