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Adolescent Mental Health among Ethnically Diverse and Socially Disadvantaged Middle School Students in Southern California

Janis H. Jenkins (PI)


Emotional well-being is crucial to social and academic capacity. To gain an understanding of these processes, it is important to learn about diverse cultural conceptions and practices in relation to well-being from the perspectives of a range of community members, including students, families, teachers, administrators, and community leaders.  In this interdisciplinary study, we are working within a culturally diverse school setting in which the majority of students are classified by the school district as socioeconomically disadvantaged.  Within many households, English is not the first language.  We employ multiple methods in English and in Spanish, including ethnographic interviews and observations, psychological screening questionnaires, and mobile health technology. Because emotional self-regulation has been shown to be a source of strength and stability for students, our protocol calls for the pilot testing of two mobile health apps. The first of these is Mood mAPP, developed within our lab, that incorporates mood assessment and a brief meditation technique. Hypothesized positive effects (for academic performance, emotional wellbeing, and social engagement). We also have IRB approval for the use of the mobile app called LAMP (Learn, Assess, Manage, Prevent, developed by the Harvard LAMP Project), adapted for a community study with middle school students. Possible benefits may include reduction in commonly occurring types of distress such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, or inattention.

For this longitudinal study, we are currently collecting data through Zoom/telephone contacts, as possible, in relation to stay at home orders, school closures, and COVID safety protocols that restrict conducting in-person research. These data supplement our existing qualitative and quantitative data set of previously conducted procedures on-site and in person, per our research design. Current data collection by the research team is focused on follow-up since last research contact and the impact of COVID on daily life, mental health and emotional wellbeing, family situations, and educational challenges of remote academic learning. Some of our scheduled protocol (additional ethnographic observations and mobile app procedures that require interpersonal contact for device setup) are temporarily on hold due to Coronavirus conditions.