Abstract: Social Support, Academic Coping, Mental Health, and Teaching during COVID-19: A Cross-Lagged Panel Model of Israeli Students (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Social Support, Academic Coping, Mental Health, and Teaching during COVID-19: A Cross-Lagged Panel Model of Israeli Students

Friday, January 13, 2023
Camelback A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tyler Frank, MS, Doctoral Research Assistant, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Jason Jabbari, PhD, Data Analyst III, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor Emritus, Hebrew university of Jerusalem, Jerualem, Israel
Miriam Schiff, PhD, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, PhD, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Background and Purpose: While previous research during the COVID-19 pandemic has explored the impact of mental health in university studies, much research has been cross-sectional. Therefore, many researchers are unable to determine the factors that are causing changes in mental health outcomes. Also, while social support is important, there is limited information on how social support is related to mental health. We hypothesize that social support impacts mental health through academic coping and hypothesize that academic coping varies across teaching quality. We therefore propose a moderated mediation model, in which the mediating effect of social support on mental health is moderated by teaching quality.

Methods: We use a longitudinal survey of 2,317 Israeli students collected during the 2020-2021 school year. After confirming a valid latent construct of social support, we test a moderated mediation model of social support, academic coping, anxiety and depression, and teaching quality. Given the nature of our data and multiple waves of data collection, we utilize a cross-lagged panel model. All model fit indices demonstrate excellent levels of fit.

Results: We discover that social support improves mental health through academic coping, which represents the mediating effect of the model. The improvement of mental health through academic coping via social support only happens for students who perceive good teaching during the pandemic, demonstrating the moderating effect of the model. These relationships hold for depression, not for anxiety, which infers that social support does not significantly relate to anxiety through academic coping.

Conclusions and Implications: Universities should continue to offer opportunities to build social support for students. At the same time, the effectiveness of support is contingent on good academic teachers. Therefore, universities should continue to invest in methods to offer high quality instruction, regardless of format. Nevertheless, while the aforementioned relationships apply to depression, they do not pertain to anxiety. This means that universities should continue to explore approaches of providing support for students experiencing anxiety.