IN WHOSE WORDS? EXPERIENCES AT PUBERTY SITUATED IN INDIVIDUAL, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL CONTEXTS
Koch, Mary Kate
Puberty is a critical developmental period of change during which cognitive, social, and hallmark physical changes co-occur across early adolescence. This period of change has been robustly linked to psychological distress, including depressive symptoms, increased contact with the juvenile justice system, and the intensified reliance on gender stereotypes. This dissertation spans developmental psychology, computational text analysis, and feminist philosophy to examine the individual, social, and cultural contexts in which girls process puberty and the transition into adolescence. The first chapter uses narrative identity and topic modeling methods to examine how girls make meaning of physical and social changes associated with puberty and how the ways in which girls make meaning map onto depressive symptoms. Results indicate that early-maturing girls who attempt to make more meaning out of changes are more vulnerable to subsequent depressive symptoms, and that focusing on menstruation-related changes may be more psychologically distressing than other changes. The second chapter employs an experimental paradigm to demonstrate potential biases that the visible physical maturation, race, and gender of youth may induce on juvenile justice decision-making. Findings evidence a complex pattern of maturation, race, and gender effects that preliminarily suggest that high maturation Black males may be most at-risk for having biases enacted against them during juvenile justice decision-making. Finally, the third chapter examines how American television shows represent puberty across changes and sentiment and investigates gender stereotypes in American coming-of-age novels via computational text analysis methods. I find robust evidence of gendered stereotypes such that female characters are more semantically similar to home, social, and weaker word categories. I also discuss potential effects of overtly sexualized depictions of puberty in American television shows. I discuss implications across studies for girls’ experiences at puberty including highlighting the overlaps and discrepancies between methods to derive new insights about what girls may want or need to navigate puberty with less risk of psychological distress.
adolescence; depression; developmental psychopathology; gender; narrative identity; puberty
Mendle, Jane E.
Burrow, Anthony L.; Wang, Qi
Ph. D., Human Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International
dissertation or thesis
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