Young adulthood just might be the most interesting and important time to study friendships. There are so many changes taking place in social networks and friendship groups as people move away for school, begin their careers, and invest in romantic relationships. Having good friends during this stage of life is also essential. Our friends help us figure out who we really are and what it is we want in life. They motivate us to reach our goals, make it easier to cope with life’s ups and downs, and shield us from mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depression. Even though we know that friendships are important well into adulthood, we actually know very little about what young adults can or should do to make and keep close friends.
This is where my research comes in.
Driven by my passion for psychology and the scientific study of human behaviour and relationships, my graduate research focuses on identifying:
1. The challenging situation young adults experience in their friendships.
2. The different ways young adults manage these situations.
3. Which of these responses are actually effective.
This work has allowed me to answer many of the questions we all have about young adult and adult friendships:
- Why are friendships so important for our emotional well-being?
- What is the best way to make new friends as an adult?
- How can we keep our friends close when we feel like we are growing apart?
- What should we say if we are really worried about a friend’s mental health?
- What should we do when a friend has betrayed our trust?
- How can we make it up to a friend when we have let them down?
I regularly present my work at national and international conferences and am passionate about sharing the results with academic audiences and the public. I also collaborate with the student residences at McGill University to improve undergraduate students’ well-being and relationships. Other areas of my research have included attachment, parenting, and youths’ prosocial and antisocial behavior, including lie-telling, aggression, and bullying.
My research has been generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Fond québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC). You can learn more about the research I am involved in with Dr. Melanie Dirks by following along on the Child & Adolescent Social Competence Lab website and Facebook page.