Research Study

The Lived Experience of Canadian Adolescents Utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Practices

Existing literature describes a rising concern for adolescent mental health, citing higher levels of psychological distress (Twenge et al., 2019) and overall maladaptiveness than previous generations (Bethune, 2014; Bor et al., 2014; Collishaw, 2015; & Gray, 2011). Adolescents are facing a more complex world than their predecesors because they are navigating different social landscapes and are predisposed to additional challenges that often result in serious problems (Bor et al., 2014; & Pathak, et al., 2011). Accordingly, as adolescents gain more abstract thought, they begin to critically evaluate external circumstances (Crone & Dahl, 2012) such as distressing current events and other overarching issues. This process causes immense stress over complex topics such as mental health, environmental sustainability and immigration and harrassment, in addition to everyday concerns like interrelational and interfamilial conflict and sexuality and gender (Divecha, 2019).

Adolescent mental health is especially important because today’s adolescents are tomorrow’s adults – meaning that their wellbeing is of universal significance (Bronfenbrenner, 1996). Global sustainability depends on their innovative outlooks, which are entirely reliant on their ability to thrive. Therefore, we should be collectively diligent in supporting, and providing access to, practices that garner psychological flexibility and resilience for adolescents (Bor et al., 2014; & Patalay & Gage, 2019). It is my hope that the present research study will shed light on unique adolescent experiences and highlight ways in which acceptance and commitment practices might aid healthy adolescent development into adulthood.

Having grown up in a war-torn country and as a first-generation immigrant, I heavily struggled with anxiety in adolescence. For this reason, I am particularly ardent about advocating for adolescent wellbeing. Though I have engaged in healing through non-denominational spirituality and acceptance and commitment practices such as present-moment-awareness, defusion, acceptance, and self-as-context thinking, I frequently wonder if I could have done so sooner – during those critical years of adolescence, where I was especially vulnerable to my traumas, yet naïvely open to guidance.

My thesis seeks to understand the lived experiences of Canadian adolescents utilizing acceptance and commitment practices (i.e., present-moment awareness, thought defusion, acceptance/surrender, self-awareness exercises), and evaluate their impact on psychological flexibility and resilience. Simply, I aim to understand how a variety of acceptance and commitment practices are helpful, or unhelpful, in fostering psychological flexibility and resilience in adolescents, and eliciting positive mental health outcomes (specifically where anxiety management, stress management, emotional regulation and developing positive outlooks are concerned).

References

Bethune, S. (2014, April). Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/teen-stress

Bor, W., Dean, A. J., Najman, J., & Hayatbakhsh, R. (2014). Are child and adolescent mental health problems increasing in the 21st century? A systematic review. Australian and New Zeland Journal of Psychiatry, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867414533834

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1996). The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next. Simon and Schuster.

Collishaw, S. (2015). Annual Research Review: Secular trends in child and adolescent mental health. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(3), 370-393. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12372

Crone, E. A., & Dahl, R. E. (2012). Understanding adolescence as a period of social–affective engagement and goal flexibility. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12, 636-650. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3313

Divecha, D. (2019, May 9). Our Teens Are More Stressed Than Ever: Why, and What Can You Do About It? Developmental Science. https://www.developmentalscience.com/blog/2019/5/7/our-teens-are-more-stressed-than-ever

Gray, P. (2011). The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 443-463.

Patalay, P., & Gage, S. H. (2019). Changes in millennial adolescent mental health and health-related behaviours over 10 years: a population cohort comparison study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyz006.

Pathak, R., Sharma, R. C., Parvan, U. C., Gupta, B. P., Ojha, R. K., & Goel, N. K. (2011). Behavioural and Emotional Problems in School-Going Adolescents. Australasian Medical Journal, 4(1), 15-21. https://doi.org/10.4066/AMJ.2011.464

Twenge, J. M., Cooper, A. B., Joiner, T. E., Duffy, M. E., & Binau, S. G. (2019, March 14). Age, period, and cohort trends in mood disorder indicators and suicide-related outcomes in a nationally representative dataset, 2005-2017. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 128(3), 185-199. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/abn0000410

Title of project The Lived Experience of Canadian Adolescents Utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Practices
Objective My thesis seeks to understand the lived experience of Canadian adolescents utilizing acceptance and commitment practices (i.e., present-moment awareness, thought defusion, acceptance/surrender, self-awareness exercises), and evaluate their impact on psychological flexibility and resilience. I specifically aim to understand how a variety of acceptance and commitment practices are helpful, or unhelpful, in fostering psychological flexibility and resilience in adolescents, and eliciting positive mental health outcomes (i.e. anxiety management, stress management, emotional regulation and developing positive outlooks).
Characteristics of Participants Participants of any sex, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, class, sexual orientation, religion/spirituality who: (1) Are between the ages of 17 and 20; (2) Live in Canada; (3) Use (and have used for a period of at least 2 months) some version of these practices: (a) Present-Moment Awareness (being in the ‘here and now’; being aware of what is happening in the present moment); (b) Thought-Defusion (distancing from thoughts or making space between oneself and thoughts; and understanding that thoughts pass); (c) Acceptance/Surrender (accepting the present moment as it is and letting go of the need to control it); (d) Self-Awareness (seeing oneself objectively; engaging in self-reflection); (4) Rate their current level of distress between 1 and 5, on a scale of 1-10. 1 being no/low distress and 10 being high distress; (5) Feel comfortable to conduct interviews in English; (6) Are available for at least one audio-recorded, 90-minute virtual interview via Doxy.me, and one, audio-recorded, 60-minute secondary interview, for a total of 150 minutes over the next 3 to 6 months.
Potential Risks Risks to participants are low, however each participant might experience certain emotions while recalling their experiences with acceptance and commitment practices. Though, I expect that levels of discomfort present at recollection will not exceed that of their everyday life.
End date The posting will remain active until a desired number of participants have been selected.
Time required for participation 2-3 hours total time over the next 3-6 months.
Participation honorarium (gift) $30 Amazon gift card (electronic).
Contact Potential participants are able to email [email protected] to express interest in participating in this study.

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