The research project Well-being in the School Environment (WiSE) examines different aspects of mental health both cross-sectionally and longitudinally in school students to further the knowledge of growth and how mental health develops in adolescence.
Mental health problems among children and adolescents have been increasingly reported in many developed countries. Social changes due to changes in global information acquisition and more competitive job markets are leading to new forms of stress among children and adolescents. The findings emphasize the need for early preventive programs that teach effective coping strategies to youth. At the same time, it is important to study well-functioning youth to identify the factors that might help explain their successful developmental courses.
In the research project Well-being in the School Environment (WiSE), we are studying different aspects of mental health, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, among students at school as well as implementing and evaluating different positive psychology interventions (PPIs). An overview of the subprojects is presented in Figure 1.
The current research group contains associate professor Daiva Daukantaitė, associate professor Eva Hoff, and two doctoral students: Mia Maurer and Frida Rydqvist.
The project consists of two active subprojects:
- Personal growth and well-being among high school students (Mia Maurers project)
- Executive functions and well-being among young adolescents (Frida Rydqvists project)
Two other subprojects are still at their initial stage:
- Supporting personal growth and well-being at school
- Supporting students with impaired executive functions at school
In these two project we wish to get teachers’ experiences and perspectives on students’ well-being and develop and test a hands-on guide for teachers of children with special needs on how to build a safe and autonomy-supportive climate as well as compensate and strengthen students’ executive functions, which may increase students’ behavioural, cognitive, and emotional engagement and thereby their academic achievement. For these two subprojects, we aim to expand the research group by involving researchers from the Department of Educational Sciences at Lund University and Malmö University.
Personal growth and well-being among high school students
In her PhD project, Mia is examining the mental health profiles – well-being, depressive and stress symptoms – of high school students in Sweden both cross-sectionally and over a three year period and exploring how these profiles are related to sensitivity, basic need satisfaction, and self-compassion.
Furthermore, Mia is implementing and evaluating a well-being intervention for high school students (aged 16–19 years). She will test a model of well-being growth – that is, whether increases in well-being after the intervention are due to changes in students’ perceived sense of basic need satisfaction, mentalization, authenticity, and self-compassion. Instead of looking at the changes in well-being components separately over time, she aims to explore their interconnections and how these change over time. Her model is based on the organismic valuing theory (Rogers, 1961), an integrative metatheory that enables a holistic view of the personal growth process (Maurer & Daukantaitė, 2020).
Executive functions and well-being among young adolescents
Frida’s PhD project, on the other hand, is focused on executive functions (EF) – the self-regulatory cognitive processes operating over time to help people attain their goals (Barkley, 2012). From a cross-sectional perspective, she will investigate how students' (13–15 years) perceived EF (measured with the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function [BRIEF-2; Gioia, Isquith, Guy & Kensworthy, 2015]) relate to different aspects of well-being. From a longitudinal perspective, she will study whether and how students’ EF change during junior high school and how these changes relate to changes in mental health. Through these two perspectives, we hope to deepen knowledge of how students' cognition, everyday functioning (executive profiles), and emotion regulation are associated with different types of mental health profiles. We also aim to validate and standardize the BRIEF-2 in both non-clinical and clinical samples. The standardization of the BRIEF-2 in clinical samples among children and adolescents diagnosed with different disorders will be performed in collaboration with clinical neuropsychologist Pia Tallberg and psychiatrist and associate professor Peik Gustafsson at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry division of Lund University.