Adolescents' emotional well-being during developmental turning points: help and hindrance from interpersonal relationships

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In two complementary studies, I used an innovative ecological momentary assessment (EMA) design to examine associations between adolescents’ daily interactions with parents and peers and their mood states during two

In two complementary studies, I used an innovative ecological momentary assessment (EMA) design to examine associations between adolescents’ daily interactions with parents and peers and their mood states during two developmentally normative, yet demanding contexts: romantic relationships and the transition to college. The first study examined how adolescents’ daily romantic relationship experiences (e.g., romantic emotionality, conflict, affiliation) were related to negative affective states. Eighty-eight adolescent romantic couples (Mage = 16.74 , SD = 0.96; 44% Latina/o, 42% White) completed short electronic surveys twice-weekly for 12 weeks, which assessed their affective states and their relationship processes (24 total possible surveys). Results indicated that greater conflict and negative romantic emotionality predicted greater within-person fluctuations in same-day negative affect. Greater daily affiliation with a romantic partner predicted slightly lower levels of same-day negative affect; positive romantic emotionality did not significantly predict negative affect.

Study 2 examined first-year college students’ growth trajectories in positive and negative affect across the transition to college (i.e., spanning the entire first semester), predicted said trajectories and daily affective states. Participants were 146 first-year college students from a large southwestern university entering their first semester of college (Mage = 17.8, SD = 0.5). Electronic diary surveys were administered to students twice weekly between July and December of 2014, so as to span the transition to college and the entire first semester, and assessed daily affective states and interpersonal interactions. Results indicated that students decreased in their positive affect gradually across the first semester, but remained stable in their negative affect. Significant variability emerged around these average trends, and was predicted by indices of conflict and involvement with parents and friends. Generally, greater involvement with friends and parents was associated with greater positive and less negative affect, whereas greater conflict with these important social groups predicted greater negative affect. Together, these studies underscore the importance of positive attachments during developmentally-challenging contexts experienced in adolescence.