Although the transition to adolescence is characterized by a number of normative developmental challenges, some adolescents encounter more social and emotional difficulties than others. My research seeks to understand why certain youth experience heightened risk for social mistreatment and under what conditions these negative interpersonal experiences "sting" the most. In turn, I consider how positive social exchanges (e.g., support) can alleviate adolescents' distress and promote adaptive short- and long-term functioning. In answering these questions, I attend closely to variations in adolescents' social contexts, such as features of their schools, characteristics of their friends, and their family history.
bullying in School contexts
Although once considered a harmless rite of passage, bullying has become a serious public health problem given its deleterious effects on victims' mental and physical health, academic outcomes, and social adjustment. Do bullied youth feel better in some school contexts compared to others? How do school ethnic, gender, and weight norms contribute to the adjustment of marginalized youth? And what does it take for school-based interventions to alleviate the plight of the bullied? My goal is to understand how schools function as important developmental contexts in the lives of adolescents, particularly among those experiencing social stress.
health in interpersonal contexts
Across the transition from childhood to adolescence, youth experience increased risk for developing emotional disorders, such as depression and anxiety. At the same time, adolescents exhibit heightened concerns about the opinions of their peers and gaining social approval. In this line of research, I investigate how adolescents' family, peer, and romantic relationships can both protect against and exacerbate risk for mental and physical health problems. For example, in past work I have found that bullied adolescents feel less distressed if their friends have also been victimized. In ongoing work, I use daily diaries to investigate if helping friends and dating partners can have mood-enhancing effects for depressed adolescents and whether adverse childhood experiences predict adolescents’ day-to-day cognitions and emotions.
PEER INTERACTIONS in online contexts
Adolescents are some of the most prolific users of social media, and many of their interactions with peers occur online. I investigate how online environments can intensify certain developmental challenges of adolescence, with a particular focus on adolescents' experiences of cyberbullying. In this work, I use experimental paradigms to understand barriers to bystander intervention in online contexts as well as longitudinal methods to elucidate similarities and differences in the trajectories of online versus school-based bullying. Findings from this line of research are hoped to inform the design of social media platforms that can promote positive (and minimize negative) social interactions among teens online.