This study examined the hypothesis, derived from theories highlighting the importance of group harmony and sense of belonging in human relationships, that the adolescents who are most likely to be influenced by their close friends are those who have the highest quality social relationships. Potential moderators of close friend influence on adolescent substance use were examined in a sample of 157 adolescents followed across a 1-year period in mid-adolescence using a combination of observational, sociometric, and self- and peer-report measures. As hypothesized, the degree to which adolescents changed their levels of substance use in accord with a close friend’s levels of use at baseline was predicted by multiple, independent markers of higher quality social relationships including having a higher quality maternal relationship, being identified as a socially desirable companion within the broader peer group, and having a close friend who handled disagreements with warmth and autonomy. Notably, influence processes were neutral in valence: Teens displayed relative reductions in substance use when their close friends had low levels of use and the opposite when their friends had high levels of use. Results are discussed as suggesting the need to distinguish overall normative and adaptive peer influence processes from the sometimes maladaptive effects that can occur when teens associate with specific deviant peers or with a problematic adolescent subculture.
Publications by Year: 2020
The Adaptive Calibration Model of Stress Responsivity (ACM) suggests that developmental experiences predictably tune biological systems to meet the demands of the environment. Particularly important is the calibration of reward systems. Using a longitudinal sample (N = 184) followed since adolescence, this study models the dimensions of early life stress and their effects on epigenetic modification of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and individual differences in neural response to reward anticipation. We first created a latent variable model of developmental context using measures collected when participants were 13 years old. As adults, two subsets of participants completed a reward anticipation fMRI paradigm (N = 82) and agreed to have their blood assayed for (OXTR) DNA methylation (N = 112) at two CpG sites. Three latent constructs of developmental context emerged: Neighborhood Harshness, Family Harshness, and Abuse and Disorder. Greater OXTR DNA methylation at CpG sites −924 and −934 blunted the association between greater Neighborhood Harshness and increased neural activation in caudate in anticipation of rewards. Interaction effects were also found outside of reward-related areas for all three latent constructs. Results indicate an epigenetically derived differential susceptibility model whereby high methylation coincides with decreased association between developmental environment and neural reward anticipation.
Attachment theory suggests that insecurely attached individuals will have more difficulty seeking and receiving support from others. Such struggles in adolescence may reinforce negative expectations of others and contribute to relationship difficulties into adulthood. Using a diverse community sample of 184 adolescents followed from age 13 to 27, along with friends and romantic partners, this study found that more insecure states of mind regarding attachment at age 14 predicted relative decreases in teens' abilities to seek and receive support from close friends from ages 14-18. In addition, greater attachment insecurity predicted greater observed negative interactions with romantic partners and relative increases in hostile attitudes from ages 14 to 27. The effect of attachment insecurity on observed negativity was mediated by difficulty seeking/receiving support in friendships during adolescence. Results suggest a type of self-fulfilling prophecy as insecure adolescents confirm their negative expectations of others through ongoing struggles to obtain support.
Keywords: Attachment; friendships; hostility; romantic relationships; social support.
Romantic relationships in adolescence develop out of peer interactions that help to create a foundation for romantic involvement. Romantic involvement progresses in stages from infatuation to intimacy, and is influenced by biological, social, and psychological changes that occur throughout adolescence. Moreover, adolescent romantic relationships develop within the contexts of societal and cultural norms and behaviors as well as those learned from parents, peers, and previous romantic partners. The health and quality of these romantic relationships are furthermore determined by individual differences in the timing of relationships and sexual activity, mental health, emotion regulation abilities, and communication skills. The development of positive, healthy romantic relationships during adolescence is an instrumental precursor to forming satisfying romantic relationships in adulthood.
This study used multi-reporter data to examine personality traits and emotion regulation/coping skills as moderators of associations between different types of anxiety and future occupational outcomes in a community sample of 184 emerging adults followed from ages 17-30. Trait anxiety, anxious arousal, rejection sensitivity, and implicit rejection were examined as predictors of later career-related ambition, work performance, job satisfaction, and career satisfaction. Conscientiousness, grit, emotion regulation (ER) and coping skills were analyzed as potential moderators. Although trait anxiety was the only anxiety variable predictive of occupational outcomes in regression analyses, personality variables and ER skills interacted with multiple types of anxiety to predict occupational outcomes. Findings reflected a pattern in which conscientiousness and ER skills mitigated negative effects of anxiety to predict better career outcomes. Findings suggest that traits such as conscientiousness and ER skills may be particularly helpful in the context of high anxiety to promote positive career development.
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.
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 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.
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.