The University at Buffalo Adolescent and Family Development Project is led by Dr. Craig Colder. The research team includes Dr. Jennifer Read (University at Buffalo), Dr. Larry Hawk, Jr. (University at Buffalo), Dr. Liliana Lengua (University of Washington), and Dr. William Wieczorek (Buffalo State University). Funding for this project is provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

      Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood that is characterized by significant physical, psychological, and social changes. One of the notable behavioral changes that occur during this period is an increase in risk taking behavior. One pathway to risky behavior involves a progression from childhood behavior problems to affiliations with peers who support risky behavior. Problem behavior in childhood can take many forms such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and delinquency. We have a very limited understanding of how the co-occurrence of these behavior problems may influence the progression to risky behavior in adolescence. A behavior problem in isolation may operate differently than if it co-occurs with other behavior problems, and if so, prevention programs targeting adolescent risk behavior need to be tailored accordingly. In addition, substantial brain development occurs during adolescence and these changes are thought to produce transient changes in motivation, which may increase vulnerability to risky contexts such as a peer group that encourages high risk behavior. There is a clear need for research that integrates developmental changes in motivation and in social relationships to better understand vulnerability to and protection from initiation and escalation of adolescent risk behavior. In this study we are examining how shifts in motivation, childhood behavior problems, and peer context to influence risky behavior. To do this, we have recruited a community sample of 387 11-12 year old children who will be assessed in a 3-wave longitudinal study. We have selected a community sample because it is important to include children with and without behavior problems to understand why some children do well during the transition into adolescence and others don’t. Data collection includes parent and child questionnaires, peer questionnaires, and several laboratory assessments. This study will allow us a valuable opportunity to examine how changes in motivation and social relationships contribute to the initiation and escalation of early risk behavior.