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Regular version of the site

Symposium Highlights Issues of Childhood and Adolescence

On November 15-16, an international symposium dedicated to childhood and adolescence will take place in Moscow in honour of the 120th anniversary of Lev Vygotsky’s birth. Building on the traditions established by the renowned Soviet psychologist, who made a number of contributions to psychology, pedagogy and defectology, the symposium will seek to promote analysis and discussion of the notions of childhood and reflection on how concepts of cultural-historical theory are used in contemporary studies of childhood and maturation.

Professor Elisa Delvecchio, a research assistant in the Department of Philosophy, Human and Social Sciences at the University of Perugia (Italy), is one of a number of experts who will be speaking at the symposium.  An expert on child development, psychological assessment, and adolescent development, Professor Delvecchio spoke with the HSE News Service about the main findings of her research, her ongoing collaboration with HSE and the possibility of including Russia in a future comparative study.

— You plan to discuss the challenges of modern childhood at the conference in Moscow. What do you see as the most urgent and universal issue across the globe?

— In my opinion, one of the most urgent concerns is the role of mass media technology for children’s psychological and social well-being. Children learn how to use technologies such as smartphones and iPads early in life and they often do it without parental control. Television and smartphones are better friends than peers. They prefer to play with videogames instead of with real friends. These new habits are going to change inter-personal relationships.

— Your project aims to assess psychological well-being in adolescence and young adulthood across the world. What have been some of your main findings? What countries do you focus on in your research?

— For some individuals, the transition from childhood to adulthood can be problematic. The literature suggests that anxiety, fears and depression are some of the most common psychological conditions afflicting this age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). Several authors have focused on risk factors that might interfere with or enhance the chances of developing such maladaptive behaviours.

The findings from cross-cultural studies suggest that adolescents in collectivistic cultures report higher anxiety and symptoms of depression than those in individualistic cultures; this means that both cultural issues and familial values affect adolescents’ psychological well-being.

Some empirical studies report good quality of attachment relationships and positive evaluation of self as two of the most crucial protective factors for psychological well-being (Lee & Hankin, 2009; Tambelli, Laghi, Odorisio, & Notari, 2012; Wilkinson, 2004). However, the literature suggests that parental and peer relationships are shaped by broader cultural values and belongings (Li et al., 2014). Thus, this project aims to more deeply examine protective factors for anxiety and depressive disorders in adolescence and young adulthood by focusing on intra-personal (e.g., self-esteem, self-control, meaning in life), inter-personal (e.g., attachment relationships) and cultural variables.

At present, data collection includes participants from Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Italy, France, Poland, Russia, the UK, and the US. New collaborators are welcome!

The first results, which are not yet representative of the final sample, suggest considerable differences in anxiety and symptoms of depression as well as in the way adolescents and young adults rely on self and others to overcome stressors. More work is needed in this direction.

— How did your cooperation with HSE begin, and how has it evolved? Do you have any special plans to develop this cooperation further?

— My cooperation with HSE is quite new. It started this past April when I met Professor Sofya Nartova-Bochaver at the World Conference on Personality in Brazil. Since the beginning, our cooperation has been characterized by great enthusiasm in sharing ideas and projects. Professor Nartova-Bochaver and her team quickly joined our research, which aims to assess psychological well-being in a cross-cultural perspective. At the moment, they are collecting a sample of Russian university students. In the meantime, Professor Nartova-Bochaver is working to collect a sample of Russian adolescents.

Recently, a formal international cooperation agreement for research and academic purposes was signed between HSE and the University of Perugia. We are now working to develop a double degree programme in Psychology between our universities.

— Your cross-cultural comparison of psychological well-being is very interesting. What can you share with us? Are you ready to give a case study on Italy and Russia, for example?

— The main aspect that I would like to share with you is the richness of this collaboration – it’s not just academic or research cooperation with colleagues from abroad. Working on cultural meanings and cultural issues forces us to share, compare and discuss ourselves and our own cultural background. In my opinion, this is simply terrific!

Unfortunately, we are not able to compare Italian and Russian participants at the moment; however, Russian colleagues are working hard to collect a sample. I’m very optimistic we will have the first results very, very soon!

— What would you change in your own childhood if you could have such an opportunity?

— This is a tough question! I think I would start travelling at a younger age than I did.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, especially for HSE News service