The Peer Relations Lab is involved in numerous research investigations on child and adolescent peer status, friendship, peer victimization, peer crowds, romantic relationships, and peer influence. Four sample projects are described below.
(Adolescent Development and Peer/Parent Transitions)
Studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
Project ADAPT includes a group of longitudinal investigations of preadolescent children as they transition into adolescence. These projects focus on normative changes and interactions among peer functioning, family functioning, and physical/pubertal development during this time period as possible predictors of internalizing symptoms and health-risk behaviors over time. National data has noted sharp increases in serious destructive behaviors during this specific age period (e.g., substance use, aggressive/delinquent behavior, suicidality). Thus, these large-scale investigations are designed to prospectively examine psychosocial predictors and social-cognitive mechanisms that may be responsible for the onset of these behaviors in both normative and psychiatrically-referred populations. Project ADAPT was completed many years ago, although some students continue to use these data to answer research questions of interest.
Funded by the National Institute of Child & Human Development
We know that peers strongly influence adolescents toward various health risk behaviors, such as substance use, illegal/violent behavior, and sexual risk-taking behavior. But we don’t know how peer influence occurs or for whom it is most powerful. This project examines mechanisms of adolescent peer influence towards prosocial behavior and health-risk behaviors. Theories of social psychology are integrated with the study of peer status to better understand how adolescents behavior may be shaped by peer experiences.
(Adolescent Relationships, Coping, and Health)
Studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
Project ARCH examines interpersonal interactions among girls at the transition to adolescence. This longitudinal project is conducted in our research laboratory on the UNC campus and allows us to better understand how adolescents’ peer interactions, social behaviors, and emotional and physiological reactions may be associated with future development. A focus of this project is on observations of social interactions between adolescents and their best friends.
Project REACH continues our recent work understanding acute stress responses that may be associated with depression and self-injury. In Project REACH, we are specifically interested in understanding how pubertal development may be associated with unique biological, cognitive, and interpersonal responses to social stress that may confer risk for depressive episodes, NSSI, or suicidal self-injury. A focus of this project is on gene expression following stressful interpersonal experiences.