Striving, Setbacks, and Successes: Reflections on A Career Studying Adolescents' Experience

In this talk I will describe some of the contributions of my research career, starting with studying the ecology of adolescents’ daily experiences and emotions using the ESM, then shifting to investigations of how teens actively construct social-emotional skills through experiences in youth development programs.

Woven into this account, I will also share blunders and setbacks, with the goal of illustrating both the ups and downs that make up a career – a topic that is rarely discussed. A goal is to spark discussion about the real-world circumstances and tumult of research careers.

Reed Larson, PhD, Presenter

Professor in the Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Past President of Society for Research on Adolescence

[email protected]

Reed W. Larson is a professor emeritus in the Department of Human and Development and Family Studies, as well as the Departments of Psychology; Educational Psychology; Kinesiology and Community Health; and Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has served as the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence; recently held the Pampered Chef Endowed Chair at the University of Illinois; and served as Editor-in-Chief of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (with Lene Jensen). His research focuses on positive development and the daily experience of adolescents. Larson was a co-developer of the Experience Sampling Method, and published numerous articles on adolescents’ reports on their emotions and the dynamics of their experiences in different domains in their daily lives. He is author of Divergent Realities: The Emotional Lives of Mothers, Fathers, and Adolescents (with Maryse Richards), which examines the organization of time and emotions within the daily lives of families and how emotions are transmitted between family members. He is also the author of Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years (with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), which deals with the daily experience of high school students. He has conducted research on adolescents’ media use, time alone, experience with friends, and school experience. Larson’s current primary area of interest is adolescents’ experiences of positive development in community-based programs, extra-curricular activities, and others structured, voluntary activities in the after-school hours. He is using qualitative and mixed methods research to capture the cognitive and motivational processes of development that occur in these contexts. The grounded theory that he and students have formulated from his studies has been published in leading journals in developmental psychology including Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and the Journal of Research on Adolescence. Larson argues that, even as we gain more knowledge about the adolescent brain, it is critical that we understand the dynamics of young people’s conscious processes of learning through experience. His research shows how youth consciously learn and develop responsibility, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, motivational self-regulation, teamwork, and other complex but vital skill sets. Larson’s work is also examining the expertise that effective program leaders and other youth professionals exercise in facilitating young people’s active learning processes.

Zena R. Mello, PhD, Chair/Moderator

Professor of Psychology
San Francisco State University

[email protected]

Zena R. Mello (she/her) is a Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cognition and Development at the University of California, Berkeley; a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University; a B.A. in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and an A.A. at Santa Rosa Junior College. Dr. Mello’s research has received substantial federal and state funding, totaling 2 million dollars from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Education Sciences, the American Educational Research Association, and the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program. She was honored with the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Human Development Division of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Mello is actively involved with the academic community, having served on the Executive Councils of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development and the Society for Research on Adolescence. She currently holds the role of Assistant Editor for the Journal of Adolescence and is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and the International Journal of Behavioral Development.