ResearchOur major research interests are in adolescent and emerging adult development, with a focus on two main questions:
(a) What predicts the individual differences found among adolescents and emerging adults with regard to risk taking, academic underachievement, and media use (e.g., video game play), particularly in terms of different developmental trajectories, and how are these trajectories related to psychosocial adjustment?
(b) Is adolescence and emerging adulthood a sensitive period for development, resulting in unique vulnerabilities and opportunities for both negative (e.g., risk taking, depression) as well as positive behaviors (e.g., engagement in structured activities; spirituality)?
In order to answer some of these questions, we have conducted an longitudinal-sequential survey study of 3993 adolescents, from grade 9 to grade 12, and a 4-year longitudinal survey study of 1124 emerging adults. The surveys assess risk taking (e.g.,substance use, aggression, delinquency), intrapersonal adjustment (e.g., depression, nonsuicidal self-injury, suicide ideation, social anxiety, stress, life satisfaction), involvement in structured and unstructured activities, Internet/videogame use, interpersonal relationships with parents and friends, school culture, neighbourhood quality, temperament, sleep quality, spirituality/religiosity, academic achievement, parental monitoring, physical activity, coping, etc. The surveys are unique in their comprehensive assessment of lifestyle choices over time and are a critical extension to the extant literature on risk taking and positive youth development.
We also develop experiments where we explicitly test some of the hypotheses generated from our survey research. For example, we currently are conducting experiments on the relation between violent video game play and aggression. We also are examining associations among exposure to painful life events (e.g., combat sports, self-injury), stress, and emotions using physiological equipment (i.e., heart rate, cold-pressor task) among adolescents and emerging adults.
Some current projects include:
(a) the bidirectional association between depression and externalizing behaviors across the high school years;
(b) the relation between video game play and competition/cooperation over time;
(d) different pathways of academic achievement across adolescence and how they are related to internalizing and externalizing behaviors;
(e) associations between turning points (i.e., significant life events) and psychological well being in both adolescent and emerging adult samples;
(f) the link between nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidal behaviors among an undergraduate population, as well as the mechanism through which these two forms of self-injury are associated;
(g) longitudinal associations among sleep variables (e.g., sleep quality), morningness-eveningness preference, and psychosocial functioning among emerging adults at university. Indices of psychosocial functioning include academic achievement, intrapersonal adjustment, alcohol use, and friendship quality.
We employ a variety of research methods in our lab, from survey data, interviews, to experiments. Our lab has an eyetracker, physiological equipment, and access to a large longitudinal survey database conducted with adolescents that explores issues related to resilience and youth lifestyle choices.
Our lab facilities are located in the Lifespan Development Research Centre at Brock where we have extensive computer facilities, testing rooms, as well as access to observation rooms, interview rooms, a conference room, and lounge facilities.