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Talks at Twelve: Anthony Burrow & Janis Whitlock, Tuesday, May 14, 2013

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Intervening on Purpose and Meaning in Adolescence
Anthony Burrow, Human Devleopment, Cornell University; Janis Whitlock, BCTR, Cornell University

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

This is a BCTR Innovative Pilot Study Grant recipient talk.

Two constructs that are often conceptually tethered to one another are purpose and meaning, and studies suggest that cultivating a sense of either contributes to well-being. However, whether there are significant and unique benefits derived from actively engaging with purpose or meaning during adolescence has not been fully explored. In this talk, we will present an overview of and initial findings from a field-experiment investigating the prospective effects of prompting high-school and college students to briefly write about their sense of purpose, meaning, or a control topic on their daily, short-term, and longer-term adjustment. The discussion will focus both on lessons learned while implementing this intervention in various school contexts as well as elucidating the nuanced ways in which considering purpose and meaning in one’s life may shape adolescents’ adjustment.


Dr. Anthony Burrow is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University. His research examines broadly the significance of developing positive identities and a meaningful sense of direction during adolescence and young adulthood. Dr. Burrow’s primary line of work examines how racial identity, in particular, influences the psychological adjustment to negative experiences reported by minorities. A second line of inquiry concerns the role of identifying and committing to a sense of purpose in life. Both of these research interests emphasize the importance of understanding how cultivating a sense of identity and purpose promote optimal psychosocial adjustment in the everyday lives of young people. Dr. Burrow received his B.A. in Psychology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Florida International University

Dr. Janis Whitlock is a Research Scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the Director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adults. She is the author of publications on non-suicidal self-injury in adolescence and young adulthood as well as in youth connectedness to schools and communities. She earned a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University (2003) and a Masters of Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill (1994). In addition to research, she has worked in adolescent and women’s health in a variety of clinical, administrative, and education-related capacities for over a decade. Her current research focus includes development of early detection and intervention in mental health and wellbeing for youth in college and community settings, recovery from self-injurious behaviors, parental influence in and experience of young people's self-injury and suicidality, the relationship between connectedness and self-injury and suicide behaviors, and development and evaluation of interventions for youth and parents of self-injurious youth.

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