Principal Investigator: Katherine Ehrlich
Funding Agencies: NICHD
Project Period: 1993 –2024
What influences affect psychological adjustment, allostatic load, and substance use among rural African Americans as they make the transition into adulthood?
For nearly three decades, the Strong African American Families Healthy Adult Project (SHAPE) has followed a cohort of rural African American youth from age 11 into young adulthood for investigations of risk, resilience, and development. Findings from the first decade of the study were influential in identifying and documenting naturally occurring factors in family and community networks that promoted rural African American youths’ mental and emotional well-being as well as deterred youths’ conduct problems and substance use. This work was translated into the Strong African American Families program, a 7-week family-based intervention that is now being disseminated in dozens of communities across the country. More recent investigations have focused on the physical health of participants and a growing body of evidence indicates that stressful experiences in adolescence and emerging adulthood become embedded in cells and have longer term health consequences. Our efforts to understand “how stress gets under the skin” and affects health trajectories into adulthood continue as participants enter their fourth decade of life. A primary purpose of this research is to identify factors that contribute to more positive weathering of stressors and support greater well-being and longer, healthier living.