This study examined early adolescent romantic “churning,” defined here as having a large number of boyfriends/girlfriends by age 13, as a problematic marker likely to predict hostility, abuse, and avoidance during conflict in later relationships. A sample of 184 adolescents was followed through age 24 to assess predictions of hostility, abuse, and avoidance during conflict from early romantic churning. Controlling for gender and family income, romantic churning at age 13 predicted relative decreases in peer preference and relative increases in conflict and betrayal in close friendships from ages 13 to 16, as well as higher observable hostility and self- and partner-reported abuse in romantic relationships by age 18 and greater avoidance during conflict with romantic partners by age 24. Findings remained after accounting for attachment security, social competence, and friendship quality in early adolescence, suggesting that early romantic churning may uniquely predict a problematic developmental pathway.
Publications by Year: 2020
This study evaluated a school-based intervention to enhance adolescent peer relationships and improve functional outcomes, building upon Ed Zigler’s seminal contribution in recognizing the potential of academic contexts to enhance social and emotional development. Adolescents (N = 610) primarily from economically or racially/ethnically marginalized groups were assessed preintervention, postintervention, and at 4-month follow-up in a randomized controlled trial. At program completion, intervention participants reported significantly increased quality of peer relationships; by 4-month follow-up, this increased quality was also observable by peers outside of the program, and program participants also displayed higher levels of academic engagement and lower levels of depressive symptoms. These latter effects appear to have potentially been mediated via participants’ increased use of social support. The potential of the Connection Project intervention specifically, and of broader efforts to activate adolescent peer relationships as potent sources of social support and growth more generally within the secondary school context, is discussed.
This 17-year prospective study applied a social-developmental lens to the challenge of distinguishing predictors of adolescent-era substance use from predictors of longer term adult substance use problems. A diverse community sample of 168 individuals was repeatedly assessed from age 13 to age 30 using test, self-, parent-, and peer-report methods. As hypothesized, substance use within adolescence was linked to a range of likely transient social and developmental factors that are particularly salient during the adolescent era, including popularity with peers, peer substance use, parent–adolescent conflict, and broader patterns of deviant behavior. Substance abuse problems at ages 27–30 were best predicted, even after accounting for levels of substance use in adolescence, by adolescent-era markers of underlying deficits, including lack of social skills and poor self-concept. The factors that best predicted levels of adolescent-era substance use were not generally predictive of adult substance abuse problems in multivariate models (either with or without accounting for baseline levels of use). Results are interpreted as suggesting that recognizing the developmental nature of adolescent-era substance use may be crucial to distinguishing factors that predict socially driven and/or relatively transient use during adolescence from factors that predict long-term problems with substance abuse that extend well into adulthood.
Adolescent-era predictors of adult romantic life satisfaction were examined in a multimethod, prospective, longitudinal study of 165 adolescents followed from ages 13 to 30. Progress in key developmental tasks, including establishing positive expectations and capacity for assertiveness with peers at age 13, social competence at ages 15 and 16, and ability to form and maintain strong close friendships at ages 16–18, predicted romantic life satisfaction at ages 27–30. In contrast, several qualities linked to romantic experience during adolescence (i.e., sexual and dating experience, physical attractiveness) were unrelated to future satisfaction. Results suggest a central role of competence in nonromantic friendships as preparation for successful management of the future demands of adult romantic life.
This study examined perceived parental psychological control in early adolescence as a critical stressor likely to be associated with lower levels of adaptation into mid-adulthood. A diverse sample of 184 adolescents was followed from age 13 through 32 to assess predictions to adult adaptation. Perceived parental psychological control at age 13 predicted relative decreases in observed support, lower likelihood of being in a romantic relationship, and lower academic attainment (after accounting for grade point average at baseline) by age 32. Many outcomes were mediated by lower levels of psychosocial maturity and peer acceptance in mid-adolescence. Overall, results suggest that perceived parental psychological control in early adolescence potentially undermines autonomy so as to lead to less favorable outcomes well into adulthood.
Blunted cardiovascular responses to stress have been associated with both mental and physical health concerns. This multi-method, longitudinal study examined the role of chronic social-developmental stress from adolescence onward as a precursor to these blunted stress responses. Using a diverse community sample of 184 adolescents followed from age 13 to 29 along with friends and romantic partners, this study found that high levels of parental psychological control at age 13 directly predicted a blunted heart rate response and indirectly predicted blunted respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity under stress. Heart rate effects were mediated via indicators of a developing passive response style, including observational measures of withdrawal during conflict with friends and romantic partners, social disengagement, and coping with stressors by using denial. RSA effects were mediated via withdrawal during conflict with romantic partners and coping by using denial. The current findings are interpreted as suggesting a mechanism by which a key social/developmental stressor in adolescence may alter relational and ultimately physiological patterns of stress responding into adulthood.
This study assessed self-perception as a long-term predictor of relative changes in problems related to alcohol and marijuana use in early adulthood. Self-report questionnaires were completed by a community sample of 124 individuals in the Southeastern United States who were followed longitudinally from age 19 to 27. More problems due to substance use at age 27 were predicted by participants’ negative perceptions of their social acceptance, romantic appeal, and self-worth. Predictions remained after accounting for potential confounds including gender, income, and baseline substance use problems at age 19. Social avoidance and distress in new situations at age 19 mediated the relationship between self-perception and relative changes in substance use problems, such that increases in substance use problems from age 19 to 27 were potentially explainable by the linkage of negative self-perceptions to social avoidance and distress in new situations.