Professor Laina Y. Bay-Cheng and colleagues receive research award for Transnational Perspectives on COVID-19's Impact on Youth Sexuality, Risk and Relationships

Published August 23, 2021



Portrait of Laina Bay-Cheng.

Congratulations to Professor Laina Y. Bay-Cheng and colleagues on receiving research awards from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF)-Exploration stream for the high risk, high reward research on Transnational Perspectives on COVID-19's Impact on Youth Sexuality, Risk and Relationships.

A cornerstone of this study is a modification of the Sexual Life History Calendar, a data collection method Bay-Cheng first developed using Les Brun pilot funding from the Buffalo Center for Social Research. Assisting on this grant is PhD student Seventy Hall.


COVID-19 has fundamentally altered nearly every aspect of youths’ relational lives; new norms regarding physical and social intimacy and access to public and private spaces affect family, peer, and sexual connections. The challenge of navigating this new terrain coincides with adolescence, a developmental period when choices regarding risk and well-being are already fraught and complicated. Though decisions around how to connect, date, and love continue to be influenced by factors including gender, race, sexual cultures, community, and space, pandemic logics cause a profound shift: behaviors that once sparked alarm are now endorsed as low risk (e.g., sexting); practices that were up for debate are now decidedly off limits (e.g., sleepovers); and what were idealized as innocuous romantic gestures are now the height of danger (e.g., kissing). Changing policies and regulations (e.g., wearing masks, keeping distance, forming pods) influence sexual and intimate possibilities in new and unanticipated ways.

The international and interdisciplinary team brings together scholars in education, psychology, public health, social work, sociology, and youth studies with expertise in participatory methods, sexuality, and global health research. The project’s multi-method, multidisciplinary, and multi-site research will examine how COVID-19 is redefining risk and re-forming sexuality among minoritized young women in Australia, Canada, and the United States, all countries with liberal democracies with comparable discourses and debates surrounding youth sexuality, but starkly different experiences of and responses to the pandemic.

Results will be used to develop site-specific and transnational briefings, videos, podcasts, and other resources to help sex educators, parents and youth navigate social norms, health risks, and sexual relationships during (and, eventually, in the wake of) a pandemic. 


Flicker, S., Bay-Cheng, L., Fields, J., Wilson, C., Gilbert, J., Leahy, D., York  University (prime sponsor: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada), Young Women’s Right to Sexual Risk: Pandemic Logics and Possibilities in Canada, Australia, and the United States, 3/31/21-3/30/23, $249,038 CAD (UBSSW share: Est. $25,500 CAD YR1).