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Youth-Nex Works In Progress Talks - Fall 2016 - Spring 2017

Youth-Nex holds a series of monthly presentations for faculty and doctoral students to informally discuss challenges, interesting new issues or findings. Details for all Meetings – Location: Ruffner Hall, Room 206 (note new location). Time: 12:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m. Presentations will leave 1/2 hour for discussion.

Fall 2016

September 15

Remember the Paradox: Focusing on Youth in Global Mental Health Research


by Amanda Nguyen, Ph.D.

Initiatives aimed at promoting psychosocial wellbeing and preventing mental disorders among young people in low- and middle-income countries remain fragmented and inadequate. Key barriers include low awareness and political will, limited human resources, a lack of evidence-based intervention strategies and training materials, and poor coordination among actors.  In this talk, Nguyen will overview her involvement in efforts to address these barriers through clinical research, secondary data analysis, and systematic reviews. Two ongoing studies she will discuss include development and testing of a counseling intervention for conflict-affected adolescents in Northern Myanmar, and expansion of her dissertation research examining patterns of peer victimization in a multi-country cohort study. Current findings as well as challenges in research design, measurement, and implementation will be discussed.

October 20

First, Talk to the Adults: Preventing Gender-Based Violence in Middle Schools through a Trauma-Informed Community-Based Approach

by Mimi Arbeit, Ph.D. and Nancy Deutsch, Ph.D

 Arbeit and Deutsch are exploring collaboration with Futures Without Violence and the Association for Middle Level Education to conduct research on and develop a training institute in preventing gender-based violence in middle schools. While this project is based in an inclusive definition of gender-based violence, we are acutely concerned with peer aggression such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, teen dating violence, and homophobic bullying. We are currently focused on (1) refining our objectives for research and application; (2) planning an iterative process through which research can inform program implementation and vice-versa; and (3) securing funding to begin pilot research and program development. At this Works-in-Progress, we will present the in-progress research grant and seek feedback on theory, methods, and project feasibility.

November 17

Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior in Early Adolescence


by Tabitha Wurster, Ph.D.

Aggressive and prosocial behavior both have unique associations with different social status dimensions, such as popularity and peer acceptance. The relation of these behaviors to social status factors is especially valuable to examine in early adolescence, as peer relations become more complex, salient, and impactful on overall well-being. Moreover, while aggression and prosocial behavior are typically considered as being oppositional to each other, evidence suggests that some youths exhibit both of these behaviors to their social advantage. Wurster will present several of her studies that examine the intersection of aggressive and prosocial behaviors, as well as important relations between these behaviors and different social and cognitive factors.

Spring 2017

January 26

The Impact of Teaching Yoga on Student Behavior


by Julia Taylor, Ph.D.

Over the past decade, yoga has gained popularity as a prevention and intervention tool in public school settings. Research suggests yoga in schools and classrooms can improve mental health functioning, mitigate the impact of violence and poverty, promote prosocial behavior, and reduce emotional distress. Despite empirical and anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of yoga integration in schools, methodological concerns significantly limit transferability. In this talk, Taylor will provide an overview of her previous research, along with goals for piloting a study that includes the development of a yoga curriculum to examine the impact of teaching the ethical principles of yoga on student behavior.  

February 16

Investigating Diversity in Early Adolescence


by Joanna Williams, Ph.D.
Issues of school diversity have remained on the national stage since the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case in 1954. Our country is continuing to become more diverse, but how this affects formal and informal aspects of students’ school experiences is currently unknown. Evidence suggests that ethnically diverse schools are linked to better psychosocial outcomes in early adolescence, but we have little understanding of why, or of how to capitalize on ethnic diversity as an opportunity for student growth. The Investigating Diversity in Early Adolescence (IDEA) Project is unpacking the complexities of diversity by focusing on peer social networks in diverse middle schools. In this work-in-progress session, members of the IDEA research team will share preliminary findings from the second phase of the mixed-methods study and discuss our goals around integrating critical theory into the project. In particular, we’ll be soliciting input on our coding structure for peer group interviews, as well as recommendations for our ongoing interview protocols with students, peer groups, and school staff.

March 16

Youth Adult Relationships as Ecological Assets


by Nancy Deutsch, Ph.D., Mimi Arbeit, Ph.D., and Mark Yu
Teachers, coaches, extended kin, after-school program staff, clergy, youth group leaders, mentors - these are just some of the various non-parental adults who youth might interact with across the different settings of their lives. Such non-parental adults are an important source of social, emotional, and material support for adolescents. Indeed, relationships with supportive non-parental adults, sometimes called natural mentors, have been linked to positive youth outcomes. Researchers followed 40 youth (ages 12-18 at the start of the study) and their relationships with important adults over the course of three years. Across this time period, half of the youth in our study transitioned from middle school to high school and the other half transitioned out of high school, giving us the opportunity to examine whether and how relationships with important adults are sustained across key developmental transitions. Drawing on interview, survey, and social mapping data from youth and interview and survey data from their nominated important adults and parents, we are examining how these relationships are developed and sustained over time as well as the influence of these relationships on youth outcomes. Researchers present an overview of the data collected, current analysis completed and underway, and discuss planned analyses and ideas for new questions they could ask of the data.

April 20

Peer and Teacher Interactions as Developmental Opportunities in Linguistically Diverse Middle School Classrooms


by Amanda Kibler, Ph.D., Lauren Molloy Elreda, Ph.D., and Mimi Arbeit, Ph.D.
Researchers will discuss new findings in their study of the affordances for second language development and academic learning available in linguistically heterogeneous (including English learners, or ELs, alongside non-ELs) middle school classroom settings (grades 6-8). Data for the overall study consist of student social network surveys, teacher surveys, seating charts, student-level standardized assessment outcomes, and videotaped observations from 35 middle school English and Math classrooms as well as qualitative field-notes and teacher and student interviews from a subset of these classrooms (n=10 classrooms). They will present an analysis testing whether the number of friendships and academic help-seeking relationships a student has in the classroom predicts across-year changes in teacher ratings of students’ engagement and students’ standardized test scores. In addition, they test the relative effects of bridging capital (cross-language-status peer relationships) versus bonding capital (same-language-status peer relationships) in contributing to these academic outcomes, and whether these two types of social capital may especially matter for EL students. Findings are consistent with hypotheses, suggesting unique academic benefits of total number of relationships as well as bridging and bonding ties, especially for EL students. Researchers will describe the process and progress of a mixed-methods analysis in which they explore the teaching practices more often observed for teachers whose classrooms exhibit above-average increases in network cohesion and above-average decreases in hierarchical structure and language-based network segregation.


May 4

Preventing Adolescent Dating Abuse Using An Interactive Smartphone Application


by Katrina Debnam, Ph.D., MPH

Approximately 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. In addition to being linked to later intimate partner violence, having been a victim of physical dating abuse was significantly associated with lower than average grades and poor school attachment for male and female students in grades 7 through 12. Safety planning is the most widely advocated intervention to reduce intimate partner violence, yet safety planning services specific to adolescents have not been systematically developed or tested. The MyPlan interactive smartphone application was developed to provide easy access to safety planning services for college-aged women.  With some adjustments, the MyPlan app could also be useful to middle and high school students who are experiencing dating abuse and their friends.  In this talk, Debnam will discuss preliminary findings from interviews and focus groups to adapt and refine the MyPlan app for adolescents.

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