A mobile phone program to track young people’s experiences of mood, stress and coping

Development and testing of the mobiletype program
  • Sophie C. ReidEmail author
  • Sylvia D. Kauer
  • Paul Dudgeon
  • Lena A. Sanci
  • Lydia A. Shrier
  • George C. Patton



Research examining adolescent mood, stresses, and coping has tended to use retrospective questionnaires which are affected by recall biases. The aim of this study was to develop, pilot, and evaluate a youth-friendly mobile phone program to monitor, in real-time, young people’s everyday experiences of mood, stress, and their coping behaviours.

Method and design

A momentary sampling program was designed for mobile phones, and ran for 7 days, administering a brief questionnaire four random times each day, capturing information on current activity, mood, responses to negative mood, stresses, alcohol and cannabis use. Eleven high school students reviewed the program in focus groups, and 18 students completed 7 days of monitoring.


Engagement with the mobiletype program was high with 76% of 504 possible entries completed and 94% (17/18) of the participants reporting that the program adequately captured their moods, thoughts, and activities. The mobiletype program captured meaningful and analyzable data on the way young people’s moods, stresses, coping strategies, and alcohol and cannabis use, vary both between and within individuals.


The mobiletype program captured a range of detailed and interesting qualitative and quantitative data about young people’s everyday mood, stresses, responses, and general functioning.


mobile phone momentary sampling adolescents mood coping 



This study was supported by a research grant from The beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Related Disorders. We would like to thank Prof. Anthony Jorm and Dr. Judy Proudfoot for reviewing the manuscript prior to submission.


  1. 1.
    Axelson D, Bertocci MA, Lewin DS, Trubnick LS, Birmaher B, Williamson DE, Ryan ND, Dahl RE (2003) Measuring mood and complex behavior in natural environments: use of ecological momentary assessment in pediatric affective disorders. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 13:253–266PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cole PM, Michel MK, Teti LOD (1994) The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 59:73–102PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Collins R, Kashdan TB, Gollnisch G (2003) The feasibility of using cellular phones to collect ecological momentary assessment data: application to alcohol consumption. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 11:73–78PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gunthert KC, Cohen LH, Armeli S (2002) Unique effects of depressive and anxious symtomatology on daily stress and coping. J Soc Clin Psychol 21:583–609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hayward B, Alty C, Pearson S, Martin C (2002) Young people and ICT 2002: findings from a survey conducted in Autumn, 2002. In: Report commissioned by the British Department for Education and Skills.
  6. 6.
    Henker B, Whalen CK, Jamner LD, Delfino RJ (2002) Anxiety, affect, and activity in teenagers: monitoring daily life with electronic diaries. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 41:660–670PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hufford MR, Shields AL, Shiffman S, Paty J, Balabanis M (2002) Reactivity to ecological momentary assessment: an example using undergraduate problem drinkers. Psychol Addict Behav 16:205–211PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jorm AF, Griffiths KM, Christensen H, Parslow RA, Rogers B (2004) Actions taken to cope with depression at different levels of severity: a community survey. Psychol Med 34:293–299PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Larson R (1989) Beeping children and adolescents: a method for studying time use and daily experience. J Youth Adolesc 18:511–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Larson R, Csikszentmihalyi M (1983) The experience sampling method: new directions for methodology. Soc Behav Sci 15:41–56Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Larson R, Lampman-Petraitis C (1989) Daily emotional states as reported by children and adolescents. Child Dev 60:1250–1260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Leena K, Tomi L, Arja R (2005) Intensity of mobile phone use and health compromising behaviours-how is information and communication technology connected to health-related lifestyle in adolescence? J Adolesc 28:35–47PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mathews R (2004) Psychosocial aspects of mobile phone use among adolescents. In: InPsych Highlights (Report). Australian Psychological SocietyGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mezei G, Benyi M, Muller A (2007) Mobile phone ownership and use among school children in three Hungarian cities. Bioelectromagnetics 28:309–315PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mohr CD, Armeli S, Tennen H, Carney MA, Affleck G, Hromi A (2001) Daily interpersonal experiences, context, and alcohol consumption: crying in your beer and toasting good times. J Pers Social Psychol 80:489–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Piasecki TM, Huffor MR, Solhan M, Trull TJ (2007) Assessing clients in their natural environments with electronic diaries: rationale, benefits, limitations, and barriers. Psychol Assess 19:25–43PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ptacek J, Smith RE, Espe K, Rafferty B (2006) Limited correspondence between daily coping reports and retrospective coping recall. Psychol Assess 6:41–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Reid S, Kauer SD, Sanci LA, Patton GC (2007) Please turn your mobile on in our clinic: A mobile phone mental health monitoring program and website interface for detection and management of adolescent mental health in clinical settings. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 41:A499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schwartz JE, Neale JM, Marco CA, Shiffman S, Stone AA (1999) Does trait coping exist? A momentary assessment approach to the evaluation of traits. J Pers Soc Psychol 77:360–369PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Scriven M (1980) The logic of evaluation. Edgepress, Inverness/CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Shrier LA, Shih M-C, Hacker L, de Moor C (2007) A momentary sampling study of the affective experience following coital events in adolescents. J Adolesc Health 40:357.e351–357.e358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Silk JS, Steinberg L, Morris AS (2003) Adolescents’ emotion regulation in daily life: Links to depressive symptoms and problem behavior. Child Dev 74:1869–1880PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    StataCorporation (2005) Stata statistical software: Release 9.2. College Station (TX)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Stone AA, Schwartz JE, Neale JM, Shiffman S, Marco CA, Hickcox M, Paty J, Porter LS, Cruise LJ (1998) A comparison of coping assessed by ecological momentary assessment and retrospective recall. J Pers Soc Psychol 74:1670–1680PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Stone AA, Shiffman S, Schwartz JE, Broderick JE, Hufford MR (2003) Patient compliance with paper and electronic diaries. Control Clin Trials 24:182–199PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Todd M, Armeli S, Tennen H, Carney MA, Affleck G (2003) A daily diary validity test of drinking to cope measures. Psychol Addict Behav 17:303–311PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Todd M, Tennen H, Carney MA, Armeli S, Affleck G (2004) Do we know how we cope? Relating daily coping reports to global and time-limited retrospective assessments. J Pers Soc Psychol 86:310–319PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Whalen CK, Jamner LD, Henker B, Delfino RJ (2001) Smoking and moods in adolescents with depressive and aggressive dispositions: evidence from surveys and electronic diaries. Health Psychol 20:99–111PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Whalen CK, Jamner LD, Henker B, Delfino RJ, Lozano JM (2002) The ADHD spectrum and everyday life: Experience sampling of adolescent moods, activities, smoking, and drinking. Child Dev 73:209–227PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Woods B (2002) Linking up with wireless youths (March 1).

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie C. Reid
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sylvia D. Kauer
    • 1
  • Paul Dudgeon
    • 2
  • Lena A. Sanci
    • 3
  • Lydia A. Shrier
    • 4
  • George C. Patton
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Adolescent HealthMurdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children’s HospitalParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Dept. of PsychologyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Dept. of General PracticeUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Division of Adolescent/Young Adult MedicineChildren’s Hospital Boston, Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations