Graffiti in the cityscape of Jena


Graffiti in the cityscape of Jena
Image: Karina Weichold

The current research projects at the Department of Youth Research relate to the basic research and its application under the umbrella of developmental science. In basic research, studies focus on the analysis of individual and contextual developmental mechanisms to positive (e.g., social competence, life satisfaction, self-efficacy) and negative adaptation (such as substance abuse, delinquency, depressive symptoms) during childhood, adolescence (especially puberty), and early adulthood. The aim is to identify the specific developmental mechanisms under a biopsychosocial and cultural sensitive paradigm. Findings are directly applied to the development, evaluation and implementation of prevention measures to combat adaptation problems and to promote positive developmental pathways in children and adolescents. Thereby, effective programs are distributed into practice, accompanied by implementation research.

Current Research Projects

  • Positive Youth Development during and after the Corona-Crisis (PYD Corona)

    Undoubtedly, the current Corona-Crisis is globally a unique example of a comprehensive societal, economic, and social change with rapid and serious consequences for every individual. The aim of the current study is to investigate the effects of this specific crisis situation, associated with the closing of schools, home-schooling, and contact prohibitions, on psychosocial adaptation in adolescents. Thirteen-year-olds were investigated right before school closings with regard to developmental assets, positive development and problem behaviors (“PYD-Study“; Wave 1; N=800). Now, they will be contacted after schools move into (partial) presence schooling (“PYD-Corona-Study”, Wave 2). We plan to investigate (1) problems of adolescents during the time of school-closings and their coping behaviors; (2) change in positive and negative developmental outcomes across the time of school-closings; and (3) the specific personal and contextual factors that contributed to positive or negative changes in adaptation across the time of school-closings. The results of this study are not only aimed at mapping the consequences of the Corona-Crisis on adolescents, but also at informing prevention and intervention going forward, e.g. in the school context, with applications to broader contexts.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichmann
    Dr. Anja Blumenthal

    Student Assistant
    Pauline Endler

  • The Meaning of Puberty in Adolescents from Different Cultures (Puberty x Culture Study)

    Puberty is a universal milestone at the begin of adolescence that relates to the biological and bodily changes of humans with the aim of physical and sexual maturation. Puberty can lead to psychological and social consequences in boys and girls that may vary between cultures. The aim of the current project is to investigate and compare boys and girls in 16 countries at different parts of the world regarding their own reflections on puberty and relating physical changes, the accompanying reactions from proximal social contexts, and their own psychosocial adaptation. In addition, it will be studied, how different facets of culture (e.g., values, coming-of-age rites, or beauty ideals) influence the relationship between puberty and positive or negative psychosocial adaptation.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold

    Research Associate 
    Nora Fehmer, M. Sc.

    International Cooperation Partners

    Karolina Hansen, University of Warsaw, PolandExternal link

    Neringa Grigutytė, Vilnius University, LithuaniaExternal link

    Polina Stoyanova, Bremen University, GermanyExternal link

    Maria Manuela VeríssimoExternal link & Antonio José dos SantosExternal link, ISPA-Instituto Universitário, Portugal

    Sheriffa Mahama, University of Ghana, GhanaExternal link

    Eunice Njeri Mvungu, Kenyatta University, KenyaExternal link

    Aysen Güre, Ankara University, TurkeyExternal link

    Emadaldin Ahmadi, Frierich Schiller University Jena, GermanyExternal link

    Deepali Sharma, Manchester Global Foundation, UK

    Biao Sang, East China Normal University, ChinaExternal link

    Misaki Natsuaki, University of California Riverside, USAExternal link

    Pollyane Diniz, Victoria University of Wellington, New ZealandExternal link

    Ivanna Noelia Abad Melendez, Friedrich Schiller University Jena

    Téa Gogotishvili, St Andrew Georgian University, GeorgienExternal link

  • Beauty Ideals, Media, and Puberty (Puberty x Culture Study_update)

    Social (and by extension cultural) factors are of relevance for the effects of puberty on the development of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. During puberty boys and girls receive feedback from their social environment (family, peers, school). Emotional and behavioral problems during puberty would be particularly pronounced if, for example, the family is scarcely supportive and characterized by low closeness, or if young boys and girls received ambivalent feedback to their physical changes from the family and peer context (contextual amplification). Based on the Puberty x Culture Study (LINK), the current study aims to investigate explicitly the context variables beauty ideal and media – and how these moderate/influence the relationship between puberty and positive or negative psychosocial adaption. Therefore, quantitative and qualitative data on 13yr.old girls and boys will be gathered together with cooperative partners in seven countries, and compared between the different countries (Africa: Ghana, Kenya; Asia: China, India; America: USA; Europe: Germany, Lithuania).

    Project Coordination
    apl. Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold de
    Nora Fehmer, M. Sc. de

    International cooperative partners
    Dr. Misaki Natsuaki, University of California Riverside, USAExternal link
    Dr. Neringa Grigutytė, Vilnius University, LitauenExternal link
    Dr. Deepali Sharma, Manchester Global Foundation, UK
    Dr. Sheriffa Mahama, University of Ghana, GhanaExternal link
    Dr. Eunice Njeri Mvungu, Kenyatta University, KeniaExternal link
    Prof. Biao Sang, East China Normal University, ChinaExternal link

    Research fellowship of the Federal State of Thuringia (Landesgraduiertenstipendium ThüringenExternal link) awarded to Nora Fehmer (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

    Working title:
    The meaning of puberty in the development of emotional and behavior problems in boys and girls from different cultures – moderated by beauty ideals and media.

    Academic supervisors:
    apl. Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
    Prof. Dr. Bärbel KrackeExternal link, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

  • Positive Youth Development in a Cross-National Perspective

    Research on positive developmental outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, engagement) gained more importance in youth research during the past decades. The concept of Positive Youth Development (PYD) states that positive outcomes (the „5 C’s“: Competence, Confidence, Character, Connection, Care) result from an interplay of developmental assets within the person but also in their contexts. The current project seeks to investigate the status of internal and external developmental assets in German youth, and their relationship to positive and negative developmental outcomes. Therefore, adolescents aged 13 to 15 years are studied based on questionnaire data. Based on the findings of this study, a long-term goal of the current project is to develop intervention measures to reduce possible deficits in developmental assets to promote positive developmental pathways across adolescence. The project is part of an international research endeavor, coordinated by the University of Bergen, Norway. Analogous data collections are coordinated in various other countries, and data will be compared between these countries.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold

    Cooperation partner (lead)
    Nora WiiumExternal link, University of Bergen, Norway

    List of international cooperation partners link

  • Crystal Meth Consumption in Adolescents and Young Adults: Prevalence and Risk

    Crystal is a psychoactive substance with massive negative consequences and high addiction potential which became more prevalent in Germany during the past years, and, according to media reports, especially in schools and universities. Unfortunately, there is limited empirical evidence on the concrete prevalence rates and the associated risk factors. Current studies at the Department of Psychology step in here and try to identify consumption rates in adolescents and young adults in the Eastern part of Germany and risk groups for the misuse of Crystal Meth. Therefore, anonymous questionnaire assessments were conducted in schools within Thuringia and Saxony. Moreover, students of various universities participated in internet-based assessments. Finally, in-depth qualitative data were gathered on risk populations, such as mothers who consume(d) Crystal Meth.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold
    Dr. Anja Blumenthal

  • Long-term Evaluation of the Prevention program IPSY

    IPSY (Information + Psychosocial competence = Protection) is a school-based Life Skills program against substance misuse. The aim of the program is to facilitate children with basic life skills to decrease the likelihood for substance misuse in adolescence. The program has been positively evaluated at the University of Jena by applying a longitudinal intervention- and control group design. Moreover, other research teams in Austria and Italy successfully implemented and tested the program (see IPSY web page de). The aim of this project is to investigate if the participation in the IPSY program during childhood has effects on psychosocial adaptation up to early adulthood. The German school-based study was conducted in the federal state of Thuringia. Since 2013, the sample was contacted on an individual level for follow-ups 10 and 13 years after program implementation (7th and 8th wave of data collection, ages 20 and 23). Already at the 10-year follow-up, long-term effects on substance use, skills, and life satisfaction were observed. The following waves of data collection seek to validate these effects, and to compare problematic substance use behavior between the intervention and control group via diagnostic criteria.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichmann
    Dr. Anja Blumenthal

    Learn more de
  • Implementation of the Prevention Program IPSY in Germany

    IPSY de (Information + Psychsocial Competence = Protection) is a school-based, universal, and primary preventive Life Skills Program to combat the misuse of psychoactive substances. The IPSY program consists of three parts for students from grade 5 to 7 (ages 11-13). The content in grade 5 (basic program) focuses on the training of basic inter-and intrapersonal Life Skills. In the following programs parts (booster sessions) learned skills are applied to and interactively trained within every-day-situations. IPSY is facilitated by trained teachers or social workers based on a detailled manual. Since 2003, the program IPSY was developed and evaluated at the University of Jena, and ist effectiveness has been demonstrated (see Weichold & Silbereisen, 2014). IPSY is recommended as a highly effective program for wider implementation (CTC-Grüne Liste PäventionExternal link). From 2015 to 2018 the program has been systematically implemented in the Federal State of Thuringia. Thereby, a total of 250 paedagogics from 140 schools were trained to facilitae the program and they received all materials to plement the program in their schools plus intensive supervision for free. The aim of the current project is to disseminate the program in all Federal States of Germany. Since 2018, we offer continuosly facilitator workshops, materials, and supervision in all Federal States of the country. For applications and expressions of interest please visit the IPSY program homepage de. The project is accompanied by an ongoing study to investige the factors predicting an effective and sustained implementation of the program within schools.

    Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold

    Research Associates
    Dr. Anja Blumenthal
    Anne Kilian M. Sc.

    Financial Support
    Techniker KrankenkasseExternal link (2018 – 2023)
    Techniker KrankenkasseExternal link (2024 – 2028)


  • Characteristics of high quality comprehensive school-based prevention and promotion curricula

    German schools are obliged to implement strategies to prevent negative and promote positive developmental outcomes in children, adolescents, and young adults. There is a huge variety of targeted problem and positive behaviors that need to be addressed (e.g., addictive behavior, (cyber)bullying, violence, mental health, social competencies, democratic values). Based on effective, theoretical and evidence-based approaches we argue that these prevention and promotion goals can and should be pursued in an integrated manor: Strengthening personal and social competencies in and improving young people’s living conditions enables children and adolescents to adequately deal with challenges in an age-appropriate way. This in turn reduces the risks of developing problems and increases the chances of active contributions in democratic societies. In order to fulfill this important task, schools need to develop curricula that define and integrate their prevention and promotion related goals, general conditions, and concrete measures, and that guide subsequent behavior. However, without adequate and evidence-based guidelines and qualifications schools often do not have the expertise to (further) develop such comprehensive curricula. Within this project, we want to provide school personnel with an evidence-based guideline for developing and establishing high quality comprehensive school-based prevention and promotion curricula.

    Dr. Anja Blumenthal
    apl. Prof. Dr. Karina Weichold

    Financial Support
    Deutsches Forum für Kriminalprävention (DFK) & Bundesministerium der Justiz
    [German Forum for Crime Prevention (DFK) & German Federal Ministry of Justice]