The Charger Blog

Psychology Major’s Research Explores Connection Between Relationships and Adolescent Deviance

Inspired by a criminology course she took, Isabelle Hajek ’22 conducted a project as part of her Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship that, she hopes, will eventually make a meaningful difference in reducing harmful adolescent behaviors.

September 15, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Isabelle Hajek ’22.
Isabelle Hajek ’22.

When Isabelle Hajek ’22 took a criminology course at the University of New Haven, she became fascinated by the relationship between parent and peer relationships and the impact of adolescent deviance. What she learned sparked even more questions – some of which had not yet been answered by research.

A psychology major, Hajek took the opportunity to find some of the answers herself through the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

Isabelle Hajek at an Office of Residential Life event.
Isabelle Hajek (second from right, middle row) at an Office of Residential Life day of service event at the Connecticut Food Bank.

As part of her project, she explored the relationship between the quality of parent and peer relationships on the likelihood of deviance. Her research focused on the emotional and communication aspects of relationships and how they impact adolescent behavior.

“Because the behaviors we focused on are harmful – not only to society but to the individuals externalizing them – I hope this research can provide the some of the missing pieces needed to reduce their occurrence,” she said. “Behaviors such as drug and alcohol use and abuse are difficult to remedy after they occur and, as such, understanding why they begin in the first place can aid in creating prevention programs and initiatives.”

Working closely with Kendell Coker, Ph.D., Hajek began by conducting background research into adolescent deviance and its connection to parent and peer relationships. She gained a deeper understanding of the current research in the field and decided how to structure her examination. She conducted a preliminary analysis to explore which strategies would be most appropriate for the data, then ran the analysis and explored the results.

Isabelle Hajek at University's Turkey Bowl.
Isabelle Hajek (bottom left) the Office of Residential Life’s Turkey Bowl on campus.

“Starting this project was a little intimidating because I had never done anything like this before,” said Hajek, who is also a resident assistant at the University. “Dr. Coker has been a great help and teacher throughout the process. When it comes to making decisions about analytics and variable selection, he always listens to what I have to say and makes me feel more like a colleague than a mentee.”

Hajak completed her project virtually due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and she says she had access to all the resources she needed to seamlessly complete her work. She is still finalizing her findings, and she plans to conduct more analysis on some of the emerging relationships.

“I have learned a lot about the process of research from working on this project,” she said. “I have never edited my own writing or rerun analytics more than while working on this project, and I have developed a great amount of patience with myself and my learning process. I have also gained greater statistical literacy in working on this research.”