COVID-19 lockdown presented a novel opportunity to study the experiences of people attempting to maintain friendships in the context of worldwide, government-enforced physical distancing and lockdown. Here we report on an experiential, idiographic qualitative project with a purposive sample of Scottish students. Data was collected via one-to-one on-line interviews with nine student participants (N = 9). Data was transcribed and analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Analysis highlighted three group-level experiential themes (GETs) and associated subthemes. Participants' shared experiences of maintaining friendships were reflected in a dynamic process by which (1) 'changes to communication' were associated with experiences of (2) 'effort and balance' across friendships. Participants reported becoming particularly aware of the psychological processes involved in maintaining friendships, in turn, this was associated with (3) 'reflection and growth.' These experiential findings resonate well with several longstanding classic theories; however, they also speak to the particularities of the context in which the study was conducted. They suggest the need for a pandemic psychology that moves beyond the typical focus on the direct impacts of infectious disease to address the wider psychosocial impacts with equal vigor.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/]. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Cite as

Maloy, A., Main, A., Murphy, C., Coleman, L., Dodd, R., Lynch, J., Larkin, D. & Flowers, P. 2022, '"I think friendship over this lockdown like saved my life" - student experiences of maintaining friendships during COVID-19 lockdown: an interpretative phenomenological study', Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, 13, article no: 861192. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.861192

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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