Behavioral Research Blog

Understanding adolescent emotions

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Apr 12, 2016

I was waiting for my exam results, and so was the son of our neighbors. And then there was a bang. A really loud one. I could guess the outcome of his exam simply by hearing that bang.

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Topics: The Observer XT, parent-child interaction, adolescent behavior, coding behavior, depression

5 examples of research on adolescence

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Sep 2, 2014

A couple of months ago, the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence attracted many researchers from all over the world, all interested in adolescent behavior. On this blog, we’ve dedicated a number of posts to recent projects (educational research, research on adolescence). Interested? Check out five examples below!

1) Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, classroom observation software, adolescent behavior

Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jul 25, 2014

Teenagers have the perfect life, right? Living at mom and dad’s, eating without worrying about gaining weight, and relaxing all the way through high school. Unfortunately, not all adolescents have an easy-peasy life. Some have to study to achieve good grades and others have to deal with grownup problems on top of dealing with the emotional ups and downs of adolescence. What about teenage moms? Next to dealing with a newborn, adolescent mothers are tackling their transition to adulthood (taking more distance from parental figures) and the transition to parenthood (the nurturing of an infant and caring for his or her physical and emotional needs). This is called the double risk for mother and infant, inherent in adolescent motherhood. (Riva Crugnola et al. 2014)

Double risk – invest in a solution

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. 

Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, Observation lab, parent-infant dyads, adolescent behavior

Observe police interrogations – research on adolescence

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Feb 12, 2014

Interrogation research crosses multiple disciplines. For example, researchers will look into demographics but also investigate the techniques of interrogation. Recently, Hayley Cleary and Sarah Vidal investigated interrogations in order to describe interrogation settings and its participants in a basic way. They explain that such information about the participants and the setting is still missing and that they are particularly interested in how adolescents act in interrogation settings.

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Topics: The Observer XT, on-site research, video observation, coding schemes, adolescent behavior

Behavior predicts success of family-based treatment in anorexia

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Nov 13, 2013

Anorexia nervosa is a horrible eating disorder that affects many people around the world. Looking at the United States only, between 0.5–1% of all women suffer from anorexia. Moreover, anorexia is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women [1]. No matter how hard governments and parents try to influence adolescents, there are still those who are unable to be reached. Among other factors, anorexia is characterized by [2]:

  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image

There are a number of treatment options for those girls (and boys of course) already diagnosed with anorexia. Different forms of psychotherapy (including individual, group, and family-based) can help address the psychological causes for the illness [2].

The study
Recently, Alison Darcy and colleagues [3] from the Stanford University School of Medicine and The University of Chicago presented their study in Behaviour Research and Therapy. They examined family-based treatment (FBT): Do behaviors shown in the first sessions of family-based treatment predict early response to treatment? In this case, early response means weight gain of 1.8 kg by session four. The authors chose to focus on behaviors that differed between early responders and non-early responders because, as is the case with many disorders, among the strongest predictors of positive long-term outcome in FBT is early response to treatment.

Adolescent behavior
Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence [1]. Darcy et al. selected 21 adolescent participants to take part in this exploratory study. The first, second, and fourth sessions of the family-based treatment were recorded on video and behaviors were coded afterwards using The Observer XT coding and analysis software. To prevent drift, Darcy et al. explain that all coders were trained and met regularly to find agreement on the operationalization of codes. By analyzing the frequencies and durations of behaviors related to meal sessions and verbal behavior, the researchers found that adolescents showing fewer negative verbal behaviors in the first session and who were away from the table less during the meal session had the greatest rates of early response.

Parent behavior
“Family-based treatment aims to empower parents to assume responsibility for re-nourishing their child back to health,” the researchers state. So what can parents do and how is their behavior an indicator for success in family-based treatment? Parents can drive their child into a defensive position. How? Darcy and colleagues’ study shows that parents who put the pressure on during meal time are more often found in the group where the family-based treatment doesn’t show an early response. “Parents who made fewer critical statements and who did not repeatedly present food during the meal session had children who had the greatest rates of early response,” the researchers conclude.

It is bigger than you
When a parent can refrain from making critical comments all the time, the child will probably feel more at ease and benefit more from the family-based treatment. Of course there are many more factors to take into account, such as how long the eating disorder has already been going on. However, it is all about the individual and his or her surroundings. If you change and your environment stays the same, it is hard to keep up the good behavior. The study by Darcy and colleagues shows that it is as important to observe parent behavior as it is to observe adolescent behavior.

References

  1. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa
  2. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml 
  3. Darcy, A.M.; Bryson, S.W.; Agras, W.S.; Fitzpatrick, K.K.; Le Grange, D.; Lock, J. (2013). Do in-vivo behaviors predict early response in family-based treatment for anorexia nervosa? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51, 762-766.
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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, anorexia, adolescent behavior

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