Positive Parental Response Affects Adolescent Development

For the past two years of her undergraduate studies, Fordham Rose Hill junior Tereze Nika, a dedicated psychology major, has worked in Dr. Hyots’ adolescent research lab to uncover some of the most influential factors that impact development. Aside from being an academically driven Dean’s List student and Psi Chi psychology honors society member, she has contributed to many research studies in adolescent populations, some of which examine the relationship between positive risk-taking and civic engagement as well as the impact of exercise on cognitive abilities. Recently, Tereze was invited to an Association for Psychological Science (APS) conference in Chicago to discuss her own research that draws on data from these studies. 

Her research focuses on the effects of parental emotional intelligence (EI) on children’s development of executive functioning skills (i.e. inhibitory skills that regulate thoughts and actions) and whether this association is affected by socio-economic status (SES). In a sample of 72 adolescents aged 9-15, Tereze and her team measured executive functioning (EF) utilizing the Stroop Color-Word Task, a measure of inhibitory control in adolescents, while parental EI was measured with the Trait Meta-Mood Scale. “The results of this study were fascinating,” explains Tereze, “we found that for participants with low socioeconomic backgrounds, higher parental emotional intelligence was associated with better child performance on the Stroop task.” These findings suggest that parental EI is a protective factor for adolescent EF acquisition. This was especially exciting to Tereze and her team as “these findings suggest that parents, regardless of their SES status, can be a positive influence on their children and the executive functioning skills they develop.” Tereze will present her valuable findings as first author at the APS conference, contributing valuable information to the analysis of adolescent development and the role that positive environments play in childhood.

Two years of juggling an academically demanding major and contributing to many studies with Dr. Hoyt has taught Tereze many lessons.“It was a lot of juggling,” admits Tereze, ”I learned to multitask but also how to make sure everything’s in order while learning how to schedule and how to pace myself correctly.” In regards to gathering data in her adolescent studies, she reflects on the difficulty in working to create harmony among the working parts of the study, from researchers to adolescent participants to their parents. In reflecting on the impact of her research experience at Fordham, Tereze expands, “It definitely made me think about how meaningful adolescence is and the role it might have on your future, the way you think, and the way you develop and how that can also ultimately transfer into work behavior.” Her experiences have shaped her future goals toward pursuing industrial-organizational (IO) psychology, a new and emerging field that deals with talent acquisition and how development affects future work skills. Tereze will draw on research themes in this field to craft her senior thesis and ultimately seeks to apply to IO concentrated graduate schools like Baruch and NYU. Tereze will draw on the skills and experience she has gained in adolescent research at Fordham to guide her through exploring her next steps in psychological research and education. 

By Ashley Blasi, FCRH ‘22

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