Meghan Costello

John S. Lillard Jefferson Fellow
B.A. University of Virginia (2016) with Highest Distinction
M.A. University of Virginia (2020)
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences


Meghan’s dissertation, “Building Good Friends: Identifying and Harnessing Strengths of Supportive Adolescents,” focuses on promoting quality supportive relationships for adolescents and young adults. Adolescence is a developmental period marked by intense physical, emotional, and social changes. Although the teenage years have been acknowledged as a formative time period for decades, research has recently identified potentially lifelong implications of social experiences that occur during this life stage. Lacking supportive connections with peers, in particular, has been highlighted as a key risk factor for the development of mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression as well as physical ailments such as chronic inflammation, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. As the link between social development and lifelong functioning becomes increasingly clear, it highlights a two-pronged need that will be addressed through the research. In order to promote quality supportive relationships for adolescents and young adults, the research will target (1) an improved understanding of relationship development and peer support in adolescence and (2) the development of peer group programs that capitalize on the relation between social connection and well-being and are deliverable to adolescents on a broad scale.

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