1. Study examines effects of digital dating abuse on teens

    July 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    Teens expect to experience some digital forms of abuse in dating, but girls may be suffering more severe emotional consequences than boys, according to a new study.

    Researchers at the University of Michigan and University of California-Santa Barbara examined the impact of gender on high schoolers’ experience of digital dating abuse behaviors, which include use of cell phones or internet to harass, control, pressure or threaten a dating partner.

    Overall, teens experience this digital dating abuse at similar rates, but girls reported that they were more upset by these behaviors and reported more negative emotional responses.

    “Although digital dating abuse is potentially harmful for all youth, gender matters,” said Lauren Reed, the study’s lead author and an assistant project scientist at University of California-Santa Barbara.

    The study involved 703 Midwest high school students who reported the frequency of digital dating abuse, if they were upset by the “most recent” incidents, and how they responded. Students completed the surveys between December 2013 and March 2014.

    Participants reported sending and receiving at least 51 text messages per day, and spending an average of 22 hours per week using social media. Most participants reported that they text/texted their current or most recent dating partner frequently.

    The survey asked teens to indicate the frequency of experiencing several problematic digital behaviors with a dating partner, including “pressured me to sext” (sending a sexual or naked photo), sent a threatening message, looked at private information to check up on me without permission, and monitored whereabouts and activities.

    Girls indicated more frequent digital sexual coercion victimization, and girls and boys reported equal rates of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct aggression. When confronted with direct aggression, such as threats and rumor spreading, girls responded by blocking communication with their partner. Boys responded in similar fashion when they experienced digital monitoring and control behaviors, the study showed.

    Boys often treat girls as sexual objects, which contributes to the higher rates of digital sexual coercion, as boys may feel entitled to have sexual power over girls, said study co-author Richard Tolman, U-M professor of social work.

    Girls, on the other hand, are expected to prioritize relationships, which can lead to more jealousy and possessiveness, he said. Thus, they may be more likely to monitor boys’ activities.


  2. Study suggests hoarding symptoms moderately stable during adolescence

    July 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the PLOS press release:

    Hoarding symptoms are stable during adolescence, mainly due to genetic effects, according to a study published June 28, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Volen Ivanov from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and colleagues.

    People with Hoarding Disorder have extreme difficulty discarding their possessions, and sometimes may accumulate more possessions that they do not need, resulting in clutter around their living environment that impairs and distresses them. While the effects of Hoarding Disorder have mostly been studied in a clinical environment with adults, previous studies have suggested that hoarding symptoms may arise earlier in adolescence and young adulthood, although little is known about what causes these symptoms.

    To investigate how genetic and environmental factors influence hoarding symptoms in adolescents and young adults, Ivanov and colleagues examined potential hoarding symptoms in three large cohorts of identical and fraternal twins aged 15, 18 and 20-28 with a questionnaire. Participants rated themselves on a scale for Hoarding Disorder indicators such as: clutter in their bedroom, difficulty discarding possessions, distress and impairment, and excessive acquisition of possessions. The researchers then analyzed the similarity of the scores of each pair of twins for identical twins and for fraternal twins to assess hoarding heritability.

    Across all three cohorts, the authors found that hoarding symptoms were heritable and moderately stable between 15 – 18 years old and genetic effects could account for much of the stability in symptoms. They suggest that these findings could help inform treatments development in young people experiencing hoarding symptoms, preventing the potential progression into Hoarding Disorder as adults.


  3. Study shows childhood psychiatric disorders increase risk for later adult addiction

    July 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release:

    Children’s health and well-being while growing up can be indicators of the potential health issues they may encounter years later. A study published in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry(JAACAP) suggests that a childhood psychiatric disorder increases the risk of developing addiction later in life. Based on a large amount of data from previous studies on these participants, the researchers identified a correlation between various psychiatric disorders among children and later risk of developing addictions.

    The team, led by researchers from the Child Study group at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and Accare, the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands, found that individuals diagnosed in childhood with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)/conduct disorder (CD), and depression had an increased risk of developing addictions. Interestingly, results concerning anxiety were less clear. The risk may depend on the specific type of anxiety disorder, but to date, no studies have focused on this topic.

    “We know that ADHD in childhood increases the risk for later substance-related disorders, but until now, no systematic evaluation of other childhood psychiatric disorders had been conducted,” said Dr. Annabeth P. Groenman, researcher at Accare, Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands. “Our findings show that not only ADHD increased the risk of addictions, but that other childhood psychiatric disorders also increased risk. This indicates the importance of early detection of mental health problems in a wider group. Addiction is a major cause of immense personal, familial, and societal burden, and prevention is therefore an important goal.”

    The study re-analyzed data of 37 previous studies containing a total of 762,187 individuals, of whom 22,029 had ADHD, 434 had disruptive behavior disorders (such as ODD/CD), 1,433 had anxiety disorder, and 2,451 had depression. The researchers identified studies looking at childhood psychiatric disorders and later addiction.

    Disruptive behaviors (ODD/CD) frequently co-occur with ADHD, in approximately 30% of cases. This so-called “comorbidity” is often thought to be the main cause of addictions in individuals with ADHD. However, the results suggest that co-occurring ODD/CD in ADHD does not fully explain the risk of addictions in this group.

    Professor Jaap Oosterlaan, principal investigator of the Child Study Group at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the Emma Children’s Hospital AMC, the Netherlands, said: “Now that we have firmly established children with psychiatric disorders as a high-risk group for later substance-related disorders, the next step is to make parents, clinicians, and the government aware of these risks and work together in reducing the risks for addiction and its debilitating consequences.”


  4. Study suggests starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

    July 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release:

    New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

    Starting school young is an exciting but sometimes challenging milestone for children and their families. Some children will be nearing their fifth birthday as they enter foundation classes while others will be only just four.

    Now, a study led by the University of Exeter Medical School which investigated more than 2,000 children across 80 primary schools in Devon, has found that children who are younger than their peers when they start school are more likely to develop poorer mental health, as rated by parents and teachers. Overall the effect was small, however researchers believe the additional stress of keeping up with older peers could prove a “tipping point” for vulnerable children, such as those with learning difficulties or who were born prematurely.

    The research team was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).

    The research, published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development, could have implications on parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s school entry for a school year, permissible under guidance introduced in 2014.

    The findings could also influence how teachers interact with younger children, particularly those with additional complex needs in the class, and on assessments and teaching and support structures within classrooms.

    Anna Price, of the University of Exeter Medical School, was motivated to study the issue after home schooling her own April-born son, who has pre-existing learning difficulties, and was not ready to start school aged five. She said: “Using such a large dataset was a chance to explore what’s really happening in practice for children who start school at a young age. We found that children who started younger had slightly worse well-being- however, this effect was very small and unlikely to make a difference for most. The challenge to well-being of being young for your school year might however be one struggle too many for children who face other challenges to their mental health. Our findings can help guide parents and teachers in making decisions that best support the child.”

    The researchers also explored the impact of starting school early on the child’s happiness levels and behaviour. In contrast to previous research, they found no significant impact on either. The research paper noted that the schools in the study had strong support in place, such as small group learning, which may have helped improve happiness and behaviour overall.

    Professor Tamsin Ford, of the University of Exeter Medical School, oversaw the research. Professor Ford, a practising child psychiatrist, said: “Being relatively younger could be the tipping point for some, but certainly not all, children. For most it would just be something for teacher’s to be aware of but for children with other needs or who were born prematurely this difference could be significant. Awareness of this issue among teachers and educators means measures can be put in place that could help to mitigate this effect and get the best outcome for children.”


  5. Poor adolescent diet may influence brain and behavior in adulthood

    July 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Neuroscience press release:

    Adolescent male mice fed a diet lacking omega-3 fatty acids show increased anxiety-like behavior and worse performance on a memory task in adulthood, according to new research published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study suggests adequate nutrition in adolescence is important for the refinement of the adult brain and behavior.

    The structure and function of the brain continue to change throughout adolescence, at the same time that teenagers gain increasing independence and begin to make their own food choices. Since high-calorie, low-quality diets tend to be more affordable than healthy ones, teenagers may opt for foods that lack key nutrients important for brain health such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), which cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained from foods such as fish and vegetables.

    Oliver Manzoni and colleagues fed mice a balanced diet until early adolescence, when some mice were switched to a diet lacking n-3 PUFAs. Mice fed the poor diet during adolescence had reduced levels of n-3 PUFA in the medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens in adulthood compared to control mice. The low-quality diet impaired the brain’s ability to fine-tune connections between neurons in these regions.


  6. Irregular sleeping patterns linked to poorer academic performance in college students

    June 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham and Women’s Hospital press release:

    Previous research has analyzed variations in sleep patterns including number of hours slept, quality of sleep, and sleep-wake times, and found an association with cognitive impairments, health and performance; however, few studies have considered or accurately quantified the effects of regular sleep patterns. In a new study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers objectively measured sleep and circadian rhythms, and the association to academic performance in college students, finding that irregular patterns of sleep and wakefulness correlated with lower grade point average, delayed sleep/wake timing, and delayed release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. The results are published in Scientific Reports on June 12, 2017.

    Researchers studied 61 full-time undergraduates from Harvard College for 30 days using sleep diaries. They quantified sleep regularity using the sleep regularity index (SRI), a newly devised metric. Researchers examined the relationship between the SRI, sleep duration, distribution of sleep across the day, and academic performance during one semester.

    “Our results indicate that going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time is as important as the number of hours one sleeps,” stated Andrew J. K. Phillips, PhD, biophysicist at the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and lead author on the paper. “Sleep regularity is a potentially important and modifiable factor independent from sleep duration,” Phillips said.

    Students with more regular sleep patterns had better school grades on average. Researchers found no significant difference in average sleep duration between most students with irregular sleep patterns and most regular sleepers.

    “We found that the body clock was shifted nearly three hours later in students with irregular schedules as compared to those who slept at more consistent times each night, stated Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, Director of the Sleep Health Institute at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and senior author on the paper. “For the students whose sleep and wake times were inconsistent, classes and exams that were scheduled for 9 a.m. were therefore occurring at 6am according to their body clock, at a time when performance is impaired. Ironically, they didn’t save any time because in the end they slept just as much as those on a more regular schedule.”

    By measuring the timing of melatonin release at sleep onset, the researchers were able to assess the timing of circadian rhythms. On average, melatonin was released 2.6 hours later in students with the most irregular sleep patterns, compared to students with more regular sleep patterns.

    “Using a mathematical model of the circadian clock, we were able to demonstrate that the difference in circadian timing between students with the most irregular sleep patterns and students with regular sleep patterns was consistent with their different patterns of daily light exposure,” stated Phillips. “In particular, regular sleepers got significantly higher light levels during the daytime, and significantly lower light levels at night than irregular sleepers who slept more during daytime hours and less during nighttime hours.”

    Researchers note that the circadian clock takes time to adjust to schedule changes, and is highly sensitive to patterns of light exposure. Irregular sleepers, who frequently changed the pattern of when they slept and consequently their pattern of light-dark exposure, experienced misalignment between the circadian system and the sleep-wake cycle.

    Researchers conclude that light based interventions, including increased exposure to daytime light and less exposure to electronic light-emitting devices before bedtime, may be effective in improving sleep regularity.


  7. Social emotional learning interventions show promise, warrant further study

    June 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Oregon State University press release:

    Developing a child’s social and emotional learning skills in early childhood is seen as a key to the child’s success in school, but researchers are still working to understand which interventions most effectively boost those skills.

    Providing training for early childhood education teachers, embedding direct instruction and practice of targeted skills into daily practice and engaging families in these efforts help to boost the success of these kinds of interventions, Oregon State University researchers suggest in a new paper.

    “We know these skills are essential for children, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about ways to enhance them,” said Megan McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “The results to date have been mixed.”

    “We don’t yet know what the ‘key ingredients’ are here, ” added McClelland, the paper’s lead author, “but we do have enough evidence to know we need to keep doing this work.”

    The paper was published in a special issue of the journal Future of Children that is focused on social and emotional learning. McClelland is a nationally recognized expert in child development. Co-authors of the paper are Shauna Tominey, an assistant professor of practice at OSU, Sara Schmitt of Purdue University and Robert Duncan of University of California, Irvine.

    Much of McClelland’s research focuses on the important role of self-regulation skills — the social and emotional skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task, form healthy friendships and persist through difficulty.

    She has developed and tested social and emotional learning interventions focused on games such as “Red Light, Purple Light,” which is similar to “Red Light, Green Light.” A teacher uses construction-paper circles to represent stop and go. Children follow color cues, such as purple represents stop, orange signals go; then switch to the opposite, where purple means go and orange means stop.

    Additional rules are added later to increase the complexity of the game. The game requires children to listen and remember instructions, pay attention to the adult leading the game and resist natural inclinations to stop or go.

    In the new paper, McClelland and her co-authors reviewed the theory and science behind a number of social emotional learning interventions in early childhood and found that while several such interventions hold promise, more research is needed to understand variations in results among different groups of children, including why some children appear to benefit more than others and whether the programs are cost effective.

    There’s also a general lack of long-term studies that might give researchers a clearer picture of the programs’ effectiveness, McClelland said. Longer-term studies would also help explain “sleeper” effects, where short-term effects are small or not significant, but long-term effects, such as predictors of high school or college completion, are significant and substantive.

    “I look at the long term: Did the child complete college? Were they able to stay out of the criminal justice system?” McClelland said. “Those are some of the most important indicators of the social emotional learning.”

    Overall, studies in the field indicate that children from low-income families tend to show the most gains from social emotional learning interventions, but results for other groups of students are more mixed, although a number of studies show positive effects.

    The review also showed that the most successful interventions tend to be low cost, easily implemented, are fun for kids, including training for teachers, and can be built in to classroom lessons on literacy and math, McClelland said.

    “The bottom line here is that there’s a lot of subtlety to the findings of this work so far,” she said. “Fortunately, we do have some ideas about what’s working, and we have some ideas about where we need to go next in the field.”


  8. Dining hall intervention helped college students choose healthier options

    June 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release:

    As students transition from high school to college, they enter a critical period for weight gain. Although eating in a buffet-style dining hall offers freedom and flexibility in food choice, many students cite the abundance of food available as a cause for weight gain. As most college students’ diets are low in fruits and vegetables and high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium, researchers from the University of Toronto and Memorial University of Newfoundland created a cross-sectional study to examine whether messaging encouraging fruit, vegetable, and water intake could influence the habits of university students.

    “Our labeling, focused on beverages and fruits and vegetables, may have been useful to decrease students’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and increase consumption of water, fruits, and vegetables,” said lead author Mary Scourboutakos, PhD, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto.

    The study was conducted in a dining center on the University of Toronto campus that offered a wide variety of entrees and soups, featured a salad and fruit bar, and had sides, desserts, and 19 beverage options available daily. The first part of the intervention encouraged students to choose water as their beverage by using physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labeling, which illustrated the minutes of jogging required to burn the calories in the different beverages offered. In the second part of the intervention, posters were hung in strategically selected locations to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. The posters were placed in attention-grabbing places to maximize exposure to the intervention.

    Data were collected in-person on six events before, and six events after the intervention; inventory data were used as a secondary source. Between 368 and 510 students visited the dining hall for each dinner when data were collected, filling 8,570 beverages cups and taking 3,668 and 954 trips to the salad bar and fruit bar, respectively. After the interventions, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was reduced and fruit and vegetable intake was increased.

    “We found a significant increase in students drinking water before versus after the intervention, with 43% choosing water before and 54% doing so after,” Scourboutakos said. “Likewise, trips to the fruit bar increased by six percent and trips to the salad bar increased by 12%.”

    These results from a university dining hall setting are promising, particularly regarding the PACE labeling. Interventions to promote increased fruit, vegetable, and water consumption should be repeated in different settings to determine if similarly successful results can be attained.


  9. Study suggests improving teens’ social and emotional lives must go beyond teaching skills

    June 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Austin press release:

    School programs designed to educate children and adolescents on how to understand and manage emotions, relationships and academic goals must go beyond improving the skills of the individuals to create a respectful climate and allow adolescents more autonomy in decision making, according to psychology research at The University of Texas at Austin.

    Neuroscientists have identified both early childhood and adolescence as windows of opportunity for development; and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are a vital contributor to academic achievement and future success. But educators, policymakers and scholars hold competing views on how or whether SEL skills should be taught in schools.

    In an analysis published in Future of Children, UT Austin psychology assistant professor David Yeager identifies and evaluates three types of SEL programs: the skills model, focused on changes made to the individual; the climate model, geared toward improving the emotional environment; and the mindsets model, which addresses the interplay between environments and the beliefs develop and that shape their behavior over time.

    “Effective programs are not based on the skills model, even though they sometimes teach skills,” said Yeager, a faculty affiliate of the university’s Population Research Center. “Instead, they find ways to motivate young people in terms of the values that matter most to them, and find ways to make environments more respectful.”

    Whereas children younger than 10 are forming basic habits for good conduct in school, teens are more sensitive to social and emotional changes. Because of these differences, skill-based SEL programs taught in elementary classrooms cannot be simply “revamped” for older audiences; rather, approaches that tap into teens’ values and influence the overall climate are most effective.

    Effective mindset models harness the adolescent desire for status, respect and a more respectful climate, and they blunt the power of threats to peer status and respect — social aspects valued heavily by pubescent adolescents due to changes in brain structures and hormone activity, such as the status-relevant hormone testosterone, Yeager said.

    “Improving adolescents’ interior social and emotional lives can spill over into other areas of functioning, because social and emotional life matters so much at this age,” said Yeager.

    Effective approaches help teens find purpose in both learning and as members of their communities, Yeager said. In one experiment, Yeager asked 400 students to reflect on issues or people that mattered most to them, and then presented them with stories and data of other students who had a desire to learn in order to make a difference. Teens were then asked to write a persuasive letter to future students to adopt a purpose for learning. Overall, students improved by 0.10 grade points, with some low-scoring students improving twice that by semester’s end.

    Creating a more respectful climate means doing away with authoritarian structures to make way for more authentic relationships with adults through positive, democratic group dynamics, including replacing zero-tolerance discipline strategies with those that are more empathetic. Yeager cites one study by Rutgers University psychologist Anne Gregory, which gave students more autonomy in choosing meaningful work, rather than busy work. Students in these academically demanding classes were less likely to be disciplined, shortening the racial gap in discipline infractions.

    Finally, it is possible to blunt the power of social threats by teaching teens that socially relevant traits are malleable and not fixed — an incremental theory of personality — which can make them feel better equipped to face social challenges, rather than viewing them as threats and diagnosing them as lasting realities. Yeager’s studies showed that teens exposed to the incremental theory coped better on days when they reported more stressors and exhibited higher GPAs seven months later compared with their peers.

    “If we define successful SEL programs as those that instruct and expect adolescents to apply a given skill in novel settings and thereby show greater well-being, then the evidence is discouraging,” Yeager said. “But if include programs that affect social-emotional outcomes by creating climates and mindsets that help adolescents cope more successfully with the challenges they encounter, then evidence is not only encouraging but demands urgent action in schools across the country.”


  10. Study suggests growing up in affluent communities may up risk for addictions

    June 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Arizona State University press release:

    They have what most would want — affluent upwardly mobile parents, living in comfortable homes in the suburbs, going to an elite high school and being groomed for the nation’s best colleges. And they appear to thrive in this setting — popular among their peers, performing exceedingly well in school, highly regarded by peers and teachers, and accomplished at a various extracurricular activities.

    But these “privileged” American high schoolers can be at high risk for problematic substance abuse across early adulthood, according to new research from Arizona State University.

    “We found alarmingly high rates of substance abuse among young adults who we initially studied as teenagers,” said Suniya Luthar, a Foundation professor of psychology at Arizona State University and a professor emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College, who led the research. “Results showed that among both men and women and across annual assessments, these young adults had substantial elevations, relative to national norms, in frequency of several indicators — drinking to intoxication and of using marijuana, stimulants such as Adderall, cocaine, and club drugs such as ecstasy.”

    The paper, “Adolescents from upper middle class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early adulthood,” appears in the current issue of Development and Psychopathology. It is co-authored by Phillip Small, an ASU graduate student in clinical psychology, and Lucia Ciciolla an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University.

    In the article, the authors describe a study of two groups of students in affluent communities in the Northeast U.S. as part of the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY). The researchers assessed these youngsters as high school seniors and then annually across four college years (NESSY-Y, for the younger cohort), and across ages 23 to 27 (NESSY-O, for the older cohort).

    “We found rates of addiction to drugs or alcohol among 19 to 24 percent of women in the older cohort by the age of 26, and 23 to 40 percent among men. These rates were 3 and 2 times as high respectively, as compared to national norms,” Luthar said. “Among the younger cohort by the age of 22 years, rates of addiction were between 11 and 16 percent among women (close to national norms) but 19 to 27 percent among men, or about twice as high as national norms.”

    Luthar said a look into the lives of these adolescents provide some clues to the cause of these high rates of addictions.

    When the NESSY groups were first assessed, they all attended the best schools in the region — suburban schools with very high-standardized test scores, rich extra curricular offerings and high proportions of their graduates heading off to very selective universities. In general, kids at such schools experience enormous pressures to achieve, and many come to live by the dual credos of “I can, therefore I must” and “we work hard and we play hard” with the playing involving parties with drugs and alcohol.

    Also implicated is affluence in the school community.

    “Not all of these students were from wealthy families but most were; as parents typically had advanced educational degrees and median incomes much higher than national norms,” Luthar said. “And without question, most of the parents wanted their kids to head off to the best universities, as did the kids themselves.”

    With affluence comes ease in acquiring drugs, she added. “Many kids in these communities have plenty of disposable income with which they can get high-quality fake ID’s, as well as alcohol and both prescription and recreational drugs.”

    Other factors that exacerbate the risks, Luthar said, include widespread peer approval for substance use, and the fact that parents can be lulled into a false sense of security, believing that as their kids continue to perform well in school there could not be any serious underlying issues. As a result, they can become somewhat laissez-faire about detected alcohol or marijuana use.

    So what can be done to reverse this trend?

    “This is a problem that derives from multiple levels of influence, so we’re going to need interventions at multiple levels to tackle it,” Luthar said.

    “At the level of the kids themselves and their parents, it will be important to disseminate research findings — based on rigorous scientific data — that messing with drugs and alcohol really should not be trivialized as just something all kids do,” Luthar said. “The earlier children start to use and the more frequently they do, the more likely it is that they will develop addictions down the line.”

    Luthar pointed to strategies like sex education programs conveying the “bottom line” of risks involved, such as “it only takes once” to contract a sexually transmitted disease.

    “For high-achieving and ambitious youngsters, it could actually be persuasive to share scientific data showing that in their own communities the statistical odds of developing serious problems of addiction are two to three times higher than norms. And that it truly just takes one event of being arrested with cocaine, or hurting someone in a drunken car accident, to derail the high profile positions of leadership and influence toward which they are working so hard for the future.”

    On a second level is reducing the enormous pressure these kids are under trying to get into only the most selective universities.

    “As long as university admissions processes continue to be as they are — increasingly smaller number of admits per applications and requiring impossible resumes — these young people will continue to be frenetic in pursuing those coveted spots — and many will continue to self-medicate as a result,” explained Luthar. “An alternative approach, suggested by my colleague Barry Schwartz, could be to have these highly selective universities institute a lottery system for final admittance, given all other qualifications and resumes being equal.

    A second important measure would be showing the kids there are role models of adults who did not go to an elite university, but who picked a college because it felt right for them and who were highly successful in life.

    “It shows that there is, in fact, life, wisdom, financial solvency, creativity, and yes, happiness, beyond the walls of the Ivy Leagues,” Luthar said.

    A third factor is for leaders in science, public health and social policy to take seriously the fact that youth at high-achieving schools could be a population that is at inordinately high risk for addiction. Decades ago, developmental researchers established that children growing up in chronic poverty were at high risk for maladjustment, and this led, laudably, to a plethora of studies trying to figure out how best to minimize risks, and foster resilience among these youth by addressing different aspects of their environments.

    “We now need the same dedicated research on kids who grow up in pressure- cooker, high achieving schools,” Luthar said. “Paradoxical though it may seem, these ostensibly privileged youth, many of who start experimenting early and often with drinking and drugs, could well be among the groups at highest risk for alcoholism and addiction in adulthood.”