Research by Associate Professor of Psychology Martha Wadsworth was highlighted by the National Institute of Mental Health's spring 2015 issue of Inside NIMH.
Chronic stress and its effects are increasingly recognized as primary factors contributing to psychopathology in vulnerable children and adolescents. Preadolescence is a crucial time during which children’s ability to recognize stress and its causes matures, and is a time for building skills for managing stress. It is also a period of increased brain changes and growth in key self-regulatory physiological systems. Therefore, preadolescence might be an optimal time for intervening to prevent the onset of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in children faced with chronic stress. Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D. (Pennsylvania State University) aims to demonstrate that children facing chronic stress from exposure to poverty, discrimination, and violence can acquire and utilize new ways of coping. She and her team will also test whether these new coping skills have positive effects on stress physiology and changes in clinical symptoms. This exploratory evaluation of the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) intervention is an early-stage, proof-of-concept study; if successful, it may yield preliminary data to support the development of an application for a confirmatory efficacy trial.