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Teen Well-being and Development

Can We Help Young Brains Fight Off Anxiety?

Anxiety is one of the most common childhood mental disorders. About 7% of children suffer from it at any given time, with nearly 1 in 3 adolescents experiencing it sometime during their teen years. New research suggests that training children in managing upsets may hold promise for preventing anxiety later in their lives (2021).

Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes Are Declining Despite Continued Improvements in Well-being Indicator

Recent data have revealed dramatic and troubling declines in the mental well-being of children and adolescents over the past decade. However, social indicators of well-being have improved over the same period. In a new Child Trends brief, co-authors argue that policies that focus on improving these social indicators, while important, may not be as effective as previously thought at directly addressing young peoples’ mental health needs (2023).

New Data Shows Two Out Of Three Adults Have Experienced At Least One ACE

New CDC research published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows nearly 2 in 3 U.S. adults reported at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), and 1 in 6 reported four or more ACEs. ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health and well-being. The more ACEs a person has, the more likely that person is to develop poor health, engage in health risk behaviors, and have decreased life opportunities, like education and job potential, later in life (2020).

How Does Parental Monitoring Impact Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences
A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Supplements examined associations between parental monitoring and the behaviors and experiences of adolescents. Parental monitoring involves setting boundaries and openly exchanging knowledge/information on the child’s whereabouts, activities, and companions. It is a vital component of the relationship between children and parents and can potentially reduce risk behaviors (2023).

Strategies to Support Co-facilitation in Classroom Sessions
Many READY4Life grantees funded by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) to provide Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) to youth do so in high schools. Facilitating HMRE programming in schools presents unique challenges. HMRE facilitators often have limited influence over classroom norms, behavior rules, and the length of class periods. This brief provides tips and tools for supporting strong co-facilitation to deliver engaging HMRE sessions in school-based settings (2023).

New CDC Report Highlights Youth Risk Behavior Challenges
Teen girls across the United States are “engulfed in a growing wave of violence and trauma,” according to federal researchers who released data Monday showing increases in rape and sexual violence, as well as record levels of feeling sad or hopeless. Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls reported in 2021 that they seriously considered suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago — according to new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 15 percent of teen girls said they were forced to have sex, an increase of 27 percent over two years and the first increase since the CDC began tracking it (2023).

The Way Teens Feel About Their Lives May Lead to Better Health in Adulthood
Teenagers who reported feeling optimism, happiness, self-esteem, belongingness, and feeling loved and wanted were more likely to reach their 20s and 30s in good cardiometabolic health compared to teens with fewer of these positive mental health assets, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association (2023).

Teen Brains Aged Faster Than Normal from Pandemic Stress
The stress of pandemic lockdowns prematurely aged the brains of teenagers by at least three years and in ways similar to changes observed in children who have faced chronic stress and adversity, a new study found (2022).

Teens and Cyberbullying 2022
Nearly half of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online. The most commonly reported behavior is name-calling, with 32% of teens saying they have been called an offensive name online or on their cellphone. Physical appearance is seen as a relatively common reason for bullying. Older teen girls are especially likely to report being targeted by online abuse overall and because of their appearance (2022).

Eight Weeks of Mindfulness Training Improves Adolescents’ Attentional Control
A new study published in the Journal of Adolescence tested an 8-week mindfulness training program among a group of adolescent and adult females. The results revealed that both teens and adults showed improvements in reorienting their attention following mindfulness training.

Research Explains How Our Teenage ‘Templates’ of Love Affect Us as Adults
A new study published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy explains how teenagers can form healthy or unhealthy ‘templates’ of romantic relationships that can perpetuate as they grow up. The researchers, led by Kay Bradford and Brian Higginbotham of Utah State University and Jacqueline Miller of the University of New Mexico, believe that relationship education, much like sexual education, may be the key to helping adolescents build healthier current and future romantic relationships. “Teen relationships are related to their well-being – and what they learn in relationships helps shape their relationships in adulthood,” explains Bradford (2023).

How Bad the Pandemic Has Been For Student Mental HealthFrom the very first waves of school closures and lockdowns in 2020, the pandemic significantly damaged children’s mental health in ways teachers are still coping with and researchers are still struggling to understand. A new analysis of research across 11 countries including the United States in the journal JAMA Pediatrics finds widespread anxiety and depression among those 19 and younger in the earliest days of the pandemic, exacerbated by greater screen time and less physical activity, and coupled with fewer adult supports to ensure children stayed out of dangerous situations.

(Ed. Note: Our program, Mind Matters, has been shown as an effective way to improve trauma coping skills and reduce PTSD symptoms.)

This is What Loneliness Looks Like
Data drawn from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a cohort of 2,232 individuals born in the U.K. in the mid-1990s, shows that loneliness is associated with lower perceived conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extroversion and higher perceived neuroticism. The study also identifies three themes of participants: “uncomfortable in own skin,” “clustering of risk,” and “difficulties accessing social resources.” These results add depth to the current conceptualization of loneliness and emphasize the complexity and intersectional nature of the circumstances severely lonely young adults live in.

Social Media and Online Safety Practiced of Young Parents
This analysis of the Young Parent Study in British Columbia investigates social media and online safety practices of 113 young parents. Online safety concerns of young parents in this study focused on personal safety, their children’s online privacy and image management. These concerns reflect their dual roles, integrating youth image and information management concerns with parental concerns over the safety and information privacy of their own children.

Supporting Healthy Relationships For Youth Who Have Experienced Adversity
A new resource from the Marriage Strengthening Research and Dissemination Center provides a summary of key literature for healthy marriage and relationship education researchers and practitioners that can inform their work with youth who have faced adversity. The review identifies several promising approaches to support youth relationships, including trauma-informed programming, more rigorous program evaluations, and interventions tailored to the populations being served (2021).

Influences Of Aces And Positive Childhood Experiences On Adolescent Depression And Anxiety
Adolescent depression and anxiety are major mental health concerns. This study of 3,426 socioeconomically disadvantaged adolescents finds that ACEs maltreatment and family dysfunction are two different risk dimensions for adolescent depression and anxiety. Positive childhood experiences at family are the strongest protective factors for children exposed to ACEs, followed by these in school and neighborhood. Early interventions building positive relationships may benefit adolescent mental health (2021).

At Least 9 In 10 Youth Have Supportive Adults In Their Lives
This is heartening news for America’s youth, as supportive adults at home and in the community play a vital role in fostering positive outcomes for youth. It is encouraging, too, that just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the vast majority of teens ages 14 to 17 were bolstered by adults whom they could rely on for guidance and safe communication (2021).

Association of Age, Household Dysfunction, and Early Childhood Outcomes
In this cohort study of data on 605,344 individuals aged 19 years from Denmark, exposure to negative experiences in early adolescence was more strongly associated with later adverse outcomes than was exposure in early childhood. The findings suggest that policy interventions targeting individuals exposed to negative experiences during childhood should focus on individuals exposed to negative experiences in adolescence (2021).

Educators are Key in Protecting Student Mental Health
Students in kindergarten through college faced a sudden transition to online learning in the spring of 2020, finding themselves abruptly disconnected from their established daily routines, support systems, and sources of security. This disruption occurred at the precipice of a year of extended isolation in the context of a devastating global pandemic and social, political, and economic unrest. Millions of students have still not returned to the classroom and new research identifies young adults as the most vulnerable group for anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Indeed, we find ourselves amid a student mental-health crisis (2021).

Preventing Trauma and Suicide During Catastrophic Events and Beyond
Catastrophic events like the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, or other disasters can cause major upheaval in the lives of individuals and communities as a whole, disrupting the social fabric and cutting people off from much needed support. Preventing trauma and suicide under these conditions, and in the long term, requires dedicated attention and resources (2021).

Problematic Internet Use and Teen Depression Are Closely Linked
Most teenagers don’t remember life before the internet. They have grown up in a connected world, and being online has become one of their main sources of learning, entertaining and socializing. This reality does not come risk-free. Whereas time on the internet can be informative, instructive and even pleasant, there is already significant literature on the potential harm caused by young children’s problematic internet use (2021).

Association of Social Support, Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Ideation in Young Adults
In this cohort study of 1174 adults aged 19 to 20 years, perceived social support was found to be statistically and significantly associated with fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms, and suicide-related outcomes at 1-year follow-up even after accounting for key confounders, including prior mental health problems in adolescence (2021).

Childhood Trauma Impacts Millions of Americans
Childhood trauma impacts millions of Americans, and its consequences can be devastating. Children experiencing high levels of trauma can see dramatically lower life expectancies, and the CDC estimates it accounts for billions of dollars in healthcare costs and lost productivity (2020).

Empowered Teens are Less Likely to Bully
A recent study investigates how teens’ strengths and sense of behaviors that benefit society were linked with harmful behaviors like bullying, harassment, and sexual assault. Beneficial behaviors for society emerged as one of the most significant protective factors against being a bully. Meaning teens who reported supportive relationships with adults were significantly less likely to bully or harass others. Teens who felt like they mattered to others, thought about the future and used healthy coping techniques were significantly less likely to bully or harass their peers. (2020)

Should You Call or Text? Science Weighs In
Texting may not be enough. A new study suggests that we undervalue the bonding and enjoyment we get from hearing someone’s voice. (2020)

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)