We are interested in how settings and interactions can be optimized to best meet adolescents’ developmental needs. In particular, we are focused on the role that relationships (with peers, mentors, non-familial adults) and activities play in adolescent development. We come from a youth-centered, promotive frame; grounded in the fields of positive youth development (PYD), relational and developmental psychology. Our goal is to understand how adolescents themselves select, sustain, and are influenced by the important settings and relationships in their lives. We are particularly focused on out-of-school (OST) contexts and on how settings, such as after-school programs, can serve as spaces for youth to build positive relationships and identities. Further, we aim to understand these relationships in an ecological sense—exploring the connections between individual level factors and social conditions—and an applied lens, with a goal of working with and for local communities and programs.

Current projects include The YAR Study and the YWLP Long-Term Follow-Up. The YAR Study is a longitudinal, mixed methods study of youth-adult relationships (YARs) (e.g. informal mentoring from coaches, teachers, etc.). This project includes a variety of survey and interview data as well as social mapping and network techniques. The YWLP Long-Term Follow-Up study explores the effects of participation in a mentoring program for adolescent girls after five years. Recent projects include a youth participatory evaluation project with a local music-based after-school program.