Throughout the lifespan there are certain developmental transitions that appear to be particularly important for determining a person’s mental health. The transition from childhood to adolescence is especially important, as many serious mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse, emerge for the first time during or after this transition. In my research group, we use a developmental psychopathology approach to understand how children and adolescents are affected by the environments in which they grow up. We have especially focused on how family interactions and other aspects of the child’s environment that have been shown to increase risk for mental health problems (e.g., stress, abuse, socio-economic disadvantage) influence the child or adolescent’s emotional functioning and the development of the biological systems that undergird these emotions. The aim of this work is to not only shed light on the underlying causes of mental health and ill-health during these stages of life, but also to inform developmentally targeted approaches to prevention and early intervention, including studies focusing on sleep, parenting, and teen sexual and romantic relationships as modifiable risk factors for poor mental health. Through the Center for Digital Mental Health our work focuses on using mobile and wearable devices, and social media, to unobtrusively track and analyze behavior in order to detect mental health needs and provide adaptive, personalized interventions exactly when users need them.
Dr. Allen is not accepting new graduate students for Fall 2024.
Allen, N.B. & Sheeber, L.B. (2008). Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Woods, S., Allen, N.B., & Pantelis, C. (2009). The neuropsychology of mental illness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Selected Refereed Journal Articles:
Dahl, R.E., Allen, N.B., Wilbrecht, L. & Suleiman, A.B. (2018). Importance of investing in adolescence from a developmental science perspective. Nature, 554 (7693), 441-450.
Whittle, S., Vijayakumar, N., Simmons, J.G., Dennison, M., Schwartz, O.S., Pantelis, C., Sheeber, L., Byrne, M.L., & Allen, N.B. (2017). Role of positive parenting in the association between neighborhood social disadvantage and brain development across adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, 74 (8), 824-832. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.1558.
Patton, G.C., Sawyer, S.M., Santelli, J.S., Ross, D.A., Afifi, R., Allen, N.B., ... & Viner, R. (2016). Our future: A Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing. The Lancet, 387 (10036), 2423-2478.
Blake, M.J., Waloszek, J., Schwartz, O., Raniti, M., Simmons, J.G., Blake, L., Murray, G.W., Dahl, R., Bootzin, R., Dudgeon, P., Trinder, J., & Allen, N.B. (2016). The SENSE Study: Post intervention effects of a randomized controlled trial of a cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based group sleep improvement intervention among at-risk adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 4(12), 1039-1051.
Schwartz, O.S., Byrne, M.L., Simmons, J.G., Whittle, S., Dudgeon, P., Yap, M.B.H., Sheeber, L.B., & Allen, N.B. (2014). Parenting during early adolescence and adolescent onset Major Depression: A six-year prospective longitudinal study. Clinical Psychological Science, 2(3), 272-286.
Pfeifer, J. H., & Allen, N. B. (2012). Arrested development? Reconsidering dual-systems models of brain function in adolescence and disorders. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(6), 322–329.
Kuppens, P., Allen, N.B. & Sheeber, L. (2010). Emotional inertia and psychological maladjustment. Psychological Science, 21, 984-991.
Yap, M.B.H., Whittle, S., Yücel, M., Sheeber, L., Pantelis, C., Simmons, J., & Allen, N.B. (2008). Interaction of parenting experiences and brain structure in the prediction of depressive symptoms in adolescents. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65, 1377-1385.
Whittle, S., Yap, M.B.H., Yücel, M., Fornito, A., Barrett, A., Sheeber, L., & Allen, N.B. (2008). Prefrontal and amygdala volumes are related to adolescents’ affective behaviors during parent adolescent interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(9), 3652-3657.
Davey, C.D., Yücel, M. & Allen, N.B. (2008). The emergence of depression in adolescence: Development of the prefrontal cortex and the representation of reward. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32, 1-19.
Allen, N.B., & Badcock, P.B.T. (2003). The social risk hypothesis of depressed mood: Evolutionary, psychosocial, and neurobiological perspectives. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 887-913.
See additional research information: