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Candice L. Odgers

Duke University

Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California Irvine
Research Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
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Research Focus
Candice Odgers’s research focuses on how social inequalities and early adversity influence children’s future health and well-being. She uses new technologies, including mobile phone surveys and wearable devices, to identify daily triggers of adolescent risk-taking and mental health problems. She also uses online tools to create high-resolution maps of children’s local neighborhoods and create “gene-to-geography” data archives to better understand children’s development in context. Her most recent work focuses on the effects of neighborhood-level income inequality on children’s behavioral, emotional and educational outcomes.

My plans for the fellowship period
During the fellowship I will focus on advancing science and policy in two areas. The first set of projects will focus on how the increasing “economic distance” (or levels of income inequality) between low-income children and their peers influences later health and social mobility. This work will focus on how children’s postal codes, genetic codes and their own perceptions of their social status translate into later wellbeing and health. All online and geospatial tools for this project will be made publically available to advance research and practice. The second set of projects will stem from the launch of a “Children in the Digital Age” initiative focusing on the use of mobile technologies as tools to better understand and intervene in the lives of adolescents. Intensive momentary assessments, wearable technologies and geospatial markers will be embedded in ongoing longitudinal studies to capture daily environmental and social triggers of adolescents’ health-risk behaviours, emotions and mental health. The influence of mobile technologies on the development of adolescents in the digital age will also be explored.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
Close to 90% of adolescents in the United States, and over three quarters of the world’s population now own, or have access to, a mobile phone. In medicine, mobile technologies are seen as having the power to revolutionize health care delivery, advance research, individualize treatment, and help to bring evidence-based interventions to scale. Unfortunately, most conversations about mobile technologies and young people have focused on fears surrounding their over usage versus on opportunities for positive social, emotional and physical development. As part of this fellowship, I will work with colleagues in computer and developmental science to harness the power of mobile devices for research and interventions targeting low-income and at-risk children and families. Powerful computing and communication tools held in the hands of many young people will be used to capture, understand and, ideally, improve the mental health and overall wellbeing of children and adolescents. The hope is that children and youth will benefit both indirectly, via advancements in science facilitated by these applications, and directly, through the receipt of more effective, accessible and individually tailored interventions.

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