Exploring Adolescent Mental Health and Wealth Deprivation

Supervising Faculty: Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, Jamie Hanson, and Portia Miller

Contact: Amber Liller, aml385@pitt.edu

Area of Research: Child and Adolescent Development, Socioeconomic Disparities, Family Economics

Description of Research: Join our research project focused on critical mental health problems among adolescents by delving into the often-overlooked role of wealth. Wealth is the value of someone's assets, then subtracting all debts. This longitudinal study will focus on a diverse cohort of youth aged 13-15 and their caregivers, aiming to understand the connections between family wealth, income, and adolescent development. The project investigates wealth deprivation and the impact of wealth on adolescent problem behaviors through four key pathways: investments of time and money, caregiver and adolescent stress, expectations for the future, and perceptions of social class. By exploring these dimensions, we aim to provide rich, descriptive information to inform prevention and intervention efforts for adolescents in families experiencing wealth deprivation.

Duties of Students: As an undergraduate research assistant on this project, you will play a critical role in advancing our understanding of adolescent mental health and wealth dynamics. Under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students, your responsibilities may include data entry and database management, conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups, and providing research and administrative support. The diverse methodological toolkit of the project, encompasses both qualitative and quantitative approaches, offers you the opportunity to learn and contribute to the analysis of large-scale longitudinal datasets. Additionally, you will engage in weekly lab meetings to deepen your understanding of ongoing projects and relevant scholarship. This research opportunity is ideal for students passionate about addressing mental health challenges in adolescents.


  • Overall GPA of 3.25 or higher
  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • PSY 0036 Research Methods
  • Meet departmental criteria for eligibility for directed research
  • Two-semester commitment required

Terms offered: Fall, Spring, Summer

Number of students: 2

Lab website: https://sites.sanford.duke.edu/steps/