While there’s still much we don’t know about the health effects of the coronavirus on children, there’s a growing consensus about the psychological damage it has already inflicted. From the disruption of schooling to forced quarantines to the trauma of watching parents lose their jobs, the pandemic threatens to become what’s being described as a once-in-a-generation disaster.

These concerns should be taken seriously, but so should the history of prior disruptions. Collective crises can sometimes have paradoxically positive effects on children, building character as much as destroying it.

Skeptical? Perhaps it’s time to re-read the classic longitudinal study "Children of the Great Depression.” Written by sociologist Glenn Elder, it mined data first collected in a study of 167 adolescents living in Oakland, California, in the 1930s. This cohort, born in 1920 and 1921, went from the prosperity of that decade to the economic calamity that followed it.