Title: Associate Professor, Clinical Psychology, Ph.D.
Office: Coffey Hall 341
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
B.A., Lawrence University
Website: IMPACT Lab
My research examines trajectories toward psychological well- and ill-being in adolescence and emerging adulthood. These pathways are illuminated in the context of developmental transition periods, such as puberty and school transitions (into middle school, high school, and college). I am also interested in gender issues, such as exploring the characteristics, contexts, and mechanisms that place adolescent girls and young women at elevated risk for internalizing problems, including depression, body image and eating disturbance, and anxiety. It is my hope that this program of research will inform family-, school-, and community-based interventions aimed at building resiliency in adolescents and emerging adults, in the face of normative and atypical developmental challenges.
Grounded in a developmental psychopathology perspective, my research examines the dynamic interplay between individuals and their developmental contexts over time, and the interacting contributions from multiple systems – biological, psychological, cognitive and social/interpersonal. Toward this end, my research has examined the contributions of individual factors (gender, pubertal development and timing, socio-cognitive styles) and interpersonal factors (peer stress, family relationships, relational styles, friendship values), as well as the interactional and transactional processes by which these factors relate to each other and to psychosocial distress.
My lab is currently focused on collecting and analyzing data from a multi-cohort, three-wave longitudinal study of psychosocial wellness among first-year college students (who are transitioning from late adolescence to emerging adulthood). This project has two major goals: (1) To examine the natural trajectories of mental health and psychosocial adjustment among students transitioning through their first year of college (which also serves the aim of establishing baseline / control for the second goal:), and (2) To test the effectiveness of a mental health promotion course in improving psychosocial adjustment among first-year college students. We have a wealth of data on various aspects of college student adjustment, including (a) mental health symptoms (stress, depression, anxiety, substance use, general psychological distress) (b) skills and strengths (coping, emotion regulation, cognitive styles, hopefulness, resilience), (c) psychosocial functioning (self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, quality of life in various domains), and (d) contextual factors (adjustment to college, stressful events, relationship satisfaction, family and other background variables). Our research on college student mental health relies on productive collaborations with programs and offices around the university (e.g., the Office of First Year Experience, the Wellness Center, student life and residential life); it is exciting to see the "real-world" applications and implications of this research right here at Loyola.
In a related project, our lab is collaborating with Joe Durlak, another member of our clinical psychology faculty, to conduct a systematic review of existing literature on mental health promotion and prevention programs for college students. We also are collaborating with Maryse Richards, another Loyola faculty member, on examining the fourth wave of data collection from her Youth and Adolescence Study (e.g., Larson, Moneta, Richards, & Wilson, 2002). This large, grant-funded project has produced many interesting findings and papers on adolescent development, but the data on the emerging adulthood developmental period remain largely untapped. Graduate students interested in this study are welcome to get involved. This is a great opportunity to work with a rich, complex, longitudinal data set that has already been collected.
In my experience, the most successful researchers strike a good balance between "zooming in" (being diligent and meticulously attentive to detail), and "zooming out" (envisioning big-picture ideas, being self-directed and inventive). Accordingly, my approach to mentoring graduate students in research combines top-down and bottom-up approaches: While I provide structure, support, and guidance for students, I also urge them to develop their own independent project ideas and research skills. I also encourage my students to take their research endeavors beyond the lab, by publishing in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at national conferences (such as SRA, SSEA, ABCT, APA, APS).
Conley, C.S., Durlak, J. A., & Kirsch, A.C. (in press). A meta-analysis of universal mental health prevention programs for higher education students. Prevention Science.
Conley, C. S. (2015). SEL in higher education. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of social and emotional learning: Research and practice (pp. 197-212). New York: Guilford.
Kirsch, A.C. Conley, C.S., & Riley, T. J. (in press). Comparing psychosocial adjustment across the college transition in a matched heterosexual and lesbian, gay, and bisexual sample. Journal of College Student Development.
Conley, C.S., Kirsch, A.,C. Dickson, D. A., & Bryant, F. B. (2014). Negotiating the transition to college: Developmental trajectories and gender differences in psychological functioning, cognitive-affective strategies, and social well-being.Emerging Adulthood, 2, 195-210.
Lee, C., Dickson, D. A., Conley, C. S., & Holmbeck, G. N. (2014). A closer look at self-esteem, perceived social support, and coping strategy: A prospective study of depressive symptomatology across the transition to college. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33, 560-585.
Andersson, M. A., & Conley, C. S. (2013). Optimizing the perceived benefits and health outcomes of writing about traumatic life events. Stress and Health, 29(1), 40-49.
Conley, C.S., Durlak, J. A., & Dickson, D. A. (2013). An evaluative review of outcome research on universal mental health promotion and prevention programs for higher education students. Journal of American College Health, 61(5), 286-301.
Conley, C. S., Travers, L. V., & Bryant, F. B. (2013). Promoting psychosocial adjustment and stress management in first-year college students: The benefits of engagement in a psychosocial wellness seminar. Journal of American College Health, 61(2), 75-86.
Conley, C. S., Rudolph, K. D., & Bryant, F. B. (2012). Peer stress mediates the longitudinal association between puberty and depression in girls. Development and Psychopathology, 24, 691-701.
Conley, C. S., & Rudolph, K. D. (2009). The emerging sex difference in adolescent depression: Interacting contributions of puberty and peer stress. Development and Psychopathology, 21, 593-620.
Andersson, M. A., & Conley, C. S. (2008). Expecting to heal through self-expression: A perceived control theory of writing and health. Health Psychology Review, 2, 138-162.
Rudolph, K. D., Caldwell, M. S., & Conley, C. S. (2005). Need for approval and children’s well-being. Child Development, 76, 309-323.
Rudolph, K. D., & Conley, C. S. (2005). The socioemotional costs and benefits of social-evaluative concerns: Do girls care too much? Journal of Personality, 73, 115-137.
Conley, C. S., Flynn, M., Caldwell, M. S., Dupre, A. J., & Rudolph, K. D. (2004). Parenting and mental health. In M. Hoghughi & N. Long (Eds.). Handbook of parenting: Theory, research, and practice. London: Sage Publications.
Conley, C. S., Haines, B. A., Hilt, L. M., & Metalsky, G. I. (2001). The Children’s Attributional Style Interview: Developmental tests of cognitive diathesis-stress theories of depression. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 445-463.
Rudolph, K. D., Kurlakowsky, K. D., & Conley, C. S. (2001). The developmental and social-contextual origins of control-related beliefs and behavior. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 447-475.