Teen Well-being and Development

How Adolescent Boys Learn: Tailoring Prevention Messages
Why focus an entire tip sheet on adolescent boys? The literature reveals that males often report receiving less health-related information, and male adolescents are often overlooked in curricula used for PREP programming. This tip sheet was originally written to address this gap, and to increase the capacity of those serving young men in their APP programming. Updates to the resource presents additional considerations on the impact of race and cultural viewpoints on perceptions of masculinity, the positive impact of male facilitators, and other topics (2020).

Parental Warmth on High-Conflict Days Helps Teens to Feel Loved
While parent-teen conflict is inevitable, parents expressing warmth and support on high-conflict days can bolster how much their teen feels loved, according to a study conducted by Gregory Fosco, Penn State associate professor of human development and family studies and associate director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting daily fluctuations in feeling loved are common even in long-term relationships. How parents and teens communicate and resolve conflict may be most important to maintaining a healthy relationship long-term, said the researchers.

Helping Teens Make Room for Uncomfortable Emotions

A new poll conducted by Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey shows, not surprisingly, that most adolescents are worried that the coronavirus will affect their family’s physical or financial health. Further, nearly half of the teenagers surveyed say that they are lonelier than usual, and they fear that they are losing ground academically or in their extracurricular activities. (2020)

Time On Screens Has Little Impact on Kids’ Social Skills, Study Suggests

Despite the time spent with smartphones and social media, young people today are just as socially skilled as those from the previous generation, a new study suggests. Researchers compared teacher and parent evaluations of children who started kindergarten in 1998 — six years before Facebook launched — with those who began school in 2010, when the first iPad debuted. (2020)

Teens Who Don’t Date Are Less Depressed
Dating, especially during the teenage years, is thought to be an important way for young people to build self-identity, develop social skills, learn about other people, and grow emotionally. Yet new research from the University of Georgia has found that not dating can be an equally beneficial choice for teens. The study, published online in The Journal of School Health, found that adolescents who were not in romantic relationships during middle and high school had good social skills and low depression, and fared better or equal to peers who dated. (2019)

Teen Girls’ Reproductive Attitude and the Timing of Sexual Behaviors
When making decisions about sexual behaviors, teen girls consider not only health outcomes, such as pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but also social outcomes, such as guilt or embarrassment. This study shows that fear of social consequences rather than fear of pregnancy or STIs is a larger predictor of the timing of teen girls’ sexual activity. (2019)

What We Can Do About Toxic Stress
Toxic stress is a very serious issue, but it is not the end of the story. Toxic stress doesn’t have to lead to negative outcomes. No matter who you are, there are concrete actions you can take to help prevent the effects of toxic stress and support those who have experienced them. This new infographic shows how individuals, communities, and policy-makers can lessen the burden of toxic stress. View the infographic to learn more (2019)

Bullying Among Adolescents Hurts Both The Victims And The Perpetrators
About a tenth of adolescents across the globe have been the victims of psychological or physical violence from their classmates. In a new study researchers show that victims and their perpetrators both suffer as a result of these attacks: They are more inclined to consume alcohol and tobacco, are more likely to complain of psychosomatic problems and their chances of having problems with their social environment increase, too. (2019)

School Mindfulness Programs Can Help Students Cope With Stress
Among mental health practitioners, researchers, educators, and even the media, mindfulness practices are gaining popularity as a method to help children and youth cope with stress. A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness interventions in schools can boost children’s ability to regulate emotions and manage their feelings of stress. (2019)

The Way U.S. Teens Spend Their Time is Changing, but Differences Between Boys and Girls Persist
Teens today are spending their time differently than they did a decade ago. They’re devoting more time to sleep and homework, and less time to paid work and socializing. But what has not changed are the differences between teen boys and girls in time spent on leisure, grooming, homework, housework and errands, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (2019)

Adolescents’ Daily Romantic Experiences and Negative Mood
Romantic relationships, although increasingly normative during adolescence, also present unique developmental challenges that can portend psychological difficulties. Underlying these difficulties may be the degree to which daily romantic transactions potentiate fluctuations in negative mood. The present study examined associations between adolescents’ daily romantic relationship experiences and their same-day negative affective states. (2019)

Adolescent Peer Relationship Qualities as Predictors of Long‐Term Romantic Life Satisfaction
A nearly two-decade study from the University of Virginia has found that adolescents who had healthy same-gender relationships can look forward to satisfying romantic relationships in adulthood. It turns out that things like physical attractiveness or the amount of romantic or sexual experience as a teen did not predict future romantic fulfillment. (2019)

Mitigating the Effects of Childhood Trauma
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can lead to mental health disorders in adolescence, and healthy family functioning and civic engagement can mitigate such damaging impact, according to a new Rutgers University–Camden study. (2019)

Most U.S. Teens See Anxiety and Depression as a Major Problem Among Their Peers
Anxiety and depression are on the rise among America’s youth and, whether they personally suffer from these conditions or not, seven-in-ten teens today see them as major problems among their peers. (2019)

Teen Depression Treatment Should Extend to Parents’ Marriage
A new study has found that teen depression can affect parents’ marital satisfaction. Parents often seek mental health treatment for a child struggling with depression, but the treatment shouldn’t stop with the depressed teen. The study found that while depressed teens were involved in active treatment, parents’ marriages and parent-child conflict remained stable, but slightly worsened once the teens’ treatment had finished. (2019)

Romantic Involvement: A Protective Factor for Psychological Health in Radically-Diverse Young Sexual Minorities
A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found that romance – that is, being in a romantic relationship – may be one factor that can protect LGBT youth from the negative psychological effects of victimization. (2018)

How Winning Friends May Influence Adolescent Behavior
Adolescents may get by with a little help from their friends, but, according to Penn State researchers, friend selection and friend influence, as well as gender, may all play a role in establishing friendships that can help, or possibly hurt, them. (2018)

Reduced Screen Time for Young Highly Recommended for Well-Being
Too much time spent on gaming, smartphones and watching television is linked to heightened levels and diagnoses of anxiety or depression in children as young as age 2, according to a new study. (2018)

What do Teens’ Emotions Feel Like?
Adolescents tend to experience many emotions simultaneously, but don’t differentiate between them very well. Emotion Differentiation can be enhanced through the practice of mindfulness. (2018)

Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018
95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis. (2018)

Self-Control Develops Gradually in Adolescent Brain
Most previous research in this area had focused on one region of the brain. Rather than using this approach, Michael Hallquist, assistant professor of psychology, Penn State, and an Institute for CyberScience faculty co-hire, sought to investigate communication among different regions of the brain. (2018)

Tackling Bullying Could Help Reduce Depression in Autistic Teens
Teenagers with difficulties in social communication, including autism have higher rates of depressive symptoms, especially if they are being bullied. Researchers at the University of Bristol found that children with autism and those with autistic traits had more symptoms of depression when they were 10 years old than their peers and that this continued at least up to the age of 18. (2018)

Father’s Rejection Can Lead to Teen Anxiety
Study investigates rejection from fathers during adolescence and increased social anxiety and loneliness among teens. Studies have shown that adolescents with thriving social lives tend to be more psychologically healthy, while those that struggle with social anxiety and forming good friendships tend to perform worse academically and suffer from more depressive symptoms. (2018)

The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences Nationally, By State, and By Race or Ethnicity
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a critical public health issue. ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences and events, ranging from abuse and neglect to living with an adult with a mental illness. They can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being in childhood or later in life. Economic hardship and divorce or separation of a parent or guardian are the most common ACEs reported nationally, and in all states. (2018)

Less Sleep Association with Risky Behavior in Teens
The amount a teenager sleeps is associated with how likely they are to engage in risky and suicidal behavior, a new study said. “Fewer hours of sleep on an average school night [is] associated with increased odds of all selected unsafe behaviors,” the authors wrote, including risk-taking while driving, such as drunken driving, potentially unsafe sexual activity, aggressive behavior and use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. (2018)

Teen Brain: How Schools Can Help Students Manage Emotions and Make Better Decisions
Adolescence tends to be seen by parents—and many teachers—with dread. Teenagers are likelier to engage in risky behaviors and disengage from school. But emerging cognitive and neuroscience research suggests ways schools can help leverage teens’ strengths in this unique developmental period. (2018)

To Prevent Youth Suicide, We Must Address More Than Bullying
An analysis of data for youth ages 11 to 15 found that in 2003 through 2014, only around 9 percent of cases specifically indicated that bullying was a factor leading to the suicide. The same number of cases reported school disciplinary problems (e.g., being suspended from school). However, over half the cases (56 percent) listed relationship issues, primarily with family or intimate dating partners, as a precipitating factor, and a similar percentage (52 percent) of youth were reported to have had mental health problems. The majority of youth suicides (60 percent) involved multiple precipitating factors. (2017)

Preventing Teen Suicide: What the Evidence Shows
Rates of teen suicide continue to rise, with rates for girls higher than at any point in the last 40 years. A rational response would be to engage in evidence-based measures to try to reverse this course. Too often, we assume that there’s nothing we can do. (2017)

When It Comes to Sex, Dating, and Drinking, 18 is the New 15 for American Teens
Adolescents in the 2010s were less likely date, drink alcohol, go out without their parents, and have sex than teens in every generation since the 1970s. Fewer of them have paying jobs or drive. The research says the cause is not kids having more homework, or more extracurricular activities. (They are actually doing less homework and about the same in terms of extra-curricular activities.) What’s changed is the context in which teens are growing up. (2017)

Romantic Competence, Healthy Relationship Functioning, and Well-Being in Emerging Adults
A skills-based model of healthy relationship functioning—romantic competence (RC)—is described. Its association with relationship and individual well-being was examined in three studies of emerging adults using the Romantic Competence Interview for Emerging Adults (RCI–EA), which measures competence as the interplay of three skill domains. Across studies (women [n = 102], women and men [n = 187], romantic couples [n = 89]), RC was associated with greater security, healthier decision making, greater satisfaction, and fewer internalizing symptoms. (2017)

Study of Sisters Helps Explain Dad’s Influence on Risky Sexual Behavior
What is it about a father that affects his teenage daughter’s likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior? Researchers have long shown links between father involvement and daughters’ sexual behavior, with the standard explanation attributing that influence to shared genes that impact both a father’s behavior and relationships and his child’s problem behavior. (2017)