The Pediatric Health Promotion and Maintenance Lab

As part of the KU Clinical Child Psychology Program, the Pediatric Health Promotion and Maintenance Lab is dedicated to the application of behavioral science to promote child and adolescent health. The lab is organized and directed by Dr. Ric Steele, a member of the faculty of the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral graduate program at the University of Kansas.  Dr. Steele’s program of research is broadly concerned with the promotion of physical and mental health in children, adolescents, and families across a continuum of health risk categories.  This work has included examination of risk for pediatric obesity and overweight, predictors and correlates of adherence to medical regimens, and issues related to the measurement and prediction of health-related quality of life. 

In 2018 we began recruiting for a study to further develop a measure of digital stress for adolescents and young adults.  Digital stress has been defined as the “stress and anxiety that accompanies notifications from or use of social media.”  Empirical studies have suggested small but significant associations between social media use and depression/anxiety/poor quality of life among adolescents and young adults.  Some studies have suggested that digital stress mediates (explains) the association between social media use and negative outcomes. 

Oure recent work includes a conceptual model of digital stress that addresses five pathways by which digital stress might impact adolescent well-being: Approval Anxiety, Availability Stress, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), Connection Overload, and Online Vigilance, as well as a measurement paper that examines the validity and reliability of our Digital Stress Scale.  Most recently, we have also examined the associations among these five components of digital stress and psychological well-being in a large meta-analysis.  

Our ongoing work seeks to examine person-specific variables that may impact the degree to which social media use is associated with well-being or distress.  

Get Involved!

We are currently recruiting for studies that will help us understand the mechanisms by which digital stress might influence adolescents' quality of life.

If you are interested in participating in our digital stress studies, please email for more information.

If you are a student enrolled at KU and wish to assist with ongoing research in this area, please contact Dr. Ric Steele.

Digital Learning Photo

Graduate and Undergraduate students are encouraged and expected to present findings at conferences and conventions, and in peer-referred journals. Please see below for some representative publications from the lab:

Steele, R.G., Hall, J., & *Christofferson, J. (2020).  Conceptualizing digital stress in adolescents and young adults: Development of an empirically based model. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 23(1), 15-26.  doi:  10.1007/s10567-019-00300-5

*McGuire, A., Steele, R.G., & *Singh, M. (2021). Systematic review of the application of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for preschool-age children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 24(1), 20-37. doi: 10.1007/s10567-020-00334-0  

Hall, J.A., Steele, R.G., *Christofferson, J.L., & *Mihailova, T. (2021). Development and initial evaluation of a multidimensional Digital Stress Scale. Psychological Assessment,33(3), 230-242. doi: 10.1037/pas0000979.

Steele, R.G., *Khetawat, D., *Christofferson, J., & Hall, J.A. (2023). Concurrent and predictive validity of self-reported social media use: Associations with objective data and psychosocial functioning.  Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 45(1), 97-108. doi:: 10.1007/s10862-022-10013-9

*Khetawat, D., & Steele, R.G. (2023).  Examining the association between digital stress components and psychological wellbeing: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. doi: 10.1007/s10567-023-00440-9


* indicates graduate student author/co-author