Promoting Teen Attachment & Development (PTAD) Lab
In the Promoting Teen Attachment and Development Lab, we study how attachment relationships during adolescence can promote healthy emotion regulation and well-being or contribute to the development of mental health difficulties. This research includes the development, implementation, and evaluation of interventions for adolescent depression that promote strong attachment relationships.
The developmental stage of adolescence represents a critical window of both risk and opportunity for emotional development and well-being. It is a developmental period that is marked by many physical, cognitive, and social changes. These changes are normative; however, they are also challenging, and they can affect adolescents’ emotional and social functioning.
The primary developmental task of adolescence is to achieve individuation, a process that requires adolescents to negotiate greater independence from parents while still maintaining a degree of closeness and intimacy. As adolescents experience greater independence, they are also exposed to a wider array of stressors. This increase in stressful events occurs at the same time that teens are also experiencing more ups and downs in their emotions - there are many changes that are occurring in brain development during adolescence, and the brain systems that are involved in regulating emotion are not yet fully matured. As a result, adolescents are at increased risk for mental health difficulties. Many mental health diagnoses emerge or increase in prevalence during adolescence, making this a critical developmental period for understanding not only how mental health difficulties develop, but also how to prevent and treat them.
Attachment theory proposes that the capacity to effectively regulate emotions develops within the context of secure attachment relationships. When securely-attached individuals experience distress, they seek comfort and regulation from an “attachment figure.” Attachment figures help individuals regulate their distress and regain a sense of security and emotional well-being.  During childhood, an attachment figure is most often a parent or close caregiver. During adolescence, the conceptualization of an attachment figure broadens to also include peers, romantic partners, and other significant relationships. The nature and quality of adolescents’ attachment relationships can have a profound impact on emotional development and mental health, making them critical targets of intervention.
Clarifying these attachment processes and developing effective interventions for promoting healthy relationships and emotions is the mission of our research lab.
Meredith Gunlicks-Stoessel, Ph.D., L.P.
University of Minnesota Medical School
Department of Psychiatry
Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
F256/2B West
2450 Riverside Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Phone: 612-273-9844
Fax: 612-273-9779