A deeper understanding of adolescents and behavior problems

UCF psychology graduate student Brea-Anne Lauer and UCF Understanding Children and Families Laboratory director Kimberly Renk recently completed a study on the characteristics related to the perceptions of peer behavior problems.

“I think that the biggest take away message is that adolescents can and do make active comparisons of their peers based on the behaviors that their peers exhibit.  In particular, adolescents indicated that they would be least accepting and most rejecting of those peers who were deemed to have acting out behaviors (relative to those who had no emotional or behavioral difficulties and those who had emotional difficulties),” Renk said.

Their research allows a deeper understanding of  adolescents’ relationships, particularly with regard to bullying and rejection behaviors that may occur in school settings during adolescence. “If we can better identify those adolescents who are going to be neglected or actively rejected by their peers, we can better target interventions focused on facilitating positive peer relationships,” Renk said.

If you are a parent, Renk suggests being cognizant of the behaviors exhibited by your adolescents and how they and their actions may be viewed by their peers at school. “If their adolescents are having any kind of emotional or behavioral difficulties, parents may consider having their adolescents participate in a therapeutic intervention that addresses the difficulties themselves while also facilitating positive peer relationships,” Renk said.

Their research on peer behavior problems was recently published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.  “The Peer Informant: Characteristics Related to the Perceptions of Peer Behavior Problems” provided additional evidence that, although adolescents can serve as valuable informants, they also tended to be rejecting of peers who display behavior problems. Read more about the study here.

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