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.
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Finds achievement disparities are greatest when students’ friendships are segregated by socioeconomic status (SES) and smallest when friendships bridge across socioeconomically dissimilar peers.
Finds weight-based achievement disparities are minimized in middle schools with greater exposure to diverse body shapes and sizes.
Finds students who experience frequent turnover in their friendships become increasingly disengaged and receive lower grades across middle school.
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.