Psychology department seeks families for adolescent research project

Megan Wilkinson

Adolescence is a key transition time between childhood and adulthood, and researchers from the Kent State Psychology Department hope to find answers to better define what happens psychologically to this age group.

The researchers are seeking families from all different backgrounds with middle school-aged children to participate in their research project to determine how adolescents cope with stress.

“We’re hoping to better understand what’s related to negative outcomes in adolescents,” said Brittany Mathews, a graduate student studying clinical psychology. “We will look to see why some adolescents develop anxiety and depression and why others don’t.”

Mathews said the parents and adolescents participating in this research study will attend two 90-minute in-lab visits to complete questionnaires about their worries and emotions about the parent-child relationship. Mathews said heart rates and breathing will also be measured during the in-lab.

Outside of the lab, the parents and children will fill out daily questionnaires for a week on a palm-pilot loaned to them by the Kent State Psychology Department.

“Hopefully the participants won’t submerge the palm pilots in water,” said Jeff Ciesla, assistant professor of psychology, “Both the parent and child will report daily levels of what is going on between the two of them on the palm pilots. The child will write how they’ve been feeling that day and if they feel they’ve misbehaved. Mom will do a similar thing.”

Ciesla said there are several benefits for families who sign up for the project. The study will help aid in scientific advancement, and families who show any signs of anxiety or depression can be directed to getting help.

Ciesla also said that families participating in the study will be compensated and will have the chance to enter a raffle to win a laptop computer when the study is complete.

Ciesla, psychology professor Kathryn Kerns and Nancy Darling, Oberlin College psychology professor, developed the project. The three collaborated to focus on how adolescents deal with stress and relate to their parents.

Mathews said the department began planning this study in Fall 2009 and began research in Spring 2010. So far, 62 families have already signed up for the project. She said the researchers hope to get 38 more families to commit to the study. Families can schedule the in-lab visits based on their own availability.

Kerns said the researchers are receiving some help from Kent State undergraduates to complete the project.

“Undergraduates are really important to this project,” Kerns said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to get to do something outside of class.”

Mathews said undergraduates are helping to distribute questionnaires and enter data for the project.

“I love studying teens and adolescents,” said Kelsey Dickson, graduate student and studying clinical psychology. “This is the age group where people develop most and start to think differently.”

Mathews said she hopes to have the project completed by the end of this school year or the end of the summer.

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].