Rebecca Schwartz-Mette has always been fascinated by the nuances of human nature and understanding why people do what they do. Now, drawing inspiration from her experiences and social interactions, the assistant professor of psychology is looking into the complex mechanics — the microsocial processes — of the peer relationships of children and adolescents.
Schwartz-Mette came to UMaine in 2015. Her research broadly focuses on the ways psychological problems and health-risk behaviors are influenced by interpersonal context — the needs, values or personality a person brings to an interaction.
In adolescence, friendships become very important. At the same time, youth are at increased risk for unhealthy behaviors, like self-injury or suicide. Schwartz-Mette is interested in understanding how constructs like contagion and co-rumination in friendships relate to these adjustment issues.
Schwartz-Mette has developed a community outreach program that works with local school districts and community organizations. The program provides training for teachers and school counselors, and consultations with school guidance departments. There also are presentations for students on a variety of issues.
From this outreach, her lab is gaining information about the unique needs of the state’s children. She hopes the research will give these schools a better sense of how their students are doing and, perhaps, will inform policy.
This year in her lab, Schwartz-Mette is testing school-based prevention and intervention programs, which help students develop stronger social skills and potentially prevent emotional adjustment problems.