Studying digital communication provides a window into the secret world of adolescent peer culture (Greenfield & Yan, 2006, p. 392). According to large, national surveys, 80% of online teens (12 - 17) use social networking sites (Madden et al., 2013). Youth ages 12 - 17 report sending an average of 60 text messages per day (Lenhart, 2012), and many claim that their social lives would end or be seriously impaired if they could not have access to text messaging (54% of girls and 40% of boys, CTIA, 2008). This proposed renewal of our ongoing longitudinal study, NICHD R01 HD060995, Social Aggression: Growth and Outcomes, will investigate how social aggression unfolds in digital communication and relates to psychosocial adjustment, how qualities of parent-child and child-friend relationships observed in middle childhood predict the development of social aggression online and offline through late adolescence, and how digital communication relates to adolescents' adjustment more broadly. This longitudinal study of a diverse sample examines social aggression and victimization across 10 years with multiple measures and informants, including observations of parent-child and child-friend interactions yearly from ages 10 - 13 and archives containing the content of participants' text messaging communication (for 4.5 years) and Facebook communication (for 2 years). This study offers the rare opportunity to examine relations among adolescents' offline relationships, socioemotional adjustment, and digital communication, from early through late adolescence. This application requests support for conducting state-of-the-art statistical analyses, performing additional coding of our digital communication data, investigating possible ethnic differences in social aggression and digital communication, and exploring the possibility of de-identifying the large archive so that it can be shared with other investigators. Because qualities of relationships and adjustment were assessed yearly by multiple informants, we will be able to investigate how social aggression (and victimization) and adjustment contribute to each other across the age range of middle childhood through late adolescence using autoregressive latent trajectory and growth-mixture models. Analyses using the dyadic growth curve and the one-with-many design will then examine how relationship dynamics with parents and friends in middle childhood relate to the long-term development of social aggression and victimization. To explore how other specific social processes (e.g., deviant peer talk, co-rumination, prosocial behavior, and provisions of support) in digital communication might relate to psychological adjustment, we propose to conduct additional coding of digital communication, using both Linguistic Interpretive Word Count (LIWC) software and our fine-grained microcoding systems. We will consult with an expert in data anonymization to explore possibilities for de- identifying the large archive of digital communication so that it could studid by other investigators.

Public Health Relevance

Examining the content of digital communication could illuminate how adolescents use text messaging and social media for good and for ill; youth are intensely engaged in digital communication (Madden et al., 2013) and it is imperative to understand how this prominent feature of youth culture relates to both positive and negative adjustment (boyd, 2014; Murdock, 2013). The results of the proposed research have the potential to inform intervention and prevention efforts in six major ways: by guiding parents' and educators' efforts to prevent and reduce social aggression; by clarifying which forms of text messaging and Facebook communication contribute to growth in social aggression; by augmenting programs to prevent the development of psychopathology; by informing efforts by parents, teachers, and policy makers to promote digital citizenship and to help youth use electronic communication for good; by enhancing the power of text messaging and Facebook interventions to promote adolescent and young adult health; and by informing theories of personality and possibly even models of psychotherapy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Esposito, Layla E
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University of Texas-Dallas
Schools of Allied Health Profes
United States
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Ackerman, Robert A; Carson, Kevin J; Corretti, Conrad A et al. (2018) Experiences with warmth in middle childhood predict features of text-message communication in early adolescence. Dev Psychol :
Brinkley, Dawn Y; Ackerman, Robert A; Ehrenreich, Samuel E et al. (2017) Sending and Receiving Text Messages with Sexual Content: Relations with Early Sexual Activity and Borderline Personality Features in Late Adolescence. Comput Human Behav 70:119-130
Underwood, Marion K; Ehrenreich, Samuel E (2017) The power and the pain of adolescents' digital communication: Cyber victimization and the perils of lurking. Am Psychol 72:144-158
Rosen, Lisa H; Beron, Kurt J; Underwood, Marion K (2017) Social Victimization Trajectories From Middle Childhood Through Late Adolescence. Soc Dev 26:227-247
Ehrenreich, Samuel E; Underwood, Marion K (2016) Adolescents' Internalizing Symptoms as Predictors of the Content of Their Facebook Communication and Responses Received from Peers. Transl Issues Psychol Sci 2:227-237
Ehrenreich, Samuel E; Beron, Kurt J; Underwood, Marion K (2016) Social and physical aggression trajectories from childhood through late adolescence: Predictors of psychosocial maladjustment at age 18. Dev Psychol 52:457-62
Flynn, Elinor; Ehrenreich, Samuel E; Beron, Kurt J et al. (2015) Prosocial Behavior: Long-Term Trajectories and Psychosocial Outcomes. Soc Dev 24:462-482
Underwood, Marion K; Ehrenreich, Samuel E; More, David et al. (2015) The BlackBerry Project: The Hidden World of Adolescents' Text Messaging and Relations With Internalizing Symptoms. J Res Adolesc 25:101-117
Underwood, Marion K; Ehrenreich, Samuel E (2014) Bullying May Be Fueled by the Desperate Need to Belong. Theory Pract 53:265-270
Ehrenreich, Samuel E; Underwood, Marion K; Ackerman, Robert A (2014) Adolescents' text message communication and growth in antisocial behavior across the first year of high school. J Abnorm Child Psychol 42:251-64

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