Social encounters:

How do teenagers deal with them?

Having conversations with other people is an essential part of life. One way or another, we talk with others: at home, at work, or in school, and both off- and online.

Luckily, most of our social encounters are pleasant and make us feel good. We appreciate getting a compliment and being comforted when feeling down. Another example is eating together with others, which can lead to more positive feelings and friendliness (see an earlier Mindwise post by Marije aan het Rot).

However, most of us also have encounters with others that are less pleasant. For example, having an argument with someone, or being bullied. Such encounters can leave us feeling frustrated which in turn can, depending on how we perceive the situation, result in anger, anxiety, or sadness (see Bertus Jeronimus’ post).

“For teenagers, especially relationships with peers are very important”

For teenagers, social relationships are very important, especially relationships with peers. In the context of these relationships, teenagers try to create their own identity, who they are as a person, what differentiates them from their parents. But what do those social relationships actually look like? How exactly do teenagers experience getting a compliment or being teased? How do they feel and act when talking with friends, parents, or teachers? And what happens when their environment changes, for example when they finish high school, move to a new city, and start university or a job? And finally, are there differences between teenagers in these experiences?

This is what I am interested in. And I will try to find some answers to these questions during my PhD project. In my first study, I ask senior high-school students (5-HAVO and 6-VWO in the Dutch education system) to complete online questionnaires about their social experiences . The study will start in October (2017) and so I am currently looking for 16+-year-olds who would be willing to spend 20 minutes of their time and participate in the study. If you would like to participate, or you know someone (who knows someone who knows someone) who does, have a look at the study website or Facebook page, or send me an email!

“I am currently looking for 16+-year-olds to participate in my study on their social relationships”

There will be a second part to this study in which I will ask some of the participants to provide more detailed information about their social encounters. As of January 2018, they will be asked to use an app for 2 weeks to record their daily conversations with the people around them. This method of studying social relationships was previously described in blog posts by Marije aan het Rot and Koen Hogenelst.

In the future, I will also study the social relationships of teenagers using virtual reality. For this study I will create three-dimensional social encounters between high-school seniors and avatars; but that is a topic for another Mindwise post.

For now, if you are also curious about how adolescents’ social encounters affect them, please share this post. Or bring me in touch with people who might be interested in participating in the first study of my PhD project!

Note: Image by Kevin Dooley licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Minita Franzen is currently a PhD student in Clinical Psychology & Experimental Psychopathology. Early on, she had a passion for clinical research which is why, after finishing her Bachelor of Psychology program here in Groningen, she started the Research Master in Behavioural and Social Sciences (BSS) program with a focus on clinical psychology. Minita spent the 2nd year of her Master program in Montreal, Canada, where she collaborated with researchers from McGill University and Sainte-Justine Hospital. Since September 2016, she is studying the role of interpersonal functioning in explaining the increased depression risk of victims of bullying.

Apart from her research, Minita also highly enjoys volunteer work. She is a member of the Psychology PhD council and the BSS PhD council, and part of the program team of the 2017 PhD Day in Groningen.


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