Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Psychological Science

Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors, Honors College

First Advisor

Sue Fenstermacher

Second Advisor

John Green

Third Advisor

Nikki Khanna


pandemic, sex, dating, self-concept, COVID-19, confidence


This study compares self-reported levels of sex- and romantic relationship-related distress, along with self-concept scores and perceived effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in American college students before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) the onset of COVID-19 restrictions in the United States. It was hypothesized that participants would experience higher levels of distress and more negative self-concepts during Time 2 than during Time 1. Participants included 146 college students aged 18 to 23 years old from various schools, mainly the University of Vermont. Participants were given an online questionnaire asking questions about their current romantic and sexual beliefs and behaviors and self-concept, as well as asking them retrospective (memory-based) questions about these beliefs and behaviors prior to March of 2020. Paired-samples t tests were used to compare distress scores from Time 1 and Time 2. Romantic relationship-related distress was found to differ significantly between Time 1 and Time 2, while no significant differences were found for sexual beliefs and behaviors or for self-concept. However, contrary to the hypothesis, romantic relationship-related distress actually decreased from Time 1 to Time 2, suggesting that participants’ confidence in their romantic relationships was higher during the pandemic than pre-pandemic. These results may indicate that trauma-related solidarity and/or maturity increased romantic confidence between Time 1 and Time 2. Additionally, relationship status acted as a buffer for romantic relationship confidence, as being in a romantic relationship at the time of the study correlated with lower romantic distress scores.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.