Ethnic/racial disparities in health occur early in life and persists through adulthood. Adolescent experiences have also been found to have a larger impact on adult health and disparities than experiences later in life. As such, identifying the unique challenges that impact racial/ethnic minorities’ health in early life is critical for research and policy communities alike. While structural inequalities (e.g., income, education) are important social determinants of health disparities, some of their influence is manifested through more proximal developmental settings, such as peer groups. Although peers are particularly influential in adolescence, we currently know little about peer dynamics tied to ethnicity and race for minority adolescents. Yet importantly, a nascent body of work suggests that peers may be a source of both support and stress: peers perpetrate teasing, discrimination, and victimization based on ethnicity and race; at the same time, peers may embrace one’s ethnic culture and provide support in times of discrimination. Despite this knowledge, little is known about how these peer dynamics impact adolescent health both concurrently and over time. To fill in this void, the proposed study investigates both the supportive and stressful ways that peers influence adolescent health (i.e., through peer cultural socialization, preparation for bias, support against discrimination, ethnic/racial teasing, discrimination, and victimization).
To this end, the proposed study employs novel, cutting-edge methodologies to investigate the daily mechanisms that link peer dynamics to health. While theoretical work posits the accumulative effect of constantly activated stress responses in daily lives as a key process, we currently have little empirical evidence for the mechanism through which daily experiences translate into long-term health disparities. As such, the proposed study employs a daily diary design to understand the daily health implications of peer dynamics. We target both biological (i.e., daily cortisol) and more behavioral (i.e., sleep) stress responses as explanatory mechanisms linking peer dynamics to health.
This project will collect data from 250 ethnic/racial minority 9th graders in Lansing area. Data collection will occur in Fall 2017. Daily diary data will be collected for 2 weeks. The research team will distribute a tablet, a medical-rated actigraphy, and salivary sample collection kits for each participant. Participants will report their daily peer experiences every night before going to sleep. They will wear the actigraphy tracking sleep for two weeks. They will also collect salivary samples three times a day for a week as an assessment of diurnal cortisol levels. After the 2 weeks, the research team will collect equipment and samples from the participants' home. Participants will be followed up annually throughout high school.
Students who are interested in gaining research experience in developmental psychology and public health with a particular interest in marginalized and vulnerable youth are encouraged to apply.
Students who have knowledge or experience in the area of physiological stress responses are preferred.
Students will have the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of research, including: 1) drafting IRB and federal grant proposal 2) participant recruitment and primary data collection 3) data management and analysis 4) disseminating results in peer-reviewed journals and national conferences
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