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How valuable is the parent-child relationship in protecting adolescents from the mental health impact of COVID-19?

We can all agree: the spread of COVID-19 was, and still is, a huge threat to our physical health. More and more people worldwide have also started to warn about its possible negative impact on our mental health. Adolescents, in particular, could be very vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures imposed, given their age and developmental tasks. Yet, it is only now that the first studies on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of adolescents are appearing.

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Eight Lessons for Academic Life Gleaned From Exercise

As an academic, it’s no surprise that I have great childhood memories of being ensconced in a big chair reading a book I couldn’t put down. Perhaps less predictable is that I gained as much joy from being physically active. I have many happy childhood memories of playing hopscotch, kickball, tag, or spud; of bike riding or ice skating on the local pond. Fast forward a few decades, and exercise remains critical to my self-care, my sanity. When I step onto the trail or dip into the pool, I am still the academic, and I find myself pondering lessons I’ve learned from my experience with physical activity that apply to the academic life. 

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Benefits of Bullying? A Test of the Evolutionary Hypothesis in Three Cohorts

For this week’s #MustReadMonday, we are excited to highlight a recent (in press) paper by Dr. Tina Kretschmer: Benefits of Bullying? A Test of the Evolutionary Hypothesis in Three Cohorts. This article examines adult outcomes of adolescent bullying perpetration from an evolutionary perspective—be on the lookout for an update with the link to the full article coming soon!

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Predicting Emotion Changes during COVID-19: A Daily Diary Study in Youth

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the mental health of children and adolescents. Identifying the predictors of emotional response to the pandemic is critical for prevention and intervention efforts. Given that the period of adolescence is characterized by high sensitivity to stress, teenagers may be especially sensitive to pandemic-related challenges.

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When Britney Spears Leaves my Lab

Recently, #freebritney, a social media movement protesting the rockstar’s Overprotected conservatorship became quite the Circus as Britney Spears revealed to the world that she is more than a broken celebrity or wounded tabloid victim.  Fans unearthed a satirical gem where the Womanizer singer found herself the Femme Fatale of scientific scrutiny. The esteemed journal Nature published “When Britney Spears Comes to My Lab” in early 2008 when Britney Spears was navigating and ultimately overcoming a heavily publicized mental health crisis.

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Discussing Adolescence: Where Do Video Discussion Assignments Fit?

A common classroom scenario: the instructor poses a question for discussion, followed by uncomfortable silence. No one wants to be the first to engage. Use of message boards for discussion, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, appears—from my experience anyway—to face a similar problem, with students generally seeming to submit only the minimum number of replies required per the course syllabus. Some instructors have taken advantage of the technological advances available to today’s online learning environment and incorporated video options into their discussion assignments. Such options may show promise in increasing student engagement. While it might be too early to conclude that video-based discussions are more successful than their text-based counterparts in maintaining student engagement, my experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a course on Adolescent Development at the University of Texas at El Paso has led me to believe that video boards could be a helpful alternative (or supplement) to traditional text-based message board discussions.

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Slow life history strategies and increases in externalizing and internalizing problems during the COVID-19 pandemic

The ongoing COVID pandemic has had a psychological impact on people of all ages, including adolescents. Although the devastation wrought by COVID appears unprecedented, disease pandemics have recurred throughout human history. Any attempts to mitigate the psychological impact of the current pandemic should reflect the understanding that humans have evolved coping strategies shaped by evolutionarily recurrent adversities, including infectious diseases. Coping with environmental adversities requires coordination between physiological and psychological systems. These regulatory responses are known as fast and slow life history tradeoff strategies.

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Underrepresented Voices: Positive Youth Development among Roma and Egyptian Youth in Times of Pandemic

COVID-19 is disrupting youth development globally. Ethnic and racial minorities are disproportionately exposed to the virus and affected by the pandemic due to systemic social and economic disparities. Yet, there is a lack of research on how at-risk minority youth are coping with the present pandemic to shed light on the developmental assets that can boost their positive development during these uncertain times.

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Religious Support and Black Adolescent Girls’ Mental Well-being

Religion is a key source of better mental health and well-being across the life course for Black Americans. A constant among Black youth and their families, it is also a significant cultural and coping resource for Black girls, who tend to be more religious than Black boys. Attending worship services and participating in other organized religious activities has been shown to contribute to a wide range of positive outcomes, including mental well-being. This may be one significant factor to help us understand how to foster mental well-being among Black girls and the emotional support received from relationships formed within the religious communities that Black girls may access.

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Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Slowing Down the Teen Vaping Epidemic?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monitoring the Future (MTF), a national survey of teen substance use, reported that rates of electronic cigarette (e-cig) use among adolescents were steadily increasing (Miech et al., 2019; Willet et al., 2019). However, with the onset of the pandemic, rates of e-cig use seem to be stalling out. As of May 2020, over a third of underage e-cig users reported desisting use, while another third reported reducing the frequency of their use (Gaiha et al., 2020). Although mostly speculation, some emerging literature points to the COVID-19 as being an unintentional catalyst for this decrease in e-cig use among teens (Dumas et al., 2020; Gaiha et al., 2020)

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High-quality relationships with parents can protect high-risk adolescent girls from depressive symptoms

Time spent with peers increases during adolescence compared to childhood, and adolescents are believed to become more susceptible to peer influences and more vulnerable to the stressful peer experience of social exclusion.  As characterized in the movie “Mean Girls,” adolescent girls especially have a reputation for being exclusive, or “cliquey.”  Setting aside the question of whether such media portrayals are an exaggeration or caricature of adolescent behavior, parents might wonder whether they have any power to help their teens bounce back from the impact of negative experiences with peers.  Dr. Rudolph and colleagues’ research suggests they do.

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The Role of Positive Youth Development.

Positive Youth Development (PYD) emphasizes the potential for healthy, successful development, via interpersonal skills and relationships, confidence and self-efficacy, academic achievement, and success in school and society[1]. Stronger connections to community, family, teachers, and peers socialize adolescents with the requisite values, norms, goals, purposes, skills, and knowledge to navigate developmental challenges of early adolescence and to transition into adulthood[2]. In addition, opportunities for skill-building and engagement enhance the likelihood of healthy development and to become responsible citizens[3].

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Three Lessons Learned about Graduate School from a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our personal and professional lives. Among these, for students who started graduate school in the Fall 2019 semester, the pandemic has created a (somewhat unique) experience of an entire year of acclimating to graduate student life followed by a year of separation from mentors, cohorts, and departments. Going into my third year of graduate school, I can now confidently say that I have learned a number of valuable lessons that apply to the graduate school experience both pre- and mid-pandemic—though these lessons were particularly emphasized during the height of COVID-19.  Here I share three of them:

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Polyvictimization and Suicide Risk among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Teens

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) teens continue to face bullying, discrimination, and violence in their schools and communities, in large part due to the continued stigma against sexual and gender minority identities. LGBTQ teens also continue to attempt suicide at rates far greater than heterosexual teens. Here, we summarize key findings and implications of our recent study on the relationship between victimization and suicide risk among LGB teens.

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The Risks of Sharenting for Adolescents

Refresh your social media apps, scroll your timeline, and the chances are high that you’ll encounter sharenting. In other words, you’ll find pictures posted by your friends, family, and acquaintances of their children. Not only are these parents expressing pride in their children, but they are also archiving treasured memories and creating opportunities for receiving affirmation and support about the joys and hardships of parenting. For many millennial parents, social media documentation has been the norm since their own adolescence. In this sense, the rise of “sharenting” – the sharing of parenting experiences -- is of no surprise. However, a poll conducted by the Mott Children’s Hospital (2015) found that 75% of parents report knowing another parent who shares too much about a child on social media [1]. But what exactly is sharing too much? And should we be concerned about how these sharenting practices influence adolescents?

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Understanding Life Expectancy and Its Role in Why Youth in Disordered Neighborhoods Engage in Risk-Taking

Some adolescents severely underestimate how old they will live to be. The average life expectancy in the United
States is around 78 years old according to the World Bank, and 76 years for males specifically. However, some boys expect an early death. One large national study of adolescents found that 14% of youths did not expect to live past 35 years old. While it may not be immediately obvious why it is problematic that some adolescents do not expect to live very long, youth who expect to die earlier are more likely to engage in behavior that might promote that very outcome.  For example, they are more likely to attempt or plan suicide, drop out of school, and experience emotional distress. 

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A Systematic Literature Review of Resiliency Factors to Prevent Youth Suicide: A conversation with Dr. Sana Shahram

As we enter year 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are expressing concern about how this experience has affected our collective mental health. In particular, most of us are curious as to how we can bolster resilience among adolescents and young people in our lives.

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Understanding Puberty and Its Measurement: An interview with Dr. Jane Mendle

It is impossible to disentangle adolescence from puberty. Nonetheless, adolescence researchers are still just starting to understand how best to assess and make sense of puberty.

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LGBTQ+ is not enough

It’s a fact -- our nation is becoming more queer with each new generation. Recent studies show that millennials and Gen Z are more likely to identify as LGBTQ than any generation prior. We know that LGBTQ millennials are even closing the gap with non-LGBTQ people when it comes to parenthood.

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Social Justice, Research, and Adolescence: An interview with Dr. Stephen Russell

It’s another #MustReadMonday, and we are so excited to highlight a fantastic paper by our very own former SRA president, Stephen Russell.

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