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Complexities in Adjustment Patterns among the “Best and the Brightest”: Risk and Resilience in the Context of High Achieving Schools



Youth in high achieving schools (HAS) are at elevated risk for serious adjustment problems—including internalizing and externalizing symptoms and substance use—given unrelenting pressures to be “the best.” For resilience researchers, successful risk evasion in these high-pressure settings should, arguably, be defined in terms of the absence of serious symptoms plus behaviorally manifested integrity and altruism. Future interventions should target that which is the fundamental basis of resilience: Dependable, supportive relationships in everyday settings. These must be promoted between adults and children and among them, toward enhancing positive development among youth and families in these high stress environments.
Ashley M. Ebbert
Arizona State University
Nina L. Kumar
Authentic Connections
Suniya S. Luthar
Arizona State University
Youth in high achieving schools (HAS) are at elevated risk for serious adjustment problems
including internalizing and externalizing symptoms and substance usegiven unrelenting pres-
sures to be the best.For resilience researchers, successful risk evasion in these high-pressure
settings should, arguably, be defined in terms of the absence of serious symptoms plus behaviorally
manifested integrity and altruism. Future interventions should target that which is the fundamental
basis of resilience: Dependable, supportive relationships in everyday settings. These must be
promoted between adults and children and among them, toward enhancing positive development
among youth and families in these high stress environments.
Our central contention in this article is that children attending high achieving schools (HAS),
predominated by upper middle class families, are an at-riskgroup and warrant systematic
studies by scholars concerned with the construct of resilience. In developmental science, family
socioeconomic status has traditionally been thought of as inversely linked with adjustment
problemswith the affluent showing fewer problems than the poorbut accumulating evi-
dence shows that this is not necessarily the case. We present here programmatic research
evidence showing that youth from well-educated, upper-middle-class families, a demographic
that is over-represented in HAS, are in fact an at-riskgroup and warrant systematic attention
in future work on resilience. We will also discuss associated constructs of competence and
culture-specific vulnerability and protective processes.
Correspondence should be addressed to Suniya S. Luthar, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, 950
South McAllister Avenue, Tempe, AZ, 85287. E-mail:
Research in Human Development, 00: 114, 2018
Copyright © 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1542-7609 print / 1542-7617 online
We begin this article by summarizing existing evidence establishing that youth in high-
achieving communities are in fact an at-risk group. Next, we describe how competence as
conventionally defined (academic excellence) tends to coexist with significant problems in
other areas (substance use, internalizing problems), demonstrating as has been shown with
other at-risk populations, the multidimensional nature of resilience. We then review subculture-
specific risk processes as well as risk modifiers: processes that tend to confer high levels of
maladjustment as well as those that exacerbate or reduce these risks, that is, vulnerability and
protective processes, respectively. In the final section of the article, we consider why HAS
youth merit further research by developmental scientists and consider implications for future
community-based interventions with a central focus on the quality of their socializing
At the outset, we clarify that in our programmatic research we have deliberately chosen to
discontinue using terms such as privilegedand affluentthat we have commonly used in the
past (Luthar, 2003; Luthar & Latendresse, 2005) and instead refer now more simply to youth in
HAS (Luthar & Kumar, 2018). The reasons for this are threefold. First, the new descriptor
precisely captures the samples we have studied over the years; our samples have been recruited
based on the schools they attended, which have been those with high standardized test scores,
rich extracurricular and academic offerings, and graduates heading for the most selective
colleges and universities. Second, terms such as affluentmight connote the top 1% in the
minds of some readers; however, in reality, the majority of families in our HAS samples is not
nearly as wealthy, with many family incomes in the range of $100,00 to $150,000. These
include children of clinicians, researchers, and educators; likely families of anyone reading this
article. Third, though these schools generally serve white-collar professional, well-educated
families, some students do come from families of relatively low socioeconomic status (SES).
Recent findings from large nationally representative samples have shown that it is not family
level of affluence that connotes elevated risks to adolescents (Coley, Sims, Dearing, &
Spielvogel, 2018; Lund, Dearing, & Zachrisson, 2017). Instead, risks are associated with
school-level affluence, that is, having a high proportion of schoolmates from high-income
families (see further discussions on this later in the article, under The Role of Peers).
These clarifications noted, it has now recurrently been established that considered collectively
children from HAS communities are in fact an at-riskgroup (Koplewicz, Gurian, & Williams,
2009; Luthar, Barkin, & Crossman, 2013; Luthar & Kumar, 2018). In the Executive Summary of
a recent Robert Wood Johnson report on adolescent wellness, todays top four high-risk environ-
ments listed, in turn, are exposure to poverty, to trauma, to discrimination or racism, and to
Excessive pressure to excel or to outdo everyone elseoften, but not exclusively, occurring in
affluent communities(Geisz & Nakashian, 2018, p. 5). A recent study corroborated the risks of
HAS across decades; being at a high achieving school was linked with relatively poor adult
outcomes including lower educational expectations, educational achievement, income, and occu-
pational prestige, likely reflecting long-term effects of negative social comparisons in selective
high schools (Gollner et al, 2018).
What this implies is an Collectively, the aforementioned results imply elevated likelihood of
disturbance in the HAS demographic as a whole. In studies of risk and resilience, the concept of
risk is defined in terms of statistical probabilities (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Masten,
2001), wherein those exposed to potentially problematic conditions (e.g., parent depression) are
statistically more likely than others to show adjustment problems. This does not mean that all
children exposed to these conditions are distressed; rather, that overall, their odds of difficulties
are higher. Thus, though not all students in HAS communities show adjustment problems, a
substantially higher proportion of them have significant difficulties compared to national
Elevated adjustment problems in comparison to norms have been documented across diverse
internalizing symptoms. In early research (Luthar & DAvanzo, 1999), one in five girls in an
affluent suburban community reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms, mea-
sured by the Childrens Depression Inventory (CDI; Kovacs, 1992). In our subsequent program-
matic research, we have used the Youth Self Report (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001), a widely used
measure with excellent, nationally representative norms based on thousands of schools across the
country. As compared to these national norms, HAS youth have repeatedly shown elevations in
prevalence of serious internalizing problems such as depressive, anxiety, and somatic symptoms
(for reviews, see Luthar et al., 2013; Luthar & Kumar, 2018).
Students in HAS samples also report elevated rates of rule breaking. Although delinquency is
commonly assumed to be a problem unique to youth in poverty, HAS samples show comparable
levels (Luthar & Ansary, 2005), with differences in the particular types of rule breaking in the two
sets of students. HAS youth tend to endorse random acts of delinquency, such as stealing from
parents of peers, whereas inner-city teensindicate behaviors that could involve self-defense, such as
carrying a weapon. Additionally, cheating among HAS students has also been found to be proble-
matic, encompassing not only isolated cheating on examinations, but also larger, organized schemes
(e.g., Minarcik & Bridges, 2015; Pérez-Peña & Bidgood, 2012).
Substance abuse is a significant problem: Rates of alcohol and drug use are significantly
elevated among students in HAS settings (Luthar & Kumar, 2018). Compared to their econom-
ically disadvantaged counterparts, HAS students were higher in reported use of cigarettes,
alcohol, marijuana, and hard drugs, with the lowest levels of abstinence reported among high-
SES girls (Luthar & DAvanzo, 1999; Luthar & Goldstein, 2008). Studies from other research
laboratories have yielded consistent findings, indicating high use of marijuana and alcohol, as
well as binge drinking, in areas with mostly well-educated, White, high-income, two-parent
families (Botticello, 2009; Patrick, Wightman, Schoeni, & Schulenberg, 2012; Song et al.,
2009). Previously noted analyses from the United States and Norway have shown that more
than family or neighborhood affluence, it is attendance at schools with a high proportion of
affluent students that is linked with elevated risk for substance use (Coley et al., 2018; Lund
et al., 2017).
This elevated substance use is not simply an adolescent-limited problem in HAS commu-
nities. Multiwave longitudinal data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY;
Luthar, Small, & Ciciolla, 2018) have shown that these trends tend to persist and even worsen
through college. Prospective, annual assessments of teens from suburban communities showed
substantial elevations for frequency of drunkenness and using marijuana, stimulants, and
cocaine across gender. More importantly, relative to national norms, rates of clinical diagnoses
of alcohol and drug dependence were twice as high among the sample of NESSY men assessed
throughout college, and three and two times as high for women and men, respectively, assessed
after college across ages 23 to 27 (Luthar et al., 2018).
Most students in our prior HAS samples have been of White backgrounds, precluding
separate analyses by ethnicity, but recent evidence suggests that problems do generalize beyond
White students. In a HAS sample in the Northwest, for example (Warikoo, Chin, Zillmer, &
Luthar, 2018), rates of clinically significant levels of internalizing symptoms (that are 7% in
national norms) were 20% vs. 28% among White and Asian American boys respectively;
parallel numbers for girls were 26% and 22%. Similarly, recent analyses from the Family and
Community Health Study (FACHS; Assari, Gibbons, & Simons, 2018) showed that African
American males from relatively high socioeconomic backgrounds had particularly high scores
on perceived racial discrimination, with associated vulnerability to adjustment problems includ-
ing depression and substance use.
In summary, evidence thus far clearly indicates that HAS students are an at-risk group. This
has been recurrently documented in our own studies across HAS samples from different parts
of the country, including independent and public schools, day and boarding schools, and
schools in cities and suburbs. Findings from other research laboratories, using different
sampling strategies, are consistent.
In developmental research on resilience, the notion of competence in childhood and adoles-
cence has long been defined in terms of behaviorally manifested and observable domains of
meeting stage-salient societal expectations, particularly indices of academic success and effec-
tive functioning at school (Garmezy, Masten, & Tellegen, 1984; Masten, 2001). The logic
behind this operationalization is sound: getting a good education in high school is critical for
future occupational success and financial stability.
As was established in early development research on low-SES teens (Luthar, Doernberger, &
Zigler, 1993), however, resilience is not a unidimensional construct. Among inner-city high
school students exposed to high levels of life stress, a total of 74% were labeled resilient
when the outcome measure was school-based social competence. At the same time, when also
considering coexisting difficulties in other indicators of competencesuch as ratings by peers
and emotional adjustmenta far lower proportion of youth (16%) met criteria for doing well
(Luthar et al., 1993). Findings were seen as reflecting overall disparagement, among the peer
group, for sustained academic effort and conversely, their approval for counter-conventional
behaviors including disruptiveness in the classroom.
In recent years, studies on resilience in adulthood have established similar findings. Among
adults who had experienced spousal bereavement, for example, doing wellwas examined
across five key indicators: life satisfaction, negative affect, positive affect, general health, and
physical functioning (Infurna & Luthar, 2017). Considering cross-domain adjustment, less then
10% of the bereaved participants were resilient across all five of these self-reported measures of
adjustment. In other words, successful adjustment in one or more domains tended to coexist
with significant problems in another important area.
Recurrent findings such as these have led resilience researchers to caution that the selection
of domains of competence that are used to define risk evasion must be conceptually linked to
the particular type of adversity experienced. Among youth growing up in crime-ridden neigh-
borhoods where high school dropout rates are high, for example, it makes sense to focus on
evasion of delinquency and maintaining a decent grade point average. Among bereaved
individuals, the most relevant domains of focus would include evasion of prolonged grief,
depression, and loneliness, rather than the presence of high overall life satisfaction.
Collectively, these issues raise some serious questions about how competence should be
defined in studies of resilience among HAS students, and we would argue that academic
success should not be at the forefront in this case. The nature of the risks facing these youth
is clear; they are linked to high pressures to achieve that come from multiple sources (as
described further below). Admirably high Grade Point Average (GPA) and Scholastic Aptitude
Test (SAT) scores coexist with alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and
substance use (Luthar & Barkin, 2012; Luthar & Becker, 2002; Luthar & Goldstein, 2008).
With regard to the latter, what is more, misuse of drugs and alcohol is linked with high levels of
popularity among classmates, again reflecting peer approval of those with the courage to buck
the system,as was previously noted among inner-city youth (Luthar & DAvanzo, 1999).
Thus, in future research on resilience among this particular at-risk group, we would argue
that it would be useful to focus centrally on understanding how it is that some teens are able to
avoid excessive perfectionism, unremitting anxiety, high depression, and frequent substance
use, even as they (like their peers and families in this subculture of high achievement) maintain
creditable academic and extracurricular performance. Obviously, their levels of academic
achievements are not irrelevant when operationalizing overall competence. However, this is
not the area of adjustment that is the greatest cause for concern when seeking to understand
(and then foster) successful risk evasion.Within the context of these highly competitive,
high-octane settings, of most pressing importance is disentangling what allows for healthy
overall development of the whole child, reflecting good social-emotional adjustment, and
positive attributes such as integrity and altruism, without necessarily having multiple distinc-
tions in academic and extracurricular pursuits.
In resilience research, once a broad risk factor has been identified, the next step is to understand
why or howrisks are conferred, and subsequently, consider mechanisms occurring in that
context, in particular, that might mitigate and exacerbate these risks. It is important to not only
consider well-known risks that affect all children (such as harshness from adults) but also
subculture-specific risks (Garcia Coll et al., 1996), with deliberate incorporation of youthsown
perceptions and meaning makingof salient influences in their lives (Cunningham & Rious,
2015; Spencer & Swanson, 2013). As indicated by contemporary theories on effects of culture
on development (Rogoff, 2003; Vélez-Agosto, Soto-Crespo, Vizcarrondo-Oppenheimer, Vega-
Molina, & Garcia Coll, 2017; Weisner, García Coll, & Chatman-Nelson, 2010), this implies
salient ways in which membership in a particular group plays out in everyday actions and
routinesincluding bedtimes, video games, homework, child care, cooking dinner, day care,
sports practices, other after-school activities, and so on.
The single greatest challenge for youth in HAS, deriving itself from multiple sources, is high
and ongoing pressures to achieve (Luthar & Kumar, 2018). Growing up in an affluent context,
where parents are financially well off and peers are experiencing similar pressures to succeed,
can create a developmental environment when youth are constantly striving to distinguish
themselves from their (also highly distinguished) schoolmates. Students and adults alike tend
to endorse the belief that success in multiple spheres at school is essential to gain admission to
a prestigious college, and in turn, secure a well-paying, high-status job in the future. As a result,
students in HAS contexts are encouraged to begin enhancing their resumesbeginning as early
as junior high school. Furthermore, these pressures are particularly acute in HAS communities
as extra tutoring and coaching are readily available. With this extra help, students believe that
exceptionally lofty goals (such as getting into top tier colleges) should be well within their
reach, thus buying into the credo, I can, therefore I must(Luthar et al., 2013).
Chronic exposure to such pressures has multiple negative effects on childrens development.
Among HAS students, the motivation to excel, that could have been fueled by personal desires,
is replaced with an internally controlled, driven form of motivation, limiting feelings of
autonomy and satisfaction with achievements (e.g., Ryan & Deci, 2017), and unhealthy
perfectionism (Flett, Nepon, Hewitt, Molnar, & Zhao, 2016). In addition to frequent daily
stressors, these ongoing pressures can become overwhelming, presaging serious internalizing
and externalizing disorders, as well as substance use to provide relief from distress (Luthar &
Kumar, 2018). In summary, unrelenting achievement pressures in HAS settings derive from
multiple sources, internal and external, and in turn, compromise well-being in diverse psycho-
logical and behavioral domains.
As a group, parents in HAS communities are neither neglectful nor disparaging (Luthar & Barkin,
2012; Luthar & Latendresse, 2005). At the same time, it appears that in affluent communities just as
in low-income communities, some children feel quite distant from their parents, suggesting
pressures faced by some families in both cases. Compared to very-low-income youth from mostly
single-mother-led families, affluent youth from mostly two-parent families did not report feeling
any closer, on average, to their parents (Luthar & Latendresse, 2005).
In terms of effects of parenting on children, in HAS communities, there are two general
themes around affective parenting dimensions that are similar to those in other sociodemo-
graphic groups. First, in general, effects of negative parenting dimensions are likely to be
stronger than those of positive ones, as bad is stronger than good(Baumeister, Bratslavsky,
Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001). Harsh and critical words from parents tend to have much stronger
effects than words of praise or affection (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005; Luthar, Crossman, &
Small, 2015). Second, the quality of relationships with mothers as opposed to fathers has shown
stronger associations with teensadjustment outcomes (Ebbert, Infurna, & Luthar, 2018; Luthar
et al., 2013). Intuitively, this makes sense because in these families as in most others, it is
mothers who are typically most responsible for child-rearing activities so that youth generally
have more frequent interactions, and intimate relationships, with their mothers as compared to
their fathers (Collins & Russell, 1991; Ebbert et al., 2018).
Salient Parenting Processes in HAS Subculture: Achievement Emphasis and
Aside from the aforementioned universals(e.g., harshness from parents hurts, as love
generally helps), there are a few aspects of parenting that are especially important in high-
achieving contexts, and one of these is parentsown emphasis on extrinsic versus intrinsic
values. In high-achieving, affluent settings where the push toward accomplishments pervades
the school climate, peer group, and community, it can be protective for children to perceive
their home environments as insulating them somewhat from the reverberating cultural messages
of achieve moreat any and all costs. Just as a contextually salient task for inner-city parents
is to shield youth from the risks of street violence and gangs (Romich, 2009), in high-achieving
contexts, it is especially beneficial for parents to maintain a sense of balance in their emphasis
on personal success and status. It is important that parents ensure that there is as much, if not
more, emphasis on decency and kindness (Luthar & Becker, 2002). Conversely, when children
believe that parents value them more for what they can do rather than for who they are, they
tend to rely on their accomplishments for their sense of self-worth (Luthar & Becker, 2002).
This, in turn, places them at high risk for maladjustment, resulting from disproportionate
pursuit of extrinsic goals (e.g., wealth and image) relative to intrinsic goals (e.g., affiliation
and person growth) (Kasser, 2002; Lekes, Hope, Gouveia, Koestner, & Philippe, 2012). In a
study of HAS sixth gradersperceptions of each parents values separately, findings showed
that the highest levels of adjustment problems among children were those who felt that both
parents were high on emphasis relative to personal decency or integrity (Ciciolla, Curlee,
Karageorge, & Luthar, 2017). Importantly, childrens actual academic performance did not
suffer when both parents were seen as low or moderate on achievement emphasis (Ciciolla
et al., 2017).
Aside from achievement emphasis, a second critical culture-specific protective factor in
HAS communities is laxness in limit -setting, especially around use of drug and alcohol use.
Rule-breaking behaviors are not always treated seriously (Luthar & Kumar, 2018); in fact,
some parents even bail their children out of trouble with authorities in efforts to avoid
damaging the teens’“resumesand thus their chances of getting into prestigious colleges.
Across several studies, we have recurrently seen significant ramifications for the notion of
parents perceived containmentfor substance use, that is, studentsperceptions of the
seriousness of repercussions if parents discovered use of drugs or alcohol. Compared to other
errant behaviors such as rudeness, academic indolence, and delinquency HAS studentsantici-
pated repercussions were the lowest for behaviors involving substance abuse (Luthar & Barkin,
2012; Luthar & Goldstein, 2008). In turn, low levels of perceived containment for substance
use is linked with high self-reported substance use across HAS samples we have studied, and
frequent use in high school is related to heightened risk for diagnoses of addiction in early
adulthood (Luthar Small, & Ciciolla, 2017). In sum, the findings suggest that affluent students
do not perceive the repercussions for substance use to be serious, especially when compared to
other errant behaviors; these laissez-faire attitudes toward substance use are linked with
potentially serious problems of drug and alcohol dependence over the years.
Although parents have an important role in culturally specific protective and vulnerability pro-
cesses, peers also play a vital role. To illustrate, the important studies by Coley, Dearing, and their
colleagues (Coley et al., 2018;Lund&Dearing,2013) showed that HAS youth are not at risk
because of the wealth of their own families, but rather, because their schools have a large proportion
of affluent students. School income was most significantly associated with adolescentslikelihood
of engaging in numerous risk behaviors, including substance use, and property crime, with the
highest likelihood of engagement seen among affluent youth (Coley et al., 2018). These findings
suggest that schools and peersplace a centralrole in driving social norms and expectations affecting
mental and behavioral health among HAS students (Luthar et al., 2013; Vélez-Agosto et al., 2017),
in part, possibly reflecting the negative peer contagion effects (Dishion & Tipsord, 2011).
In HAS settings, ongoing competition among peers is a troubling issue that can impair
closeness and intimacy with friendsa critically important developmental task at this life
stage. As a result of constantly trying to be the best,envy is a common, and unfortunate,
destructive occurrence (Marano, 2008). Students from HAS, especially girls, have been found
to report significantly more envy of peers whom they felt surpassed them across the realms of
popularity, attractiveness, academics, and athletics (Lyman & Luthar, 2014). Being highly
envious of others, especially with regard to physical appearance, was significantly associated
with negative ramifications for maladjustment (Lyman & Luthar, 2014).
Aside from envy, negative forces from the peer group include active endorsement of negative
behavior patterns, especially studentsuse of drugs and alcohol (e.g., Luthar & DAvanzo, 1999).
As most families are relatively affluent in HAS contexts, youth are more easily able to buy drugs
and alcohol and have them freely available at parties. Thus, those who are invited to (or host) major
parties are inevitably more likely to start experimenting with substances at an early age. In addition
to the ready availability of drugs and perceived lack of parent repercussions (described earlier),
peers can actively endorse problematic substance use. For example, among boys in affluent
suburban schools, high self-reported substance use was significantly linked with many liked
mostnominations by their classmates (Becker & Luthar, 2007; Luthar & DAvanzo, 1999).
Links between substance abuse and peer nominations were also seen among girls; however, with
girls, substance abuse was also linked with frequent liked leastpeer nominations, indicating
gender-based double standards in peersperceptions of substance use (see also Chase, 2008).
High peer status among girls has also, unfortunately, been seen to be associated with relational
aggression and also with their physical attractiveness. We have found that HAS girls who were
rated by peers as aggressive toward others were also rated as being highly admired by them (Becker
&Luthar,2007); this admiration of mean girlshelps to perpetuate their dominance (LaFontana &
Cillessen, 2002;Simmons,2002). Additionally, associations between peer admiration and physical
attractiveness is much stronger among HAS girls as compared to their male counterparts and as
compared to inner-city girls and boys, so that it is unsurprising that some of these young women are
excessively preoccupied with their physical attractiveness (Luthar et al., 2013).
From peers as well as parents, these girls face high expectations across multiple realms
including high achievements at school while at the same time being kind, caring, and attractive
(Hinshaw & Kranz, 2009). In addition, they are expected to manage all these competing
demands with ease, presenting an exterior image of self-perfection. The result is an underlying
sense of anxiety, self-criticism, and conviction that no matter how hard they try, they will never
be successful enough, attractive enough, popular enough, or admired enough (Ruane, 2012;
Simmons, 2018; Wyler, 2003).
Although more research is needed on the risks faced by HAS boys, they may also be at risk
because of what it takes to achieve high peer status. Aside from attractiveness and athleticism, high
peer status for HAS boys is linked with frequent substance abuse as previously noted, and also with
being desired as sexual partners by many girls (Becker & Luthar, 2007;Chase,2008; Khan, 2011).
Striving to attain high status may be accompanied by low capacity for true intimacy with others, as
these boys are motivated by frequent hookups, and overly high investment in power and status
(Luthar et al., 2013). HAS boys have been found to be high, relative to norms, on exhibitionistic
narcissism, answering positively to items such as, I like it when others brag about good things Ive
done(Coren & Luthar, 2014).
In highly competitive settings, it is beneficial when personal decency and integrity are prioritized
in comparison to personal success, not only by parents, but also by peers . Our research has shown
that middle schoolers who were often named by peers as decent and kind and who exemplified
prosocial values (e.g., being polite, fair, and helpful) were those who fared the best, as high school
seniors, on outcomes that are sohighly valued in these communities: high academic GPAs and SAT
scores (Curlee, Aiken, & Luthar, 2018). Paradoxically, therefore, it was commitment to doing for
others that presaged high personal success over the long term. In these highly competitive settings,
it is being decent and kind to others, and maintaining a balanced set of aspirations, that are likely to
bring any number of rewards in the childrens lives, over time.
When significant adjustment problems are identified along with the nature of salient risk
processes, the next task in resilience research is to identify those environmental factors that
are amenable to change and most likely to yield long-lasting benefits (Luthar et al., 2015). A
review of accumulated evidence across at-risk circumstances has corroborated that the single
most important priority is to ensure the psychological well-beingand thus the everyday
caregiving and socializing behaviorsof adults who are charged with the care of the children,
that is, their parents as well as adults at their schools.
Among parents, we have identified behaviors that can be particularly important in HAS context
but much remains to be done in considering parentswell-being as a dependent variable.As noted
earlier, high perceived criticism hurts (a lot), affection helps, as does accepting children for the
people they are (rather than the splendor of their accomplishments), and appropriate limit-setting,
especially around substance use. Yet there is much that needs attention on the parents themselves, in
particular, factors that affect their own well-being as individuals and as parents.
This generation of HAS parents is acutely aware that with globalization, competition is
much more stiff than it was when they applied to college, as is maintaining their standards of
living. Entire HAS communities can get caught up in intense anxiety that if their children do
not make it into the best colleges, they will be left behind forever. This intense worry can make
for contentiousness between parents and schoolswith each blaming the other for any per-
ceived failings on the childs resumeas well as a sense of envy and competition among
families. In turn, such ongoing competition can work against genuine investment in the well-
being of others in the community, reducing mutual support of and kindness toward each other.
Additionally, adults in these communities (parents, teachers, administrators) generally tend to
work long hours and in high-stakes jobs, where failures can be costly. And unhappy, burned-out
adults are not optimal caregivers for their children.
As has been clearly established for at-risk children in general (Luthar & Eisenberg, 2017), it
would seem that a critical task at hand, therefore, is to foster well-being, equanimity, and a
sense of balanced values among the adults in HAS communities. For adults as for children,
resilience rests on relationships. Thus, there is much value in promoting community-based,
sustainable efforts to foster the well-being of adults in salient caregiving roles, who serve as
first respondersto these highly stressed students in HAS contexts.
In our own work, we have used this approach of tending the caregiversin randomized
clinical trials years, beginning years ago with low-SES mothers under high stress (Luthar,
Suchman, & Altomare, 2007), and more recently, with mothers at the opposite end of the
socioeconomic spectrum who themselves are in high-achieving contexts (Luthar, Curlee, Tye,
Engelman, & Stonnington, 2017). The latter intervention, called Authentic Connections
Groups (AC Groups), was designed to facilitate authentic, supportive relationships among
mothers, using an overall approach and specific strategies based in respect, empathy, and
empowerment. We found that intervention versus control mothers showed significant improve-
ments across central psychological indices including depression, global distress symptoms, and
parenting stress, as well as levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Taken together, our results
provided strong support for the use of this relationally based 12-week intervention. In exten-
sions of this work, we have now also conducted groups with administrators, counselors, and
advisors at high-pressure schools (Authentic Connections, 2018).
We are also focused on illuminating specific dimensions of school climate that are most
important in particular communities. In a recent study, we established that HAS studentsoverall
feelings of emotional engagement with the school were significantly linked with studentssymptom
levels even after considering multiple aspects of their relationships with mothers and with fathers
(Zillmer, Phillipson, & Luthar, 2018). These findings led us to try to determine factors about a
school that help children feel emotionally engaged with it; in other words, what makes students say,
with enthusiasm, that they like their schools? In our ongoing collaborative work with HAS school
communities, therefore, our goals are to examine diverse aspects of school climate and test the
relative strength of their links with studentsadjustment outcomes. We have examined over a dozen
indices, ranging from the number of Advanced Placement classes to the schools perceived
tolerance of bullying and respect for diversity. Disentangling the relative strength of these associa-
tions can be important for schools because they will indicate which should be the top two or three
dimensions that, in their particular school, most urgently warrant change via efforts by the
administrators, parents, and faculty (e.g., Luthar & Eisenberg, 2017).
Finally, as we develop future interventions for youth in HAS contexts, it is critical to take
into account what the children themselves might view as optimal priorities for change, as
well routes to reaching them. As Cunningham and Rious (2015) have persuasively argued,
adolescents in general tend to be stereotyped as lazy, self-centered, and uninvolved in
community issues, but in reality, most of them desire to be actively involved in social
change, and especially in activities and pursuits that shape their own futures. Yet develop-
mental research has historically focused on young people from a top-down approach, in
which experts collect data and draw conclusions without necessarily engaging young people
in the process(Cunningham & Rious, 2015, p.586). These authors urge deliberate incor-
poration of adolescentsown perspectives in diverse communities by any developmental
scientists aiming to make positive differences in their life circumstances (see also Spencer &
Swanson, 2013).
In future research, it will also be important to determine the degree to which findings on
HAS groups generally extend to subgroups based on factors such as ethnicity or sexual
identity. As previously noted, for example, African American boys at higher SES were at
greater risk for problems as compared to their less well-off peers, possibly due to greater
discrimination experienced in their mostly White communities (Assari et al., 2018).
Similarly, our previously mentioned norms of what is valued and reinforced by peers tacitly
assume a largely heterosexual group of students; the findings, however, may not be equally
true for students who are sexual minorities. Thus, in future studies of HAS youth, it will be
important to systematically examine salient within-group risk and resilience processes
among different minority subgroups within these upwardly mobile school and community
To summarize, our programmatic research on youth in HAS communities has led to the
following major messages relevant to the constructs of risk and resilience. First, youth in
these schools, from predominantly well-educated, white-collar families, have impressive aca-
demic achievements on average; yet they are at significantly elevated risk, compared to national
norms, for serious problems of maladjustment including internalizing and externalizing symp-
toms as well as substance use. In several instances, rates of problems are comparable to those
documented in youth whom we in developmental science are accustomed to thinking of as
being at high risk,that is, those from low-SES families and communities. Second, attesting
again to the fact that resilience is not an across-the board phenomenon, there can be sharp
dissonance even among just behaviorally manifested indices of social competence at school;
just as with inner-city teens, acceptance by peers (an important stage-salient task) can coexist
with rule-breaking, aggressive behaviors.
Third, in future research on resilience among youth in these highly pressured and stressed
settings, conceptually, the most pertinent indicators of risk evasioninclude absence of serious
symptoms and minimal substance use, and the presence of concern for and altruism toward others
(with at least average academic effort and grades). Fourth, efforts to foster resilience, in turn, would
likely benefit from enhancing close, supportive networks that bolster the (highly stretched) adults
who care for these highly stressed children, and similar relational interventions for the children
themselves. Finally, as we have long learned from work with economically disadvantaged school
communities, there are dangers in assuming that one size fits all; needs and challenges vary across
communities, as do areas of strength. In the years ahead, we would urge careful research-based
illumination, within individual HAS communities, of potent risk modifiers that are amenable to
change, have substantial effects, and are likely to touch off other beneficial changes, improving the
well-being of a generation of high achieving youth who at present are simply hurting way too much.
We gratefully acknowledge support from Authentic Connections, the Rodel Foundation, and the
Templeton Foundation. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not
necessarily represent official views of the organizations providing funding support.
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... The basis developing academic resilience lies in how students create space for adapting to change to ensure psychological resilience. Ebbert et al. (2019) define academic resilience as a higher probability of succeeding in the academic space regardless of challenges. Therefore, it implies that academic resilience is directly correlated to psychological resilience, as both underscore the necessity of overcoming adversities (Ebbert et al., 2019). ...
... Ebbert et al. (2019) define academic resilience as a higher probability of succeeding in the academic space regardless of challenges. Therefore, it implies that academic resilience is directly correlated to psychological resilience, as both underscore the necessity of overcoming adversities (Ebbert et al., 2019). ...
... The idea of Mesidor and Sly (2016) on academic resilience and how they impact students' ability to cope with challenges brings into the fold high motivational achievement and performance. The relativity of academic resilience in psychological resilience affirms that students must demonstrate adaptable mindsets, which is stated by Ebbert et al. (2019). ...
Full-text available
This study figured out modeling the causal relationships between academic adjustment, academic strive and future expectations on psychological resilience and cognitive modifiability. The study included sample size (399) from six grade of elementary school students in Sharkia governorate in Egypt, first semester in the academic year 2021-2022. The study revealed that academic adjustment, academic strive, and future expectations had direct effect on students' psychological resilience, in addition to academic adjustment, academic strive, and future expectations had negative direct effect of-0.0262 on students' cognitive modifiability. There is no effective model that statistically fit effects of relations between academic adjustment, academic strive and future expectations on psychological resilience and cognitive modifiability. the study makes the recommendations: academic adjustment must be put into perspective so as increased cognitive modifiability and psychological resilience. Academic striving must be increased so as to increase cognitive modifiability and psychological resilience. Future expectations must be put into perspective so as to positively impact cognitive modifiability and psychological resilience.
... There is replicated evidence that students in high-achieving school (HAS) environments (e.g., high standardized test scores, enriched extracurricular/academic offerings) concurrently and prospectively exhibit more mental health problems relative to national norms, including substance use, depression, and anxiety (Ebbert et al., 2019;Luthar & Barkin, 2012;Luthar et al., 2020aLuthar et al., , 2020bLuthar et al., , 2020. In fact, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (2019) identified HAS students as an at-risk group, along with historically vulnerable groups (e.g., youth living in poverty, foster care). ...
... Several possible risk factors for poor socio-emotional outcomes in youth in HAS have emerged in research on this population, including academic pressures, perceived isolation from parents, and unique personality correlates (e.g., high rates of perfectionism, envy; Ebbert et al., 2019). Achievement pressures among HAS adolescents may potentiate heightened competition and comparisons among peers (Luthar, 2020a). ...
... To better understand the association of the frequency of digital media use with adolescent internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and substance use, as well as potential mediation through specific online behaviors, we leveraged a large sample of adolescents (n = 2952) attending three HAS, given their increased risk for mental health problems (Ebbert et al., 2019). Controlling for age and school, several important patterns emerged: first, self-reported frequency of social comparison, negative feedback, and risky self-presentation on digital media uniquely mediated the association of digital media use frequency with internalizing problems in boys and girls. ...
Replicated evidence shows that adolescents enrolled in high-achieving schools exhibit elevated mental health problems relative to national norms, reflecting risk factors such as achievement and social pressures. The frequency of digital media use is similarly a potential risk factor for poor youth mental health, although mediators of this association have not been identified. 2952 youth from three high-achieving U.S. high schools reported the frequency of their digital media use as well as internalizing and externalizing problems and substance use. Using a multiple mediation framework, the frequency of social comparison, receiving negative feedback, and risky self-presentation online each uniquely mediated the association of digital media use with internalizing and externalizing problems in boys and girls; for substance use, risky self-presentation mediated this association in both boys and girls and negative feedback mediated substance use in girls only. Measurable online behaviors in the form of social comparison, negative feedback, and self-presentation may crucially underlie the association of digital media use frequency with socio-emotional development in adolescents. Implications for intervention focused on impacting online behaviors for improving youth mental health are discussed.
... The basis developing academic resilience lies in how students create space for adapting to change to ensure psychological resilience. Ebbert et al. (2019) define academic resilience as a higher probability of succeeding in the academic space regardless of challenges. Therefore, it implies that academic resilience is directly correlated to psychological resilience, as both underscore the necessity of overcoming adversities (Ebbert et al., 2019). ...
... Ebbert et al. (2019) define academic resilience as a higher probability of succeeding in the academic space regardless of challenges. Therefore, it implies that academic resilience is directly correlated to psychological resilience, as both underscore the necessity of overcoming adversities (Ebbert et al., 2019). ...
... The idea of Mesidor and Sly (2016) on academic resilience and how they impact students' ability to cope with challenges brings into the fold high motivational achievement and performance. The relativity of academic resilience in psychological resilience affirms that students must demonstrate adaptable mindsets, which is stated by Ebbert et al. (2019). ...
... The research program by Luthar and colleagues demonstrates the adverse effects of attending high-achieving schools on student mental health (anxiety, depression, distress, delinquency, substance abuse, high-risk behaviors, and adverse childhood experiences e.g., Ebbert et al., 2019;Luthar et al., 2020). Luthar (2003), Luthar and Ansary (2005), and Luthar and Latendresse (2005) initially identified seemingly paradoxical increased risks of psychological problems for students from affluent families ("affluenza"). ...
... However, subsequent large-scale multilevel studies by Coley et al. (2018;also see Lund & Dearing, 2012;Lund et al., 2017) showed that these effects on mental health problems were due to school compositional effects rather than effects of L1 family SES. This led Luthar and colleagues to shift from individual-student characteristics to an emphasis on high-achieving schools (;e.g., Ebbert et al., 2019;Luthar & Kuman, 2018;Luthar et al., 2020). They also emphasized the importance of a robust self-concept to children's mental health, which can be compromised in high-achieving schools where self-worth is based on relative accomplishments and social comparison. ...
Full-text available
We juxtapose (positive and negative) compositional effects of school-average achievement and school-average socioeconomic status (SES) on students’ academic self-concept (ASC), final high-school grade-point-average (GPA), and long-term outcomes at age 26 (educational attainment and educational and occupational expectations). We used doubly-latent multilevel compositional models with a large, nationally representative longitudinal sample (16,197 Year-10 students from 751 US high schools), controlling background variables (gender, age, ethnicity, academic track, and a composite risk factor). At the individual-student level, the effects of achievement, SES, ASC, and GPA on long-term outcomes were consistently positive. However, mostly consistent with a priori theoretical predictions, (1) the compositional effects of school-average achievement on ASC, GPA, and educational and occupational expectations were significantly negative (although non-significant for final attainment); (2) the compositional effects of school-average SES on ASC, educational attainment, and educational and occupational expectations were significantly positive (but nonsignificant for GPA); and (3) the compositional effects on long-term outcomes were partly mediated by ASC and particularly by GPA. These findings demonstrate that the positive effects of school-average SES are distinguishable from the adverse effects of school-average achievement. We discuss how these findings extend Göllner et al.'s (Psychological Science 29:1785–1796, 2018) highly controversial conclusion regarding the benefits of schools with high school-average SES but low school-average achievement. We also relate our research to Luthar et al.’s (American Psychologist 75:983–995, 2020) findings of adverse mental health problems associated with attending high-achieving schools. Our results have important implications not only for theory and methodology but also for parents’ selection of schools for their children and policy regarding the structure of schools (a substantive-methodological synergy).
... A second potential protective factor that is a consistently important predictor of response to stress is the availability and quality of social support (e.g., Bonanno et al., 2011;Ebbert, Kumar, & Luthar, 2019;Masten, 2011). Although a range of relationship partners can serve as important sources of practical and emotional support to college students, in the current study we focus on friends and parents as key sources. ...
... Finally, future research focused on community well-being should incorporate a broader examination of contextual factors such as emphasis on very high achievement relative to personal decency, integrity, and kindness (Ebbert, Kumar, & Luthar, 2019), and how these features of the social context can influence the degree to which students view specific types of stressors, such as receiving lower-than-desired grades, as high-impact versus not. For example, recent research has shown that being in classroom contexts that are perceived as highly competitive predicts increased risk of depression and anxiety, particularly for Black, Latinx, first-generation, and sexual and gender minority students (Posselt & Lipson, 2016). ...
Full-text available
Changes in depressive symptoms in response to the experience of a first high-impact stressor (i.e., a stressor rated as both very upsetting and very disruptive) in college were examined as an indicator of student resilience. Participants were 953 college undergraduates from four institutions participating in a larger longitudinal study of student resilience and well-being; 703 of these students reported experiencing at least one high-impact stressor during their time in college. Using piecewise growth modeling analyses with timepoints (n = 8) nested within individuals (n = 703), findings showed that, on average, students reported increased depressive symptoms when experiencing a “high-impact” stressor and showed a pattern of recovery over time, whereby depressive symptoms decreased gradually following the stressor. Self-compassion moderated the effect of experiencing a high-impact stressor such that students higher in self-compassion showed a muted pattern of stress response and recovery. Experiencing subsequent high-impact stressors was associated with increased depressive symptoms and slower recovery. Indicators of availability and quality of social support were negatively associated with depressive symptoms but did not moderate stress response or recovery. Previous exposure to stress and self-reported resilience predicted neither level of depressive symptoms nor stress response or recovery. Implications for efforts to promote community well-being in higher education are discussed.
... In this respect, research in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary anthropology supports the hypothesis that status-seeking motives are central to market-based AC (Buss et al., 2001;Miller, 2009;Ferguson et al., 2011a;Abed et al., 2012;Griskevicius and Kendrick, 2013;Barkow, 2014). Evolutionary research is complemented by studies in the critical domain of education, and more specifically research over the past few decades centered on the health and well-being of adolescents who attend high achieving schools (Luthar et al., 2013(Luthar et al., , 2020Luthar and Kumar, 2018;Spencer et al., 2018;Ebbert et al., 2019). ...
... For example, young people's drive for status is occurring under economic transformations in AC where increasing numbers of educated adolescents reinforce competition for a qualification arms race and later employment (Worthman and Trang, 2018). Research examining educational achievement and the well-being of adolescents who attend high-achieving schools, illustrates how extrinsic values and status-seeking shape a particular ecology devoted to building competitive and successful young people (Luthar et al., 2013;Luthar and Kumar, 2018;Ebbert et al., 2019). Luthar et al. (2013Luthar et al. ( , p. 1529 conclude that the risks associated with poorer adolescent wellbeing in these high-achieving ecologies operate within "the pervasive emphasis in contemporary American culture, on maximizing personal status, and how this can threaten the well-being of individuals and of communities." ...
Full-text available
With the transition toward densely populated and urbanized market-based cultures over the past 200 years, young people’s development has been conditioned by the ascendancy of highly competitive skills-based labor markets that demand new forms of embodied capital (e.g., education) for young people to succeed. Life-history analysis reveals parental shifts toward greater investment in fewer children so parents can invest more in their children’s embodied capital for them to compete successfully. Concomitantly, the evolution of market-based capitalism has been associated with the rise of extrinsic values such as individualism, materialism and status-seeking, which have intensified over the last 40–50 years in consumer economies. The dominance of extrinsic values is consequential: when young people show disproportionate extrinsic relative to intrinsic values there is increased risk for mental health problems and poorer well-being. This paper hypothesizes that, concomitant with the macro-cultural promotion of extrinsic values, young people in advanced capitalism (AC) are obliged to develop an identity that is market-driven and embedded in self-narratives of success, status, and enhanced self-image. The prominence of extrinsic values in AC are synergistic with neuro-maturational and stage-salient developments of adolescence and embodied in prominent market-driven criterion such as physical attractiveness, displays of wealth and material success, and high (educational and extra-curricular) achievements. Cultural transmission of market-driven criterion is facilitated by evolutionary tendencies in young people to learn from older, successful and prestigious individuals ( prestige bias ) and to copy their peers. The paper concludes with an integrated socio-ecological evolutionary account of market-driven identities in young people, while highlighting methodological challenges that arise when attempting to bridge macro-cultural and individual development.
... 36 That is further supported by evidence that teens in what have been labeled "high achievement schools," where pressure for high test scores and ultimate acceptance into elite colleges is especially high, suffer from anxiety and depression at higher levels than is true for teens in schools where such pressures are lower. 68,69 The increase in school time and pressure over decades may have impacted mental health not just by detracting from time and opportunity for independent activities but also because fear of academic failure, or fear of insufficient achievement, is a direct source of distress. 69 It is also possible that societal changes in childcare other than constraints on children's independent activity may have contributed to declines in mental wellbeing. ...
... Mental health needs have a pervasive impact on both K-12 students and their teachers. However, though sporadically emphasized in the educational context in the wake of school shootings, bullying, and acute tragedies (e.g., Teasley, 2018), mental health remains a commonplace yet largely unaddressed cause of academic struggle (Ebbert et al., 2019;Masten, 2015). By adolescence, 30% to 40% of youth in the United States are diagnosed with at least one mental health condition 1 ; anxiety, behavior, and mood conditions, for example, all have median ages of onset under 14 years (Kessler et al., 2012). ...
This mixed methods study surveyed 209 K-12 special education teachers about their perceptions of preparedness to teach students with mental health needs that manifest internally (e.g., quiet distress, withdrawal, excessive worry). We used a construct-modeling approach to develop the survey instrument and establish evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness, and it included both multiple-choice questions, used for descriptive and regression analyses, and open-ended items, coded to identify key themes. Results indicated that special educators generally had low perceptions of preparedness to support students with internalizing needs. In addition, we found that participants possessed critical misconceptions about research-based practices for supporting students with these needs in the school context, and that differences in perceptions of preparedness were associated with teachers’ race and the grade level at which they taught.
... The needs of the aging parent can strain relationships, financial resources, and mental and physical health (Aneshenshel et al., 1995). The nature, pressures, and involvement of raising children have changed due to trends to excel in the classroom and overinvolvement in extracurricular activities (Ebbert et al., 2019). Difficulties in finding longterm stable employment and excessive student loan debt have also led to young adult children moving home in record numbers and potentially being a source of relationship strain (Fingerman et al., 2020). ...
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Life-span developmental psychology includes a broad array of principles that have wide application to studying adult development and aging. Three principles have guided my past, current, and future research: (a) development being a cumulative, lifelong process with no one period taking precedence; (b) multiple processes influence development (e.g., age-, pathology-, nonnormative, and mortality-related processes); and (c) development is multidirectional and multidimensional. This paper elaborates on how these principles have guided my research studying resilience to adversity across the adult life span and how my research aligns with guiding elements of resilience across definitions and literatures. I also discuss my current and future research of applying these principles to studying resilience in midlife, which emphasizes how the defining features of midlife lend themselves to examining resilience, midlife continues to not be well understood, midlife health foreshadows health in old age, and the experience of midlife will evolve in the context of an increasingly diverse society. The last section elaborates on additional directions for future research, such as the promise of intensive longitudinal research designs that incorporate qualitative approaches and examining historical changes in midlife health and well-being. In conclusion, a life-span developmental psychology framework has wide application for elucidating the nature of resilience across the adult life span through the integration of its principles with existing paradigms and research designs that blend contemporary methods with mixed methodology.
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Interest in adolescents’ wellbeing and mental health is growing worldwide, but little research in this area has been conducted in certain world regions and countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Geographic, socio-demographic and school type differences in adolescent wellbeing and mental health are commonly observed in the field, and the UAE is a diverse country where these types of differences have been found for other outcomes (notably, academic). Yet, no prior national study has explored these differences in terms of wellbeing and mental health in the nation. We address this gap by investigating differences across emirates, gender, socio-economic status, immigrant status, school sector and school curriculum for overall life satisfaction, positive affect, negative affect, meaning and purpose in life, and internalizing difficulties. We use linear regression to analyse cross-sectional data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study from 2015 and 2018. We find substantial geographic, socio-demographic and school type differences in levels (2018) of wellbeing and mental health -which vary across distinct domains- and declines (2015–2018) of wellbeing. Better wellbeing and mental health are observed in the northern emirates and among boys. Better wellbeing and poorer mental health are observed among nationals (compared to expatriates) and in public schools (compared to private schools). Despite presenting the best academic outcomes, British schools present the worst wellbeing and mental health outcomes. However, results show the absence of a trade-off between academic competence and wellbeing and mental health, with evidence of a small positive association with wellbeing.
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This study examined changes in adolescents’ perceived relationship quality with mothers and fathers from middle school to high school, gender differences, and associated mental health consequences using longitudinal data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth cohort ( n = 262, 48% female) with annual assessments (Grades 6–12). For both parents, alienation increased, and trust and communication decreased from middle school to high school, with greater changes among girls. Overall, closeness to mothers was higher than with fathers. Girls, compared to boys, perceived more trust and communication and similar levels of alienation with mothers at Grade 6. Girls perceived stronger increases in alienation from both parents and stronger declines in trust with mothers during middle school. Increasing alienation from both parents and less trust with mothers at Grade 6 was associated with higher levels of anxiety at Grade 12. Less trust with both parents at Grade 6 and increasing alienation and decreasing trust with mothers in high school were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms at Grade 12. Overall, girls reported having higher levels of anxiety at Grade 12 compared to boys. Findings on the course of the quality of parent–adolescent relationships over time are discussed in terms of implications for more targeted research and interventions.
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In an upper-middle class setting, we explored associations between students’ peer reputation in Grades 6 and 7 with adjustment at Grade 12. With a sample of 209 students, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of peer reputation dimensions supported a 4-factor model (i.e., popular, prosocial, aggressive, isolated). Structural equation models were used to examine prospective links between middle school peer reputation and diverse Grade 12 adjustment indices, including academic achievement (Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and grade point average), internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Prosocial reputation was connected to higher academic achievement levels and fewer externalizing symptoms. Both prosocial and isolated reputations were negatively associated with dimensions of substance use, whereas popularity was positively associated. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.
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Background: Recent research has suggested vulnerability to perceived racial discrimination (PRD) as a mechanism behind high levels of depression seen in high socioeconomic status (SES) Black males. To better understand the effects of gender and SES on shaping experiences of PRD among Black youth in the United States, we used data from the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS) to explore the trajectory of PRD in Black youth by gender, SES, and place. Methods: Data came from FACHS, 1997–2017, which followed 889 children aged 10–12 years old at Wave 1 (n = 478; 53.8% females and n = 411; 46.2% males) for up to 18 years. Data were collected in seven waves. The main predictors of interest were gender, SES (parent education and annual family income), age, and place of residence. Main outcomes of interest were baseline and slope of PRD. Latent growth curve modeling (LGCM) was used for data analysis. Results: Gender, SES, place, and age were correlated with baseline and change in PRD over time. Male, high family income, and younger Black youth reported lower PRD at baseline but a larger increase in PRD over time. Youth who lived in Iowa (in a predominantly White area) reported higher PRD at baseline and also an increase in PRD over time. High parental education was not associated with baseline or change in PRD. Conclusion: In the United States, Black youth who are male, high income, and live in predominantly White areas experience an increase in PRD over time. Future research is needed on the interactions between gender, SES, and place on exposure and vulnerability of Black youth to PRD. Such research may explain the increased risk of depression in high SES Black males.
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In this chapter, we review evidence on a group recently identified as "at-risk", that is, youth growing up in the context of high achieving schools (HAS), predominated by well-educated, white collar professional families. Though these youngsters are thought of as "having it all", they are statistically more likely than normative samples to show serious disturbances across several domains including drug and alcohol use, as well as internalizing and externalizing problems. We review data on these problems with attention to gender-specific patterns, presenting quantitative developmental research findings along with relevant evidence across other disciplines. In considering possible reasons for elevated maladjustment, we appraise multiple pathways including aspects of family dynamics, peer norms, and pressures at schools. All of these pathways are considered within the context of broad, exosystemic mores: the pervasive emphasis, in contemporary American culture, on maximizing personal status, and how this can threaten the well-being of individuals and of communities. The chapter concludes with ideas for future interventions, with discussions on how research-based assessments of schools can best be used to reduce pressures, and to maximize positive adaptation, among youth in highly competitive, pressured school environments.
Conference Paper
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• We previously demonstrated significant and sustained benefit in multiple psychological measures (Figure 1), as well as reduction in cortisol levels, associated with a 12-week facilitated support group for physician and advanced practitioner mothers (Authentic Connection Groups, n=21) at Mayo Clinic Arizona, compared to a control group (n=19) [1]. • From the very first session, a constant refrain is that mothers develop authentic connections not just within the groups, but more importantly, with other mothers in their everyday lives, who are formally labeled as their “Go-to Committees.” (Figure 2) • We now present qualitative data gathered during the trial, with the dual aims of (a) illuminating underlying mechanisms (i.e., processes explaining why this intervention “worked”), and (b) inspiring both replication studies and wider dissemination of this intervention in other healthcare communities.
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Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development is one of the most widely known theoretical frameworks in human development. In spite of its popularity, the notion of culture within the macrosystem, as a separate entity of everyday practices and therefore microsystems, is problematic. Using the theoretical and empirical work of Rogoff and Weisner, and influenced as they are by Vygotsky’s sociocultural perspective, we reconceptualize Bronfenbrenner’s model by placing culture as an intricate part of proximal development processes. In our model, culture has the role of defining and organizing microsystems and therefore becomes part of the central processes of human development. Culture is an ever changing system composed of the daily practices of social communities (families, schools, neighborhoods, etc.) and the interpretation of those practices through language and communication. It also comprises tools and signs that are part of the historical legacy of those communities, and thus diversity is an integral part of the child’s microsystems, leading to culturally defined acceptable developmental processes and outcomes.
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In this prospective study of upper middle class youth, we document frequency of alcohol and drug use, as well as diagnoses of abuse and dependence, during early adulthood. Two cohorts were assessed as high school seniors and then annually across 4 college years (New England Study of Suburban Youth younger cohort [NESSY-Y]), and across ages 23–27 (NESSY older cohort [NESSY-O]; n s = 152 and 183 at final assessments, respectively). Across gender and annual assessments, results showed substantial elevations, relative to norms, for frequency of drunkenness and using marijuana, stimulants, and cocaine. Of more concern were psychiatric diagnoses of alcohol/drug dependence: among women and men, respectively, lifetime rates ranged between 19%–24% and 23%–40% among NESSY-Os at age 26; and 11%–16% and 19%–27% among NESSY-Ys at 22. Relative to norms, these rates among NESSY-O women and men were three and two times as high, respectively, and among NESSY-Y, close to one among women but twice as high among men. Findings also showed the protective power of parents’ containment (anticipated stringency of repercussions for substance use) at age 18; this was inversely associated with frequency of drunkenness and marijuana and stimulant use in adulthood. Results emphasize the need to take seriously the elevated rates of substance documented among adolescents in affluent American school communities.
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BACKGROUND: We report on effects of an intervention to foster resilience among professional women at high risk for stress and burnout: health care providers (physicians, PhD clinicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners) who are mothers. METHODS: Between February and November 2015, 40 mothers on staff at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona were randomly assigned to either (1) 12 weekly one-hour sessions of a structured, relational supportive intervention, the Authentic Connections Groups (ACG; n=21) with protected time to attend sessions, or to (2) 12 weekly hours of protected time to be used as desired (Controls; n=19). Participants were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, and three months follow-up on multiple psychological measures plus plasma cortisol. RESULTS: Across the 12-weeks of the intervention groups, there were zero dropouts. At post-intervention, analyses of covariance showed significantly greater improvements (p< 0.05) for mothers in the Authentic Connections Groups than Control condition for depression and global symptoms. By three months follow-up, significant differences were seen for these two dimensions and almost all other central variables, including self-compassion, feeling loved, physical affection received, and parenting stress, with moderate effect sizes (ηp2 .08 - .19; median .16). Participants in Authentic Connections Groups (but not Control) condition also showed significant reductions in cortisol levels at both post-intervention and follow-up. CONCLUSION: Facilitated colleague support groups could be a viable, low-cost, preventive intervention to mitigate burnout and distress for mothers in high-stress professional settings such as hospitals, resulting in personal benefit, greater engagement at work and attenuated stress associated with parenting.
We examined life-course effects of attending selective schools using a longitudinal study of U.S. high school students begun in 1960 (Ns ranging from 1,952 to 377,015). The effects, measured 11 and 50 years after the initial assessment, differed significantly across the two indicators of school selectivity that were used. School average socioeconomic background was positively related to students’ educational expectations, educational attainment, income, and occupational prestige at the 11-year follow-up (0.15 ≤ β ≤ 0.39; all ps < .001). Conversely, schools’ average achievement at the 11-year follow-up was negatively related to students’ expectations, attainment, income, and occupational prestige (−0.42 ≤ β ≤ −0.05; all ps < .05) when schools’ socioeconomic background was controlled for. All associations were mediated by students’ educational expectations. With the exception of income, these effects were consistent 50 years after high school, pointing to the long reach of beneficial learning resources and negative social comparison processes when attending selective schools.