Social Development Laboratory

 

Current Research Projects

College Peer Relationships Project

The College Peer Relationships Project examines how social status relates to academic, social, and psychological adjustment in emerging adulthood. This study focuses on how students’ self-reported social status and social status motivations (i.e., desires to be liked and popular) relate to their adjustment during the college years. This study also examines differences in college students’ views regarding the behaviors that are typical of peers who are liked and popular, and explores how these differences relate to students’ own adjustment.

Peer Relationships Interview

The goal of the Peer Relationships Interview project is to examine how peer stress relates to children's (ages 9-12 years) social, behavioral, and physical health outcomes. In particular, we are interested in how peer stress relates to disruptions in physiological stress systems, and whether these alterations can help explain why some youth experience elevated levels of physical and mental health problems. We are also interested in potential buffers against peer stress, such as effective coping and positive parenting.

Previous Research Projects

College Academic Achievement and Relationships Project

The College and Academic Achievement Project is being conducted to examine how social interactions, cognitive processes, and stress reactivity in the autonomic nervous system relate to social, academic, and psychological adjustment in college students. The sympathetic branch of the autonomic system increases arousal levels (e.g., heart rate), and involves activation of “fight or flight” responses and the parasympathetic branch facilitates “rest and digest” functions and promotes the return to and maintenance of the body's resting states (e.g., return of heart rate to baseline levels following stress). Research suggests that certain patterns of  sympathetic and parasympathetic activity are related to both positive and negative social behaviors. In the current study, we seek to determine relation between physiological stress reactivity and social and academic adjustment during the transition to college. We are also exploring how differences in interpretation of the actions of others influences social and academic functioning. 

Child and Adolescent Friendship Study

The goal of the Child and Adolescent Friendship Study is to investigate how children's and adolescents' social motivations and interpersonal skills are related to behaviors within their friendships. This study explores the factors underlying relational aggression and prosocial behavior within girls' friendships. Recent work has begun to examine these factors; however, as a majority of the research exploring children's and adolescents' relationships has taken place within the context of school, it is plausible that the interaction of the social domain and the academic domain may limit the ability to isolate uniquely social processes. Additionally, past work as not explored the motivations for engaging in relational aggression and prosocial behavior. Therefore, the current study aims to explore motivations for girls' interpersonal behaviors within a primarily social context (a summer camp). 

Click here to read our recent newsletter based on findings from this study.

 Peer Relationships and Academic Achievement Study

The goal of The Peer Relationships and Academic Achievement was to investigate children’s social cognitive skills, behaviors, feelings, and positive and negative interactions with other kids at school and examine how these factors related to academic adjustment.  We are particularly interested in how we can foster social skills in school that could lead to the reduction of negative behaviors, such as relational aggression (e.g., harmful gossip, social exclusion, spreading rumors) and the increase of academic engagement (e.g., enjoyment of school, effort in school).

  Peer Relationships Project

The goal of the Peer Relationships Project was to examine how reactivity to peer stress may place children at risk for involvement in physically and relationally aggressive behaviors. We were interested in how experiences with peers such as victimization might place children at risk for maladaptive physiological and cognitive reactions to stressful interactions with others which in turn lead to aggressive behavior. We were also interested in whether different types of victimization and stressors are especially important risk factors for boys' and girls' aggression. Participants were recruited from 4th grade classrooms and interviewed about a stressful experience with other kids. Teachers and peers also reported on children's social behavior. 

Click here to read our recent newsletter based on findings from this study.

 Maltreatment and Aggression                                                                   

The Maltreatment and Aggression Project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ale Rellini. The goal of this project is to examine the development of relational aggression among sexual abuse survivors. We are interested in how survivors of sexual abuse react to conflicts with their romantic partners and friends and whether these reactions are associated with the use of relational aggression against their romantic partners. We hope to gain information regarding how to promote positive romantic relationships among survivors of sexual abuse. This study is in the data collection phase.

Social Interactions and Health

The goal of the Social Interactions and Health Project was to explore the association between autonomic nervous system activity and aggressive behavior. The autonomic nervous system involves the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic branch generally functions to increase arousal levels (e.g., heart rate), and involves activation of “fight or flight” responses. In contrast, the parasympathetic branch facilitates “rest and digest” functions and promotes the return to and maintenance of the body's resting states (e.g., return of heart rate to baseline levels following stress). The goal of this study was to examine the association between ANS activity and physical and relational aggression in a sample of emerging adults. Distinct pathways from ANS activity to proactive and reactive forms of aggression were assessed.

 

To see a list of recent lab publications, click here.