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Leah Lessard

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Connecticut
Chapter Member: Connecticut SSN
Areas of Expertise:
  • Education
  • Inequality

About Leah

Lessard's research focuses on how social experiences shape adolescent development. In particular, her work calls attention to social marginalization as an academic risk factor. Lessard has written extensively on peer relationships and contextual diversity as a mechanism to minimize achievement disparities during the middle and high school years. Her research offers multiple points of intervention to promote inclusion within schools so that all students have the opportunity to succeed.

Contributions

In the News

"Weight Diversity: A Stigma-Reduction Mechanism to Reduce Weight-Based Achievement Disparities," Leah Lessard (with Jaana Juvonen), Science Trends, April 24, 2019.

Publications

"Body Weight and Academic Achievement: The Role of Weight Diversity in Urban Middle Schools" (with Jaana Juvonen). School Psychology 34, no. 3 (2019): 253-260.

Finds weight-based achievement disparities are minimized in middle schools with greater exposure to diverse body shapes and sizes.

"Cross-Class Friendship and Academic Achievement in Middle School" (with Jaana Juvonen). Developmental Psychology 55, no. 8 (2019): 1666-1679.

Finds achievement disparities are greatest when students’ friendships are segregated by socioeconomic status (SES) and smallest when friendships bridge across socioeconomically dissimilar peers.

"Losing and Gaining Friends: Does Friendship Instability Compromise Academic Functioning in Middle School?" (with Jaana Juvonen). Journal of School Psychology 69 (August 2018): 143-153.

Finds students who experience frequent turnover in their friendships become increasingly disengaged and receive lower grades across middle school.

"Friendless Adolescents: Do Perceptions of Social Threat Account for Their Internalizing Difficulties and Continued Friendlessness?" (with Jaana Juvonen). Journal of Research on Adolesence 28, no. 2 (2018): 277-283.

Describes how adolescents without friends perceive greater threat (e.g., hostility, unsafety, aggression) at school, which contributes, in turn, to increased emotional distress (e.g., anxiety, depression) over time.