Improving Outcomes in Juvenile Drug Court
We have partnered with a local juvenile drug court (JDC) to evaluate the individual, family, and JDC system-related factors that contribute to outcomes for offenders in JDC. JDC is a docket within the juvenile court that focuses on juvenile offenders who have problems with alcohol or other drugs. Unlike traditional courts, JDC courts maintain close oversight of each case through frequent status hearings with youth and their families, as well as close collaboration with team members from treatment programs, juvenile justice, social services, schools, law enforcement, probation, the prosecution, and the defense. The goals of JDC are to rehabilitate the substance abuse and criminal behavior of the juvenile offender and to address any family issues that may contribute to the youths' contact with the justice system. Our project involves evaluating youth and their families to determine how JDC can best meet their needs, with the overall goal of improving the rate of successful program completion for youth in JDC. One specific area of concern is how to better engage families to participate in the program and help their child be successful in JDC.
The JDC study is supported in part by the Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27).
Impulsivity and Risky Behavior among At-risk Adolescents
We work with a residential boot camp that serves adolescents who have dropped out of school and are not employed. Because they have not finished high school and are also not working, these youth are at risk for developing problems with substance abuse, delinquency, and other negative outcomes. Our initial work focused on learning about risky behaviors among these youth and relating these behaviors to characteristics like impulsivity and exposure to stressors. One of our early findings from this research is that youth in the program report significant difficulties with emotion regulation and impulsivity, so we are now providing a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills training group for youth at the facility. DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to help people better manage their emotions by determining their triggers for negative reactions and teaching them how to cope more effectively. We hope that this intervention will help the youth regulate their emotions and behavior better, and ultimately that it will lead to a reduction in risky behavior.
The DBT intervention project is supported in part by a Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology Varda Shoham Clinical Science Training Initiative grant and a Proposal Development Grant from USM's Vice President for Research.
Associations between Stress and Risky Behavior in College Students
We are studying how stressors associated with the transition to college relate to substance use and other risky behaviors in college students. Starting college often involves moving out of one's family home, entering a new living situation, having to build new relationships, and facing increased academic demands. This is stressful for many students, and stress can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. We are interested in learning what characteristics are associated with risky behavior during this transition. This will help us determine how families and universities might provide better support to vulnerable individuals.
The Development of Substance Use and Impulsivity during Adolescence
We are collaborating with researchers in the Neurobehavioral Research Lab and Clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to study associations between impulsivity and substance use during adolescent development. This is a longitudinal study, meaning that we can observe changes both within and between individuals over time. The majority of youth participating in this study have a parent with a substance use disorder, which increases the risk that these youth will develop problems with alcohol and/or drugs.