University of Windsor psychology professor Lance Rappaport is part of a team who's received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant.UWindsor psychology professor Lance Rappaport has new provincial funding to expand his research into how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mental health of area children.

Psychology researchers secure SSHRC grant funding

Two faculty members in the University of Windsor’s Department of Psychology have received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant for a new study looking at young people’s emotional experiences, specifically how those emotions fluctuate from day to day, as an indicator of later wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood.

This project will be the first longitudinal examination of the prospective contribution of specific, recognized emotion dynamics (i.e., emotional variability, instability, inertia, reactivity to stress) to the development of social, academic, and mental health wellbeing in adolescence.

The project team is composed of principal investigator Lance Rappaport, PhD C.Psych. R.Psych.; and co-investigator Rosanne Menna, PhD C.Psych. who are, respectively, assistant professor and professor, in the child and adolescent area of the clinical psychology program in the Department of Psychology, along with Erin Picard, PhD C.Psych., chief psychologist for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.

Like all their research, this project will provide academic training opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students.                 

“We plan to recruit 200 adolescents over the course of two years. We use what’s called an ecological momentary assessment design,” explains Dr. Rappaport. “Using a smartphone app, we will ask study participants to report twice a day on their mood, how well they slept the night before, and any stress they have experienced since the last record. Ultimately, we hope to evaluate the degree to which understanding dynamic emotional experiences in adolescents’ daily lives can inform the development of well-being or psychological distress over adolescence.

“In this study, we will also ask about different stressful and other experiences happening in adolescents’ daily lives. That allows us to assess many different indices of how adolescents are doing emotionally and how they respond to positive and stressful events. So, we ask, ‘Have you had something stressful happen since the last time we asked you earlier today?’ If they respond yes, then we ask for a little more information. As much as they want to provide. They might respond: ‘I failed a test’; ‘I got in a fight with a friend’; ‘I got a flat tire.’  This allows us to assess the range of stressful experiences that adolescents may encounter in their daily lives.

“One of the most exciting things about the science of child and adolescent mental health is that, instead of focusing exclusively on disorders, we can truly focus on the whole developmental process to see how children develop to a place of thriving or of psychological distress.”

Rappaport also provides in person and virtual workshops for high school and elementary school students to help them understand stress and anxiety including how it might impact them; along with professional development activities for teachers and mental health staff including consultation on mental health to local child and youth agencies.

“Initially, we developed workshops for youth around stress and anxiety,” says Rappaport. “In March, we then modulated the workshops to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and are now expanding this work into a program of resources to help children recover from the pandemic.” (These are scheduled to start at the end of Summer 2020 and continue into the Fall).

This research grant has been awarded $66,350 by SSHRC over a two-year period.

Rappaport and Menna direct two labs on child and adolescent emotional development and wellbeing at the University of Windsor. They collaborate closely on emerging research projects; graduate student training; the development of postsecondary curricula on youth mental health; and consultation to local agencies on child and adolescent mental health.