Online app to develop positive affect in adolescents - Positive Approaches to Life: A Smartphone-Administered Self-Help Program for Adolescents
Psychological well-being has traditionally been viewed as the absence of psychopathology. However, there is an increasing focus on the development of psychological skills and resources, which may both promote psychological well-being and buffer the impacts of stress. There is a promising amount of research demonstrating that brief, positive, psychological interventions are effective in increasing psychological well-being and reducing psychopathology in individuals (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). While the mechanisms behind successful positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are not well understood, it has been posited that positive, intentional activities may effect change by increasing positive emotions, cognitions and behaviours, which in turn lead to positive psychological outcomes. These interventions have traditionally targeted adults, and thus substantially fewer interventions have been conducted with adolescent samples (Mitchell & VellaBrodrick, 2009). Additionally, successful programmes have often not been widely implemented due to high resource cost for therapists and teachers. Researchers have suggested it might be worthwhile to improve methodological designs by using nontraditional approaches of delivery, i.e. smartphones, for psychological interventions (Munoz, 2012). The present study was designed to: 1) to investigate whether a smartphone technology delivering positive, intentional activities had a significant influence on levels of well-being in an intervention group when compared to a control group; and 2) to construct a mediational model to inform the relationships between core constructs of psychological well-being and emotions (e.g., subjective happiness, adaptive coping, and resilience). The study included 72 participants, aged 10-15 years, who were recruited from six schools in the wider Wellington region. Participants operated a smartphone-based application that required them to complete four modules designed to cultivate positive emotions. Contrary to predictions, two multivariate repeated measures analyses of variance (MANOVA) indicated that participants who completed the app did not display increases in positive emotion or of positive psychological outcomes compared to the control group. The mediational model showed that adaptive resources might lead to greater psychological well-being in adolescents. In particular, the model indicated that higher adaptive coping resources lead to increased psychological well-being through the variable of increased resilience. These results indicate that adaptive coping strategies may play a key role in positive adolescent development. The limitations of the study are discussed and recommendations were made for future research to determine the efficacy of smartphone applications in psychological research with adolescents.