Juan Del Toro (PI), postdoc mentee, and Ming-Te Wang, Professor, Psychology, Education, have received a racial equity special grant from the Spencer Foundation.
Graduate student researcher, Alex Silver, Psychology, member of Melissa Libertus' KitLab was awarded the Dr. Ruth L. Myers Memorial Award for Excellence in Mentoring from the Department of Psychology.
Graduate student researcher Lorraine Blatt, Developmental Psychology and student in Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal's lab received the 2021 Jeremy Johnson Landen Award, established to honor the memory of Jeremy Johnson Landon, son of Carl Johnson and Deborah Landon.
Graduate student researchers Shirley Duong, Nabila Jamal-Orozco, and Isabella Kahhale are recipients of the Spring 2021 LRDC Graduate Student Council Award, designed to support the development of new, innovative, and interdisciplinary research by graduate students within LRDC.
In the News
Ming-Te Wang, Professor, Psychology, Education was featured in the April 6 Pittwire accolade for the AERA Distinguished Research Award for Human Development and Learning and the 2021 SSWR Excellence in Research Award.
Sara Jaramillo, graduate student in Ben Rottman's lab, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. Read about the program and other GRFP Pitt recipients in April 7 Pittwire accolade.
Demolition looming for O'Hara Garage and LRDC building. Details on building demolition in May 6 University Times.
Jennifer Russell was quoted in May 9, 2021, Wall Street Journal, "Remote Kindergarten During COVID-19 'Could Impact This Generation of Kids for Their Lifetime."
The Institute for Learning has been awarded a planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide "education agencies, schools, and the organizations that support them with reliable, practical evidence and measures." Read more in the May 12 Pittwire article here.
"Why Do We Want to Love Aliens?" Read Marc Coutanche's answer in the May 26 Pittwire "What's Out There?"
How to Promote Adolescent Social Distancing
Public health experts have identified social distancing as one of the best ways to curtail the spread of COVID-19, but try telling that to a teenager who needs time with friends.
When the pandemic hit, University of Pittsburgh developmental psychologist Ming-Te Wang wanted to understand how to persuade teens to distance in a manner that both respected their dignity and met their need for independence.
"Interacting with friends and risk-taking behaviors are two major components of adolescent development," said Wang, a professor of education and psychology and senior scientist at Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). "Social distancing challenges adolescents' developmental need for interacting with same-aged peers. These relationships are so important, we were concerned that adolescents may engage in risky behaviors like sneaking out of the house to see friends to get around social distancing mandates."
The primary motivating factor behind teens' social distancing, they found, was the desire to protect others. Engaging in caring behavior toward others-especially during times of crisis or mass trauma-can be both rewarding and stress reducing. This altruism in times of trauma also has been associated with increased resilience and improved mental health. Based on a sample of more than 440 adolescents aged 13-18 years, Wang, School of Education doctoral candidates Christina Scanlon and Meng Hua, and LRDC postdoctoral fellow Juan Del Toro used focus groups and daily diaries to collect more than 6,200 assessments from participants in 38 states.
"By emphasizing that social distancing is a good way to keep yourself and others safe during the pandemic, we activate developmental processes related to adolescents' need to pro-socially interact with peers," said Wang.
"We also thought it critical to understand what can promote social distancing over time," Wang added. Though they could not have known we would still be socially distancing more than a year later, the team members also wanted to know what would encourage teens to continue practicing these pro-social behaviors.
Teens who were more likely to keep up with social distancing fell into three categories: those who learned about preventive health behaviors for mitigating COVID-19, those who received peer support and those who remained virtually connected with friends.
"It became clear," said coauthor Scanlon, "that adolescents who understood the purpose of social distancing and who found socially distanced ways to interact with peers were more likely to keep up their social distancing behaviors over time."
According to Wang, "Teens who understand the importance of and rationale behind social distancing are empowered to make informed decisions about social distancing, which also allows them to exercise their independence in a manner that paints them as pro-social and competent."
"Adolescents need the time and space to connect with their peers, and virtual spaces have allowed them to do so while remaining physically distanced," said Scanlon. "Teens' tenacity to connect with friends despite physical distancing is a testament to their resilience."
Read the complete May 18, 2021, Pittwire article on "Social Distancing".
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