Research on young adults lends credence to an age-old proverb

Research on young adults lends credence to an age-old proverb

A study conducted by a TCNJ research team suggests that it does, in fact, take a village to raise a child.

he len chung
He Len Chung, assistant psychology professor.

He Len Chung, assistant psychology professor, and Meagan Docherty ’11, a psychology and sociology double major, examined the mental health of 130 young African-American adults (ages 18–25) living in Trenton. Their research—completed as part of the College’s 2010 Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE)—shows how broad, contextual factors shape individual development.

“We’re finding that exposure to high levels of neighborhood disorder puts young adults at risk for both depression and aggressive behavior,” Chung said. She explained that neighborhood disorder could include vandalism, abandoned buildings, and garbage in the streets and sidewalks.

On the other hand, a strong social environment can help in avoiding the negative impact neighborhood disorder can foster. “Strong levels of social functioning—for example, trusting your neighbors—can buffer the ill effects of neighborhood disorder on aggression,” Chung explained.

“In other words, having strong social ties may help to prevent some of the adverse effects of living in communities with high levels of disadvantage and disorder,” Chung said.

The study was conducted under the auspices the College’s Research on Emerging Adulthood and Community Health Lab, which Chung directs. She and Docherty conducted face-to-face interviews with the young adults, who were recruited from various community programs throughout Trenton including Anchorage Transitional Living Center, Mercer Street Friends, and YouthBuild.

“Each participant in our study had his or her own views and experiences, and each one of them not only added to our research but also helped to color our perspectives of the city,” Docherty said. “If we can figure out how to help and give back to the community, and if our research can help share this information with others, then I think this is the most important goal to strive for.”

Chung and Docherty collaborated on a paper detailing their results, which will be published in American Journal of Health Behavior, and this fall presented their results to the facilities that helped them recruit participants and conduct interviews.

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