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Permanent Change: Oxymoron or Possible?

A major advantage of being members of the Society for Research on Adolescence is that we have access to a vast amount of evidence about the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children and adolescents. In addition, we have learned a great deal about the risk factors for dysfunctional development in those areas. Using this information, many educational programs and clinical treatments have been developed that have shown significant pre- to post-treatment decreases in adolescents’ drinking, smoking, and risky sexual behaviors. Unfortunately, many studies that have followed participants over longer periods (6 months to several years) have found that the small to moderate effect sizes tend to dissipate. Perhaps we are missing a piece of the puzzle. Why do these effects often disappear in the longer run? I would suggest that what might be missing is something physiological that interferes with the retrieval of information learned in these programs. Recent research shows that at high levels of emotional arousal, cognitive functioning is disrupted, often inaccessible, resulting in a panic-ridden reversion to over-learned, habitual, and sometimes maladaptive behaviors. In addition, previous attachment research has helped us to understand how these over-learned, habitual, and sometimes maladaptive behaviors develop. I suggest here that we attend to coupling these two lines of research – attachment and physiological arousal – in order to improve the efficacy of our educational and clinical interventions.

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Understanding Adolescent Health Risk and Protection in Rural Kenya

Molly Secor-Turner, Ph.D., R.N., and Brandy A. Randall, Ph.D.

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Things May Fall Apart…but You Will Make it Through with a Little Help from your Family, Friends, Teachers, and School

The transitions from childhood to adolescence and then from elementary to middle and high school and into college can be challenging for all youth.  However, they can be especially difficult for youth from low income, ethnic minority, or immigrant families.  As they transition to middle school, high school, and college, these youth often begin to exceed their parents’ level of schooling, thus making it necessary for them to rely on peers, teachers, and community mentors for help with school work and education/career goals  (Azmitia & Cooper, 2011; Cooper, 2011; Dennis, Phinney, & Chuateco, 2005).  In some cases, youths’ academic and career goals may be in conflict with the needs of their families and friends.  For example, families of college-bound youth may pressure them to attend a college close to home so they can continue to help the family economically, provide childcare, or serve as English translators (Chao, 2006; Grau, Azmitia, & Quatelbaum, 2008; Orellana, 2009; Syed, Azmitia, & Cooper, 2011).  Also, while their less-academically oriented friends often provide encouragement and support, over time higher achieving, low income, ethnic minority, or first generation students can feel alienated from their friends and peers. Because they also often feel they have little in common with their high achieving middle/upper income ethnic majority peers, these youth can feel that they do not belong at school, home, or their community (Azmitia & Radmacher, 2012; Azmitia, Syed, & Radmacher, in press; Johnson, Solbe, & Leonard, 2007; Orbe 2008; Ostrove & Long, 2009).

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Who’s more likely to have sex, a girl who likes her body or one who doesn’t?

Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

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Talking about conflict with parents: Five observations and two questions

Adolescence is frequently portrayed as a time of increasing parent-child conflict, thanks in large parts to the roles played by G. Stanley Hall and Anna Freud.  As adolescents and their parents actively negotiate new roles, responsibilities, values, and expectations on the way to adulthood, parents also tend to disclose more personal information with their soon-to-be-adult adolescents than with younger children.  However, parent-adolescent conflict, even in small doses, can be distressing to children and is associated with emotional distress and unhappiness. 

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