Youth Risk and Resilience Lab

Youth Risk and Resilience Lab

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sandra Yu Rueger

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The mission of the Youth Risk and Resilience (YouRR) Lab at Wheaton College is to add to the scientific literature and disseminate findings on effective ways to mobilize resources within the family and larger community to foster emotional and relational health, especially in marginalized and underserved populations. The underlying goal of all projects in this lab is to gain an understanding of the role that risk and resilience factors play in the healthy adaptation to stressful life events, with a focus on youth and ethnic/racial minority populations.

There are three main areas of research in YouRR Lab that are interrelated. The first area of research is understanding the developmental course of depression. Risk and resilience factors to depression that are the focus of study in YouRR Lab include attributional style, social support, parent-child relationships, hope, and optimism.  The second area of research is underage drinking and alcohol use as a maladaptive coping mechanism. Risk and resilience factors associated with alcohol misuse include subjective responses to alcohol, motives to drink or to abstain from alcohol, and parental monitoring of youth. The third area of research in YouRR Lab is the development of culturally-sensitive interventions for adolescent depression, underage drinking, and parent training with Asian Americans.

Dr. Rueger is currently collaborating with the Center for Asian Health Equity at the University of Chicago as a Co-Principal Investigator on the “Coalition for Healthy Asian Minds” Project funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Affordability Cures Research Grant ($1.5 million) to develop interventions to reduce stigma and encourage mental health care in the Asian American communities in Chicagoland.

Funding sources for Dr. Rueger’s research include the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wheaton College Alumni Association, and the Diversity and Justice Initiative at Wheaton College. Her research has been published in journals including Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Parenting: Science and Practice, Journal of School Psychology, Psychopharmacology, Addiction, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and Journal of Psychology and Theology. In addition, Dr. Rueger has presented her research at national conferences, including American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, Research Society on Alcoholism, and Christian Association for Psychological Studies. She also has been invited to present on topics related to her research to a wide audience, including the Christian Counseling Professionals of Chicagoland, Campus Missions International, Korean American Scientists and Engineers Association, and the Loyola Chapter of Asian and Pacific American Medical Students.

Dr. Rueger is passionate about supporting student scholarly engagement, and has worked collaboratively with students to share research findings from YouRR Lab with professionals and the general public, as well as the scientific community. Recent doctoral dissertations from YouRR Lab include studies focused on father support, socioeconomic status and academic outcomes in middle school students; cultural relevance of empirically-supported parenting interventions with Chinese-American parents; psychological distress, stressors, and social support in cross-cultural workers; coping and enhancing drinking motives, internalizing distress, and alcohol use in emerging adults; marital health and parenting effectiveness in Latino mothers and fathers; and effects of social support from kin and fictive kin on attributional style in African American youth. Undergraduate and master’s degree students from YouRR Lab have continued in psychological studies in doctoral programs at Northern Illinois University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Houston, University of Arkansas, and Biola University.

Graduate and undergraduate students interested in advancing scientific knowledge on reducing risk and promoting resilience in the face of stress with youth, young adults, and their families are welcome to join the lab. Lab meetings include collaborative work on projects, student presentations, didactic trainings, and a devotional time of sharing and prayer.