About This Project
Experiencing negative peer pressure is linked to a variety of problems among adolescents, including substance abuse, depressive symptoms, dating violence, and declines in academic performance. We are interested in developing and piloting a one-session intervention that uses virtual reality technology to help teach teens how to better resist negative peer pressure. Virtual reality offers a safe, fun format we expect will be attractive to today’s teens.
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What is the context of this research?
Experiencing negative peer pressure is related to problematic outcomes for teens, including substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. Although prevention programs for such problems sometimes target resistance to peer pressure, few of these programs have been scientifically evaluated, and there is little evidence that they increase resistance skills. We recently developed and tested an intervention to teach teen girls to effectively resist unwanted sexual advances. Virtual reality technology allowed teens to learn and practice these skills in life-like situations. We believe a similar program, focusing on skills for resisting negative peer pressure, will increase teens’ confidence and ability to resist negative peer pressure.
What is the significance of this project?
Peer pressure is a common and challenging experience for teens, increasing risk for substance use, depression, and dating violence. Although some programs address negative peer pressure among teens, little research supports their effectiveness in teaching resistance to negative peer pressure. Empirically-supported programs are needed to help teens gain skills to resist negative peer pressure. Our research would be the first to develop and evaluate a program for teens to practice resistance skills in a realistic but safe virtual environment, targeting this neglected research area. A brief program using innovative technology is likely to be more attractive to teens than conventional approaches.
What are the goals of the project?
We want to develop and pilot test a one-session virtual reality training program to increase teens' resistance to negative peer pressure. We will collect baseline questionnaire measures of confidence and resistance skills, as well as observational data on resistance skills in Spring 2017 from 80 teens. Afterward, teens will be randomly assigned to either the virtual reality training program condition or to a wait-list control condition. One month later, all teens will be administered the same measures that were administered at baseline. We expect those who participate in the training program will report more confidence and greater use of resistance skills, and will be observed to more effectively resist negative peer pressure, compared to those in the control condition.
SMU's Family Research Center has a fully equipped virtual-reality lab, and we have research and technical staff in place to conduct the project. Thus, we only need funds to incentivize and compensate teens for two visits to the research center, spaced about one month apart. Each visit will last one to two hours and teens will receive $25 for the first visit and $30 for the second visit.
Meet the Team
The Family Research Center is among the first research labs equipped to launch therapeutic virtual reality efforts to help adolescents. Our virtual reality technology allows us to customize behavioral interventions unique to the needs of today's teens.
I'm currently a doctoral student in Southern Methodist University's Clinical Psychology program. My research focuses on intervention evaluation targeting violence prevention among teens. I'm also interested in what makes teens more susceptible to negative consequences of adverse experiences. I'm passionate about working with teens because adolescence marks such an influential life transition in our development -- Helping teens develop a positive, healthy self-concept is truly rewarding from a both a clinical and academic perspective.
I am a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Southern Methodist University. My research spans two overlapping areas: (1) violence in adolescent romantic relationships and the development of intervention programs to prevent such violence, and (2) children’s exposure to interparental conflict and violence. Over the past decade, I have been working with colleagues to use innovative technology, such as virtual reality, in programs designed to help teens.
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