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

The ReACH Lab is committed to understanding how adolescent problem behavior, including substance use, develops and how it can be prevented.


Identify early risk and protective factors

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


Cutting-edge research

The ReACH Lab collaborates with community members in South Florida and recruits diverse scholars who have a passion for learning and critical thinking.


The E-cigarette Assessment for Youth-Revised (EAsY-R) 

This study utilized cognitive interviews with high school and college-age youth who use vaping devices to inform the development of such an assessment. The sample consists of eight students between the ages of 15 and 24 (Mage = 18.75, SD = 2.73, 62.5% female, 75.0% Hispanic/Latino/a/x, 100.0% White). Interviewing and measure refinement were conducted in a two-phase iterative fashion. Suggestions made during cognitive interviews resulted in the refinement of assessed content type, updated categories and pictures of vaping devices, as well as updated and age-relevant terminology. Further, instructions were streamlined, and assessment items and multiple-choice options were refined to maximize clarity and to minimize participant confusion. The result of this study, the E-Cigarette Assessment for Youth Revised, is a unique tool for standardizing examinations of the quantity and frequency of vaping behaviors among high school students and college-age youth.

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Mother-Child Dynamics: Examining Reciprocal Relations between Parental Knowledge, Child Disclosure, Parental Legitimacy Beliefs, and Adolescent Alcohol Use

Early adolescent alcohol use is associated with adverse developmental and health outcomes. Parental knowledge can prevent or delay substance use, while youth behaviors may concurrently influence parenting. More research is needed to examine the role of youth’s perceptions of legitimacy of parental authority. This multi-informant study examined prospective bidirectional effects between parental knowledge and child disclosure alongside youth-reported alcohol use and perceived legitimacy of parental authority. Data were analyzed across three waves in a community sample of 304 mother–child dyads. A cross-lagged panel model was estimated using repeated measures of adolescent alcohol use, perceived legitimacy of parental authority, parental knowledge, and child disclosure. Positive reciprocal associations were found in early adolescence between child disclosure and both parental knowledge and perceived legitimacy of parental authority. Legitimacy of parental authority negatively predicted alcohol use across adolescence. Child alcohol use also negatively predicted parental knowledge among mothers in later adolescence. Effects were not reciprocated nor sustained. Novel findings demonstrate that the parental legitimacy beliefs predict reduced alcohol use and have a reciprocal association with child disclosure. Clinical implications to mitigate youth alcohol use initiation, by enhancing parental self-efficacy and positive parenting, are discussed.

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Charting a Course for Empowered Adolescent Substance Use Treatment

Comments on an article by Meisel et al., which provides a critical update to a prior systematic review focused on mechanisms of behavior change in adolescent substance use treatment. There present authors offer some additional considerations regarding how and for whom adolescent substance use treatments are most efficacious. First, they propose other notable mediators that could be leveraged given the unique cognitive flexibility, prosocial contexts, and motivations that characterize adolescent from a strengths-based perspective. Second they examine how diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds of adolescents can impact the effectiveness of substance use treatments while offering unique mechanisms of behavior change for consideration. Lastly, they note subgroups that could influence which substance use treatment components are most relevant based on etiological pathways.

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We are seeking talented graduate students to start fall 2025!


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

Elisa Trucco, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Benjelene Sutherland

Graduate Research Assistant

Sarah Hartmann

Graduate Research Assistant

Ella Dial

Graduate Research Assistant

Nilofar Fallah-Sohy

Graduate Research Assistant

Manuel Bruzos

ReACH Lab Manager and Post-Bac Research Assistant


  • ReACH Lab Members Accepted into FIU’s Master’s Program

    ReACH Lab Manager, Manuel Bruzos, and former ReACH Lab RA, Byron Peña, were recently accepted to FIU’s Master’s Program in Professional Counseling Psychology. This program offers students a foundation in psychology and opportunities for specializing in a range of clinical problems and diverse populations! We are SO excited for you both and we wish you the best of luck in the program.  ...

  • ReACH Lab Welcomes Newest Member, Ella Diab

    The ReACH Lab is excited to welcome its newest lab member, Ella Diab. Ella will be joining the newest cohort of doctoral students in FIU’s Clinical Science in Child and Adolescent Psychology’s program in fall 2024....