FIU ReACH Lab | Research on Adolescent and Child Health
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Innovative scientists

The ReACH Lab is committed to understanding how problem behavior including alcohol and drug use develops among children and adolescents.


Identify early risk and protective factors

We aim to identify key biological, social, and individual risk and protective factors that contribute to alcohol and drug use so that youths ReACH their full potential.


Cutting-edge research

The ReACH Lab collaborates with fellow scientists and recruits diverse students who have a passion for learning and critical thinking.


Subjective norms as a mediator between exposure to online alcohol and marijuana content and offline use among adolescents

A new study conducted by ReACH Lab Graduate Student Julie V. Cristello, alongside ReACH Lab Director and ACE-Project Co-PI Dr. Elisa Trucco, ACE Project Co-PI Dr. Matthew Sutherland, and Dr. Dana M. Litt, explored the effects that social media had on adolescent substance use. It further explained how while adolescent substance use (SU) may be viewed as normative, SU can quickly escalate leading to consequences. Social media use may increase SU risk, as adolescents now spend over eight hours a day on screen media. Despite using social media to connect with others, adolescents also view depictions of glamorized SU (text or images) by both peers and influential figures. Exposure to online alcohol and marijuana content may impact subjective norms (i.e., injunctive or perceptions of approval and descriptive or perceptions of use) ultimately leading to increased offline SU. Data from a multi-wave project was collected to assess whether subjective norms mediated associations between exposure to alcohol and marijuana content by peers and influential figures on Instagram and Snapchat and offline SU. At Wave 1, participants were 264 adolescents (Mage = 14.91, 51% Female, 86% White, 85% Hispanic/Latino/a/x). Findings suggest that increased exposure to online alcohol and marijuana content was more consistently associated with injunctive norms, or perceptions of approval, than descriptive norms, or perceptions of use. Future research should examine which social media features (e.g., the like button) contribute to increased subjective norms. Overall, findings suggest that social media may strongly convey approval of SU behaviors rather than actual use.

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Alexithymia Mediates the Association between Childhood Trauma and Adolescent E-Cigarette Use

A new study conducted by ACE Project Graduate Assistants Benjelene Sutherland and Nilofar Fallah-Sohy, alongside ReACH Lab Director and ACE-Project Co-PI Dr. Elisa Trucco and ACE Project Co-PI Dr. Matthew Sutherland, explored the mediating effects of alexithymia (i.e., difficulties identifying and describing feelings) on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and e-cigarette use. Using data from the ongoing ACE Project, results found that emotional abuse and neglect predicted difficulty describing feelings, which in turn predicted e-cigarette use. Results may indicate that, due to the oftentimes social context of vaping, adolescents who experience difficulty describing feelings may vape to connect with peers. It may also be that the nicotine effects in the brain, which may serve to improve verbalization of emotions, may lead adolescents who are limited in describing their feelings as a result of prior adverse experiences to vape as a way to connect emotionally with others and emotions within themselves.

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Pathways to substance use: Examining conduct problems and parenting behaviors from preschool to adolscence

A new study conducted by ReACH Lab Graduate Student Megan M. Hare, alongside Samuel W. Hawes, Michelle Villar, Robert A. Zucker, and ReACH Lab Director Dr. Elisa Trucco, examined how child conduct problems (CP), parenting behaviors, and parents’ own antisocial behavior relate from preschool to adolescence and eventuate in substance use. Participants included 706 youth enrolled in the Michigan Longitudinal Study. A random intercept cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM) examined reciprocal associations between parenting practices, parents’ antisocial behavior, and child CP over time (waves 1-4) and how these factors contribute to adolescent alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use (wave 5). At the within-person level, negative parenting and parents own antisocial behavior had a strong influence in late childhood/early adolescence. Only child CP emerged as a significant predictor of substance use. Results highlight the importance of early intervention and the potential influence of parenting and child factors throughout development in the prevention of SU.

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We are seeking talented graduate students to start fall 2023!


The ReACH Lab is comprised of scientists committed to interdisciplinary and innovative research.

Elisa Trucco, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Nilofar Fallah-Sohy

Graduate Research Assistant

Manuel Bruzos

ReACH Lab Manager and Post-Bac Research Assistant

Julie Cristello, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Sarah Hartmann

Graduate Research Assistant

Megan Hare

Graduate Research Assistant

Benjelene Sutherland

ACE Project Graduate Research Assistant


  • ReACH Lab Graduate Student Publishes Article on E-Cigarette Assessment for Youth

    ReACH Lab graduate student, Sarah Hartmann, published an article titled “The e-cigarette assessment for youth—Revised (EAsY-R): Preliminary results of a pilot study of measure refinement via cognitive interviewing” in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.  Their study capitalizes on the lack of available measures that would allow for the comprehensive assessment of the quantity and frequency of vaping among high school and college-age youth, hence assisting in standardization across settings. The study used cognitive interviews from this age group (a sample of eight students between 15 and 24 years old) who use vapes in order to inform the preliminary development of such an assessment. The suggestions that the participants gave resulted in the refinement of assessed content type, updated categories and pictures of vaping devices, as well as updated and age-relevant terminology. What resulted from the study was the E-Cigarette Assessment for Youth Revised, which is a tool that could be used for standardizing examinations of the quantity and frequency of vaping behaviors among those who are in high school and college. ...

  • ReACH Lab Post-Bac Research Assistant and Lab Manager Presents at UF CARE 11th Annual Symposium and SRA 2024 Annual Meeting

    On April 8th, 2024, ReACH Lab’s post-bac research assistant and lab manager, Manuel Bruzos, presented a research poster at the UF CARE 11th Annual Symposium, at the University of Florida. The poster was titled “Revisiting Internalizing Pathways to Substance Use in the Era of Social Media” and examined the relationship between total social media checks, resistance to peer influence, generalized anxiety, and e-cigarette, marijuana, and alcohol use days. The findings showed support for the moderated mediation model such that the interaction between high total social media checks and low resistance to peer influence led to higher levels of generalized anxiety, which in turn led to more e-cigarette and marijuana use days, but not alcohol use days. Manuel Bruzos was also awarded the UF CARE annual symposium travel award that was funded by the Center for Addiction Research & Education, University of Florida.  On April 19th, Manuel Bruzos also presented a poster during the poster blitz section at the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) 2024 Annual Meeting. The 2024 annual meeting took place from April 18th-20th in Chicago, Illinois. The poster was titled “Acculturation Gap Conflict and Self-Control Mediates the Association Between Negative Affect and Sleep Problems for Hispanic/Latino(a) Adolescents” and examined the relationship between negative affect and sleep problems in a Hispanic/Latino(a) sample with acculturation gap conflict and low self-control as mediators. The findings supported the multiple regression serial mediation model in that higher levels of negative affect lead to more acculturation gap conflict, which in turn led to low self-control, and low self-control led to subsequent sleep problems. Manuel Bruzos was also asked to chair his section of the poster blitz. ...