TAYA Lab Research Projects
The TAYA Lab aims to understand interpersonal and sociocultural influences on adolescent mental health, with an emphasis on gender, sexuality, social media use, body image, and LGBTQ+ youth. We focus primarily on adolescents and emerging adults aged 11-22. From 2017–2020, the lab was based in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). The lab is moving to the University of Delaware’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Clinical Science program) in the summer of 2020. Below I discuss current and recent research studies and collaborations. For papers already published, see my CV. As the lab relocates to the University of Delaware during the summer of 2020, stay tuned for new projects and collaborations!
Project TAGS (Tracking Adolescents’ Gaze on Social Media)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Our lab has recently begun a series of studies that will use eye-tracking technology to examine adolescents’ eye gaze while using social media. The broad goal is to understand connections between visual attention toward social media photos and adolescents’ mental health and well-being. As of the spring of 2020, we have completed data collection for our first pilot study, focused on adolescent girls’ body image: Project TAGS. This pilot study is funded in part by the American Psychological Association’s Division 7 Early Career Grant in Developmental Psychology and a grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s Central Research Development Fund. I am also planning multiple future studies involving eye-tracking technology across my areas of work on social media, body image, mental health, gender, and sexuality.
Gender Minority Youth Study (GMY Study)
Study leaders: Rachel Salk, Brian Thoma, & Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Other collaborators: Michele Levine, Mike Marshal
All collaborators are affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic).
The Gender Minority Youth Study (GMY Study) is a mixed methods study focused on the mental health of transgender and other gender minority youth (GMY), funded in part by Pitt's University Research Council Grant for Research in Diversity (PI on grant: Dr. Rachel Salk; co-Is: Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley and Dr. Brian Thoma). We completed the qualitative phase of the study in the spring of 2018, involving in-depth interviews with GMY regarding the intersection of gender identity, body image, self-objectification, and disordered eating and weight-related behaviors. Next, in the fall of 2018, we collected quantitative data online from over 2,000 gender minority and cisgender adolescents, including assessments of a broad range of mental health symptoms, interpersonal experiences, and gender identity-related processes. Many of the cisgender youth in this study identify as sexual minority individuals. We have begun to publish papers from this dataset (see CV), and other data analyses are currently underway.
Project RAISE (Researching Adolescents' Interpersonal, Sociocultural, and Educational Experiences)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Project RAISE is a collaboration with Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab Research Network, a consortium of schools across the country that works collaboratively with scientists to advance character development research. In the fall of 2019, we launched Project RAISE, a large longitudinal school-based study with high school students. Our primary aim is to understand which aspects of social media use promote positive development and which appear to hinder development, across multiple interpersonal, psychological, and academic domains of adjustment. The pre-registration plan for Project RAISE is available through Open Science Framework.
Project TIDE (Teen Interviews about Diversity Experiences)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley; co-investigators: Tina Goldstein, Brian Thoma, Rachel Salk, & Mike Marshal
Project TIDE is a mixed methods study aimed at understanding the intersection of LGBTQ+ experiences and mood symptomatology among adolescents who are in treatment for bipolar disorder (PI of overarching treatment study: Dr. Tina Goldstein). Aim 1 of Project TIDE is to use longitudinal modeling techniques to understand the developmental intersection of mood symptomatology, suicidality, and LGBT-related experiences, using quantitative data. Aim 2 is to understand the intersection of bipolar disorder and LGBT development in greater nuance and depth, through qualitative interviews. We completed 20 qualitative interviews with adolescents in 2019. We then developed a qualitative coding system in collaboration with Pitt’s University Center for Social & Urban Research (UCSUR), and qualitative analyses are now underway. We will begin quantitative data analyses once participants have completed their follow-up waves in the overarching treatment outcome study. This study is partially funded by a grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
Teen STAR Study (Sexuality, Technology, & Relationships):
PIs: Sophia Choukas-Bradley & Laura Widman (North Carolina State University)
In collaboration with Dr. Laura Widman’s Teen Health Lab at NC State University, the TAYA Lab conducted a school-based longitudinal study examining interpersonal influences on adolescents’ sexuality and body image. In the spring of 2018, we administered Widman’s sexual health intervention to NC high school students and collected data on a broad range of adolescents’ experiences related to social media use, body image, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. We collected one-year follow-up data in the spring of 2019. We have begun to publish papers using this dataset, and other data analyses are currently under way.
College Life Study
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
For this study, undergraduate participants completed in-depth, anonymous online surveys assessing their sexual experiences and relationships, body image and disordered eating, gender-related constructs, and social media use. Data collection was completed in 2018 and data are currently being analyzed.
Other TAYA Lab Collaborations
I have multiple ongoing collaborations focused on adolescents' and emerging adults' social media use.
In an exciting new collaboration, TeenBrainOnline, I am working with psychologists, neuroscientists, and bioengineers to design and pilot-test an updated, modern peer feedback task to use in the fMRI scanner. Specifically, we are designing an fMRI task that mimics photo-based social media sites such as Instagram. The Principal Investigator is Caroline Oppenheimer (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic), and other collaborators include Jen Silk, Jamie Hanson, Helmet Karim, and Mary Phillips. With a new grant we received through the Pitt Innovation Challenge, we will examine whether adolescents' brain response to social media peer rejection is associated with risk for depression and suicidality.
I work with researchers at the Pitt Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health to understand adolescents' and young adults' social media use. For example, I am working with Dr. César Escobar-Viera to develop a social-media delivered intervention to reduce social isolation among rural LGBTQ+ youth, funded by the Pitt Center for Enhancing Treatment and Utilization for Depression and Emergent Suicidality (ETUDES).
I also have long-standing collaborations with Dr. Jackie Nesi (Brown University), Dr. Mitch Prinstein (UNC Chapel Hill), and Dr. Matteo Giletta (Ghent University, Belgium) on studies related to peer relations and social media use.