Abstract: Rage or Silence? Comparing Perspectives on Youth's Socioemotional Well-Being before and after the January 6th, 2021 Capitol Insurrection (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Rage or Silence? Comparing Perspectives on Youth's Socioemotional Well-Being before and after the January 6th, 2021 Capitol Insurrection

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tiffany Laursen, ALM, PhD Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Jeanna Campbell, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Jenna Mahoney, MSW, PhD Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Kevin Tan, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Durriyyah Kemp, PhD, Acting County Director and Social & Emotional Learning Educator, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Westchester, IL
Background and Purpose: The January 6th Capitol Insurrection capped a series of events cumulating from the Year 2020 that thrusted racial injustices to the forefront of society. From the racial disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the racial injustices highlighted by the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) spurred by the murder of George Floyd under police brutality, to counter BLM protests when a teenager killed two BLM protestors; and the combative United States Presidential election which fractured the country along political lines with a record number of voter turnouts. These events undoubtedly impacted youth’s socioemotional well-being. Under Healing Illinois, we explored how 2020 impacted the socioemotional well-being of youth through racially diverse focus groups occurring between December 2020 and February 2021. While collecting data, theories of a stolen election sparked a protest, which breached the Capitol and was labeled an attempted insurrection, thereby bookending a year of “multiple pandemics.” Our prescheduled focus groups were unintentionally split by the January 6 Insurrection that led us to our research question: How does racially diverse groups of parents, educators, and youth describe young people’s socioemotional well-being before and after the insurrection?

Methods: Seventeen focus groups (N = 88) were arranged by status: educators (N =28), parents (N =30), and youth (ages 12-18, N =30); and by race [white (n=28); black, indigenous, people of color (i.e.: BIPOC, n=31) and mixed: white and BIPOC (n=19)]. Eight focus groups occurred before January 6 (N=44); nine occurred after (N=44) – at least one focus group per racial and status group occurred before and after January 6. Semi-structured questions remained the same and focused on the impacts of 2020 on youth socioemotional well-being. Semantic qualitative thematic analysis identified themes across race and status. We examined frequency and percent change in how groups describe youth socioemotional well-being by race and statuses before and after January 6.

Results: Analyses indicate changes in the frequency of discussions surrounding specific topics by racial and status groups. On the theme of “identifying solutions:” after January 6, the frequency of discussion for white parents increased while BIPOC parents decreased discussion. On “discrimination:” white parents increased discussion, whereas BIPOC parents decreased conversations into complete silence. Change in substance of conversations were related to racial and status groups: prior to January 6, BIPOC students expressed a need to talk to adults; after January 6 their conversation focused on a need to teach diversity in schools. However, before January 6 white students focused on anxiety about voting logistics; after they focused on the need for more social support systems in schools. Aggregated results show fracturing of topics and discussions by race and status.

Conclusions and Implications: January 6 incited changes in discussion of youth’s socioemotional well-being related to status. Although fractured, one theme continually rose to the top across all statuses and races: there is a need for more conversations that support racial healing. Implications for educators, parents, and schools to discuss the January 6 insurrection and promote youth’s socioemotional well-being and racial healing are discussed.