Costello, M. A., Nagel, A. G., Hunt, G. L., Rivens, A. J., Hazelwood, O. A., Pettit, C., & Allen, J. P. (2022).

Facilitating connection to enhance college student well-being: Evaluation of an experiential group program

. American Journal of Community Psychology, 70(3-4), 314-326.

This randomized controlled trial examined the impact of The Connection Project, an experiential, relationship-focused intervention designed to improve school belongingness and decrease symptoms of depression and loneliness among new college students. Participants were 438 first-year and transfer students (232 treatment, 206 waitlist-control) at a medium-sized, 4years, predominantly White public university in the Southeastern United States. At postintervention, the treatment group reported significant relative increases in school belonging and significant relative reductions in levels of loneliness and depressive symptoms in comparison to waitlist-controls. Program effects were stronger for students from marginalized racial or ethnic backgrounds, students from lower socioeconomic status households, and transfer students. Results are interpreted as suggesting the utility of experiential, peer-support prevention programming to promote college students' well-being, particularly college students who hold identities that are traditionally disadvantaged in this context.

The My Teaching Partner-Secondary (MTPS) program demonstrated improvements in classroom interactions and student outcomes in secondary schools using one-on-one coaching between study staff and teachers. Despite promising results, the time, cost, and oversight from a university research team may pose barriers to adoption of coaching programs like MTPS at scale. The My Teaching Team (MTT) project sought to translate key ingredients from MTPS into existing professional development contexts that are already built into many middle and high school educators’ weekly schedules: co-planning or professional learning community meetings. Six teams of secondary teachers (N = 30 teachers) participated in a pilot test of the usability of MTT materials across 5 months in one school year. Three teams elected to use MTT materials, and three elected to be a comparison group who continued their typical practices. Teams adopting MTT materials were observed to do so with good implementation integrity, and reported satisfaction with the intervention. Compared to typical practice teams, those using MTT were observed to spend more meeting time discussing teaching practice and less time discussing logistics/mechanics, and engaged in more video sharing and feedback to team members in the MTT sessions that explicitly encouraged this. The number of MTT meetings completed by a team, as well as spending more time discussing teaching practices and video sharing (but not feedback provided) during team meetings, predicted students’ self-reports of greater engagement and observations of higher levels of emotional support provided in the classroom. Implications for translating empirically supported interventions from the lab to real-world school settings are discussed.

Allen, J. P., Loeb, E. L., Kansky, J., & Davis, A. A. (2022).

Beyond susceptibility: Openness to peer influence is predicted by adaptive social relationships

. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 46(3), 180–189.

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.

Allen, J. P., Danoff, J. S., Costello, M., Loeb, E. L., Davis, A. A., Hunt, G. L., et al. (2022).

Adolescent peer struggles predict accelerated epigenetic aging in midlife

. Development and Psychopathology, 1-14.

This study examined struggles to establish autonomy and relatedness with peers in adolescence and early adulthood as predictors of advanced epigenetic aging assessed at age 30. Participants (N = 154; 67 male and 87 female) were observed repeatedly, along with close friends and romantic partners, from ages 13 through 29. Observed difficulty establishing close friendships characterized by mutual autonomy and relatedness from ages 13 to 18, an interview-assessed attachment state of mind lacking autonomy and valuing of attachment at 24, and self-reported difficulties in social integration across adolescence and adulthood were all linked to greater epigenetic age at 30, after accounting for chronological age, gender, race, and income. Analyses assessing the unique and combined effects of these factors, along with lifetime history of cigarette smoking, indicated that each of these factors, except for adult social integration, contributed uniquely to explaining epigenetic age acceleration. Results are interpreted as evidence that the adolescent preoccupation with peer relationships may be highly functional given the relevance of such relationships to long-term physical outcomes.

Loeb, E. L., Gonzalez, M. Z., Hunt, G. L., Uchino, B. N., de Grey, R. G. K., & Allen, J. P. (2022).

Socioeconomic status in early adolescence predicts blunted stress responses in adulthood

. Developmental Psychobiology, 64(6).

Individuals who grow up in families with lower socioeconomic status (SES) tend to experience disproportionate rates of chronic stress. The “freeze” response, characterized by blunted cardiovascular reactivity and reduced engagement with the environment, is associated with chronic stress and may be utilized when an individual is unable to escape or overcome environmental stressors. Using a diverse community sample of 184 adolescents followed from the age of 13 to 29 years, along with their friends and romantic partners, this study examined links between family SES and stress responses in adulthood. Low family SES at the age of 13 years directly predicted blunted heart rate responding and fewer attempts to answer math problems during a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Task at the age of 29 years. Indirect effects were found from low family SES to blunted respiratory sinus arrhythmia responding and the number of words spoken during a speech task. SES at the age of 29 years mediated many of these relations. Findings held after accounting for a number of potential confounds, including adolescent academic and attachment functioning and body mass index. We interpret these findings as evidence that low familial SES may predict freezing-type responses in adulthood.

Gamache, J., Herd, T., Allen, J., King-Casas, B., & Kim-Spoon, J. (2022).

Longitudinal Associations between Social Relationships and Alcohol Use from Adolescence into Young Adulthood: The Role of Religiousness

. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 51(9), 1798-1814.

As adolescence is a time characterized by rapid changes in social relationships as well as an increase in risk-taking behaviors, this prospective longitudinal study examined whether social involvement and social alienation are associated with changes in alcohol use from adolescence into young adulthood moderated by organizational and personal religiousness. Participants were 167 adolescents (53% male) assessed five times between ages 14 and 18 years old. Latent change score modeling analyses indicated that social alienation was positively associated with greater increases in alcohol use among those with low organizational religiousness and those with low personal religiousness in early adolescence and during the transition into young adulthood. The findings demonstrate the detrimental effects of social relationship risk factors that promote alcohol use during adolescence into young adulthood. The results further highlight the protective roles of organizational and personal religiousness acting as additional sources of social engagement experiences to modulate the effects of social alienation predicting alcohol use progression and provide evidence for the positive impact religiousness has on healthy adolescent development.

Szwedo, D. E., Stern, J. A., Kansky, J., Lis, E., & Allen, J. P. (2022). Parent and romantic partner behaviors during adolescence as predictors of young adult positive personality, relational competence, and functional independence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 51, 1926-1943.

Experiences with parents and romantic partners during adolescence are theorized to have long-term effects on youth development. However, little research has empirically examined the relative contributions of experiences in each type of relationship at different points during adolescence to positive development in young adulthood. The goal of the present study was to predict relative changes in youth positive personality characteristics, relational competence, and functional independence during young adulthood from specific behaviors experienced from parents and romantic partners during early and late adolescence. A diverse community sample of 147 individuals (59 males, 88 females) from the southeastern United States was repeatedly assessed across a 14-year period from age 13 to age 27. As hypothesized, parental acceptance and successful parental positive influence behavior toward adolescents at age 13 predicted relative increases in positive personality traits (e.g., agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability) between ages 23 and 27. These same parental behaviors measured at age 18 were less robust predictors of key outcomes relative to similar qualities of romantic relationships. Instead, romantic behaviors of toleration and appreciation at age 18 predicted relative increases in functional independence and relational competence between ages 23 and 27 (e.g., attachment closeness, reliable alliance, nurturance, and functional independence). Results suggest that parents’ successful efforts to positively influence and accept their children during early adolescence may lay a foundation for future positive personality growth, and that similar positive behaviors experienced in late adolescent romantic relationships may help prepare youth to develop broader supportive social relationships and independence skills in young adulthood.

Allen, J. P., Danoff, J. S., Costello, M. A., Hunt, G. L., Hellwig, A. F., Krol, K. M., et al. (2022).

Lifetime marijuana use and epigenetic age acceleration: A 17-year prospective examination

. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 233.


This study was designed to assess links between lifetime levels of marijuana use and accelerated epigenetic aging.


Prospective longitudinal study, following participants annually from age 13 to age 30.

Setting and participants

A community sample of 154 participants recruited from a small city in the Southeastern United States.


Participants completed annual assessments of marijuana use from age 13 to age 29 and provided blood samples that yielded two indices of epigenetic aging (DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm) at age 30. Additional covariates examined included history of cigarette smoking, anxiety and depressive symptoms, childhood illness, gender, adolescent-era family income, and racial/ethnic minority status.


Lifetime marijuana use predicted accelerated epigenetic aging, with effects remaining even after covarying cell counts, demographic factors and chronological age (β’s = 0.32 & 0.27, p’s < 0.001, 95% CI’s = 0.21–0.43 & 0.16–0.39 for DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm, respectively). Predictions remained after accounting for cigarette smoking (β’s = 0.25 & 0.21, respectively, p’s < 0.001, 95% CI’s = 0.14–0.37 & 0.09–0.32 for DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm, respectively). A dose-response effect was observed and there was also evidence that effects were dependent upon recency of use. Effects of marijuana use appeared to be fully mediated by hypomethylation of a site linked to effects of hydrocarbon inhalation (cg05575921).


Marijuana use predicted epigenetic changes linked to accelerated aging, with evidence suggesting that effects may be primarily due to hydrocarbon inhalation among marijuana smokers. Further research is warranted to explore mechanisms underlying this linkage.

Costello, M. A., Nagel, A. G., Hunt, G. L., & Allen, J. P. (2022).

Randomized Evaluation of an Intervention to Enhance a Sense of Belongingness among Entering College Students

. College Student Affairs Journal, 40(1), 66-76.

This study examined an intervention designed to improve sense of belongingness for new
students at a medium-sized, four-year, public university in the Eastern United States. A
randomized controlled trial was used to assess the impact of The Connection Project, a novel, 9-
session intervention in a sample of 128 first-year students (77 treatment, 48 waitlist control).
Given the onset of COVID-19, students received a hybrid in-person/online intervention. At post-
intervention, the intervention group reported a significantly higher sense of school
belongingness, after accounting for baseline levels, than control group students. Post-hoc
analyses of moderation by demographic variables indicate that the intervention functioned
similarly for students from a variety of backgrounds in this sample. These results are interpreted
as suggesting the potential value of this intervention to promote a sense of community and
connection among new students in college, whether delivered in-person or online.


Gonzalez, M. Z., Coppola, A. M., Allen, J. P., & Coan, J. (2021).

Yielding to social presence as a bioenergetic strategy: Preliminary evidence using fMRI

. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 2.

All life must strategically conserve and allocate resources in order to meet the challenges of living. Social Baseline Theory suggests that, for humans, social context and the social resources therein are a central ecology in human phylogeny. In ontogeny, this manifests in flexible bioenergetic strategies that vary in the population based on social history. We introduce yielding, a conservation process wherein we relax physiological investment in response to a challenge when in the presence of a relational partner. The availability of these conserved resources then impact response to subsequent challenges while alone and if this pattern is habitual, it can reciprocally influence strategies used to solve or cope with typical stress. We discuss neural targets of this resource conservation and reframe our lab's previous studies on the social regulation of neural threat responding within this framework. We then show functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data indicating the presence of relational partners decreases blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) response to threat in key targets of resource conservation (e.g., dlPFC, dACC, and insula) and that stronger signal reduction in these areas coincide with less BOLD in pre-frontal (dlPFC. vmPFC) and visuo-sensory integration (occipital cortex, precuneus, superior parietal lobule) regions during ostracism. Finally, we show that these neural relationships are associated with less use of self-regulation-based coping strategies two years post scanning. Taken together, we show the utility of yielding both as a concept and as a bioenergetic process which helps to conserve energy in this social primate.