Research Projects

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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 moved 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

Current Projects:

Project ROSE (Racial Identity, Objectification, and Sociocultural Experiences) 

PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley, Ph.D.

Project Leader: Brianna Ladd

Other Collaborators: Jioni Lewis, Ph.D. (University of Maryland), Rowan Hunt (University of Louisville)


Project ROSE is a qualitative interview study focused on understanding Black young women’s gendered racial identity development, with an emphasis on experiences related to sexual objectification, self-objectification and body image, sexual relationships, and the intersection of sexism and racism. Bri Ladd, the TAYA Lab Manager, is leading this project. Dr. Choukas-Bradley received the University of Delaware's 2021 Women's Studies Faculty Research Award, which will help fund this study beginning September 2021.   



Project DAISY (Disordered Eating, Academics, Identity, and Sexual Experiences among Young Adults

co-PI's: Annie Maheux and Savannah Roberts (TAYA Lab graduate students)

Advisor: Sophia Choukas-Bradley

Project DAISY is a cross-sectional, self-report, anonymous online survey among emerging adults ages 18-25. The study examines a broad range of sociocultural experiences and beliefs, identity characteristics, mental health outcomes and behaviors, and relational experiences relevant to the developmental period of emerging adulthood. We expect to begin data collection in 2021.

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 2021, 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. We are currently applying for federal funding to conduct a larger-scale study combining our eye-tracking paradigm with a longitudinal study design that incorporates ecological momentary assessment (EMA). In the future, TAYA Lab members plan to conduct other studies involving eye-tracking technology across our areas of work on social media, body image, mental health, gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ identities.

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Project RAISE (Researching Adolescents' Interpersonal, Sociocultural, and Educational Experiences) 

PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley

Other collaborators: Jacqueline Nesi (Brown University), Brian Galla (University of Pittsburgh), Jessica Hamilton (Rutgers University), and Angela Duckworth's Character Lab Research Network

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. Across several cohorts, we have conducted multiple longitudinal school-based studies with adolescents. 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 many Project RAISE aims is available through Open Science Framework.


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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), including qualitative interviewing and longitudinal quantitative assessments. Our primary quantitative aim is to use longitudinal modeling techniques to understand the developmental intersection of mood symptomatology, suicidality, and LGBTQ+-related experiences. Our primary qualitative aims are to understand the intersection of bipolar disorder and LGBTQ+ youth development in greater nuance and depth, as well as to understand connections between mood and patterns of sexual and romantic attraction. 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. Data collection for the quantitative component of the study is ongoing, and 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).

Completed Projects:


Gender Minority Youth Study (GMY Study)

Study leaders: Rachel Salk, Brian Thoma, & Sophia Choukas-Bradley

Other collaborators: Michele Levine, Mike Marshal

All collaborators were affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic) at the time the work was completed.

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) and with Dr. Choukas-Bradley’s start-up funds from the University of Pittsburgh. 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 identified as sexual minority individuals. We have begun to publish papers from this dataset (see CV), and other data analyses are currently underway. We will likely conduct a longitudinal version of the GMY Study in the future. 

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.

One major project related to this study is the development and validation of the Appearance-Related Social Media Consciousness Scale (publication available here; scale available here).

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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. 

I collaborate with Brian Galla in Pitt’s School of Education to develop social media interventions (pre-registered studies available here).


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 pilot grant funding from the Pitt Innovation Challenge and a Pitt/Carnegie Mellon BRIDGE Center Seed Grant, we will examine whether adolescents' brain response to social media peer rejection is associated with risk for depression and suicidality. We are also applying for federal funding to continue this line of work.  ​


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 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 Jackie Nesi (Brown University), Mitch Prinstein (UNC Chapel Hill), and Matteo Giletta (Ghent University, Belgium) on studies related to peer relations and social media use.