Making History in Vancouver, Canada! 14th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence

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Dr. Lene Jensen
Clark University

Dr. Xinyin Chen
University of Pennsylvania

For the first time in the history of the Society for Research on Adolescence, the biennial meeting took place outside the United States. The 14th biennial meeting in Vancouver was enlivening, exciting and international. While the kilometers or miles to the US border were not many, the meeting’s border crossing reflected the increasingly international constituency of SRA and our aim for the 2012 program to encompass the lives of adolescents across the world.

The number of submissions for the meeting reached an all-time high. There were almost 1,800 attendees, with representation from some 40 different countries. In the meeting rooms, hallways, coffee shops, and along the spectacular seaside promenade where SRA attendees congregated, conversations took place in a plethora of languages.

The 2012 invited speakers and panelists came from an unprecedented number of countries, and brought perspectives and insights from highly diverse disciplines.

Frans De Waal , the renowned primatologist, delivered a keynote to a standing-room crowd on the evolutionary roots of empathy.  

  The demographer Judith Diers, Chief of the UNICEF Adolescent Development and Participation Unit, gave a thought-provoking keynote on the need to extend many international intervention programs from children to adolescents. 

The Roberta Grodberg Simmons Prize Lecture was delivered by the distinguished Turkish psychologist Ciğdem Kağitçibaşi on the importance of both interdependence and autonomy in family life. 

This thesis also reverberated in SRA Past-President Niobe Way’s riveting address on American adolescent boys’ friendships and emotional lives.  

(For podcasts of each of these four addresses, go to the links below).
2012 SRA Biennial Meeting Presidential Plenary - Is growing up in the United States good for boys' health? by Niobe Way

Roberta Grodberg Simmons Prize Lecture Cigdem Kagitcibasi - Autonomy-Relatedness Dynamics in Adolescence: What is Optimal?

SRA Biennial Meeting Invited Keynote Address Frans B. M. de Waal - Our Inner Ape: What Primate Behavior Tells Us About Human Nature

SRA Biennial Meeting Invited Keynote Address Judith Diers - Adolescents at UNICEF: Hidden But Emerging

In response to the feedback of past attendees, we enhanced opportunities for engagement. The invited program reflected this with its many interactive group sessions. There was a Views-by-Two on globalization and adolescent health. There were five Roundtables centered on issues pertaining to culture, gender, LGBTQ adolescents, identity, and war-affected youth. There was a Paper Discussion Symposium focused on First Nations and American Indian adolescents. There were also four lively pre-conference workshops on neuroscience, media, positive youth development, and methodology. All these sessions received very positive reviews by attendees.

We encouraged the submission of interactive sessions to the regular program, and indeed there were more Roundtables and Views-by-Two than ever. The revamped and renamed “Paper Discussion Symposium” format set aside a half hour for active involvement with the audience. There were also lots and lots of posters, and they were the hub of the usual vigorous buzz.

The Emerging Scholars Committee, chaired by Carolyn Spellings and Laura Wray-Lake, put together a dynamic set of events and venues. These included two panels on publishing and diverse career paths (back by popular demand), and an Early Career Grant-Writing session that featured a speed-dating format with agency representatives. In addition, the SRA 2012 Jacobs Foundation International Young Scholars Program, chaired by Linda Juang and Kim Updegraff, organized a series of formal and informal activities for young scholars from developing countries.

This time around we stretched the age boundaries for the research focus of the conference. We welcomed research that relates adolescence to both what comes before and after. Some of the invited speakers’ research programs were not specifically focused on adolescence, but their work inspired new vantage points. We also created new review panels for submissions, including one on “Pre-Adolescence and the Transition to Adolescence.”

The success of the 2012 SRA biennial meeting depended on the ideas and lots of hours of work of many people. As co-chairs, we are deeply grateful to Review Panel Chairs and Reviewers; the Emerging Scholars Committee, the International Fellowship Committee, and the Executive Council; 2010 Co-Chairs Marcela Raffaelli and Stephen T. Russell; 2014 Co-Chairs Constance Flanagan and Daniel Hart; Hailey Buck, Rick Burdick, Amy Glaspie, Susan Lennon, Anne Purdue and Thelma Tucker of the SRA Office; and Past-President Niobe Way. And of course the success of the meeting depended above all on everyone who came from near and afar to attend and actively participate in discussions. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of you! We look forward to SRA 2014 in Austin, Texas.