About This Project
Adolescence is a period of heightened vulnerability to social influence, particularly from parents and friends. This study uses an experimental design to a) examine the effect of parent and peer influence on adolescents' risk behavior across two stages of development, b) identify whose influence adolescents are most susceptible to - parents or friends, and c) explore which factors affect adolescents' ability to resist social influence.
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What is the context of this research?
Adolescence is a period of heightened vulnerability to social influence. Across the transition to adulthood, adolescents improve in their ability to resist social influence (Steinberg & Monahan, 2007). Parents (Steinberg, 2001) and peers (Brown & Larson, 2009) serve as powerful sources of influence during adolescence. Recent evidence suggests the effects of social influence may vary depending upon the source of influence (Knoll, Magis-Weinberg, Speekenbrink, & Blakemore, 2015). Yet, only two studies have compared adolescents' resistance to parental and peer influence (Berndt, 1979; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986) and these were limited by reliance on self-reports of adolescents' predicted vulnerability to hypothetical influence.
What is the significance of this project?
This study seeks to identify whose influence adolescents are vulnerable to and in which contexts. This is important, as adolescents' susceptibility to social influence contributes to their tendency to engage in risk behavior (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). The present study is the first to compare adolescents' vulnerability to influence from parents and peers using behavioral methods (as past studies have relied on self-report measures). Further, this study examines factors that may affect an adolescents’ ability to resist social pressure. Understanding these factors may provide valuable insight into the processes of reducing adolescent risk behavior and may help to dissuade youth from succumbing to negative social influence.
What are the goals of the project?
This ongoing study seeks to improve our understanding of adolescents' resistance to social influence across development. Participants are randomly assigned to complete this study in one of four influence conditions: solo (no influence), with a parent, with a peer, or with a parent and peer. Participants complete a brief questionnaire and two computerized behavioral tasks to assess risk taking under varying conditions of social influence. The study’s main objectives are to (1) examine the effects of parental and peer influence on adolescents’ risk taking behavior, (2) compare whose influence adolescents are most susceptible to (parents or peers), and (3) explore which characteristics affect adolescents’ resistance to parental and peer influence.
The funding received by Experiment.com will be used to compensate participants for their time, as the lab sessions required for this study take approximately 1 hour of time and require participants to travel to the campus.
This ongoing study has already successfully completed lab sessions with 42 participants (supported by institutional funding received by the laboratory team).
Meet the Team
April Gile Thomas
I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine (anticipated graduation June 2017). I earned my Masters of Science in Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University in 2011.
My research addresses the question “Why do adolescents take risks?” Broadly, I study adolescent development, particularly as it pertains to risk-taking and problem behavior. My training in developmental psychology has led me to view the increase in risk taking that occurs during adolescence, as compared to childhood or adulthood, as a normative response to the many changes that occur during this developmental phase. I am also interested in what happens when adolescents engage in risky behavior that is also illegal. As a result, my research is not limited to community samples, but has also included first-time juvenile offenders, as well as more serious, felony-level juvenile offenders.
I have an extensive research history and my work has been published in some of the top journals in my field, including Child Development and the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
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