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Psychologists seek youth for study on behaviors

Heidemarie BlumenthalMiddle school and high school students can receive up to $50 for participating in one of two yearlong research studies at the Teen ST.A.R. Laboratory, located in the Department of Psychology.

Researchers in Teen ST.A.R, or Teen Stress and Alcohol Research, examine the factors that may lead to adolescents starting risky behaviors, such as alcohol and substance abuse. Anxiety, poor self-image and how teens interpret their own physical reactions to stress may be among the factors, said Heidemarie Blumenthal, right, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Teen ST.A.R. Laboratory.

“Most teens go through puberty with few problems. We’re trying to understand why a small number of teens are vulnerable to abnormal levels of social anxiety, and hope to identify intervention techniques,” she said. “For example, a teen who experiences a rapid heartbeat could think of it as excitement, rather than anxiety.”

The researchers are currently recruiting more than 100 students for two studies — the first for 14- to 17-year-old males and females, and the second for girls ages 12 to 15. Blumenthal said the research team hopes to have a diverse group of volunteers, including those who have experienced few problems during puberty.

To start both studies, the students will go to the Teen ST.A.R. Laboratory in Room 386 of Terrill Hall. They will fill out detailed questionnaires about their emotions, responses to social stress and their body changes during puberty. They will also complete a speech task by pretending that they are introducing themselves in a new class at school.

The 14- to 17-year-olds will also complete math problems within a set amount of time while the researchers measure their reactions. The girls in the second study will provide saliva samples, which will be analyzed for levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, and a second stress hormone.

The volunteers for both studies must come to the laboratory with a parent, who will briefly meet with a researcher to confirm consent, or arrangements may be made for a video conference with the parent.

The visit to the laboratory to start the studies will take two-and-a-half to three hours. The researchers will do follow-up phone calls with the study volunteers three, six, nine and 12 months after the laboratory visits. During the phone calls, which will take 30 to 45 minutes, the researchers will ask some of the same questions the students answered in the questionnaires.

The students will be paid $30 for the visit to the Teen ST.A.R. Laboratory, and $5 for each phone call with a researcher. Blumenthal said visits to the laboratory could be arranged for evenings and weekends.

The research team hopes to complete both studies by July 2015.

—Nancy Kolsti, news promotions

Posted on: Mon 18 August 2014

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