Meet Our Researchers: Abigail Wulah
I’m Abigail, and I’m a research analyst at Child Trends whose work focuses on the well-being of Black children and families, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and early childhood education. My contributions to projects and research include project management, qualitative data analysis, technical assistance, and written publications.
Can you tell us about your primary research interest(s)?
I am interested in adolescent health, and I most heavily research young people’s sexual and reproductive health. My research covers various topics such as young parenting, comprehensive sexual education, and family planning, among others. I’m also interested in emerging topics such as adolescents’ identity formation in the age of social media, and how social media use affects their self-perception, mental health, and career planning. For example, I foresee studies in the next few decades about young people having parasocial relationships with celebrities, hyper- or self-sexualizing themselves through photo-editing and elective surgeries, and experiencing child-star syndrome from spending their youth as “influencers.”
What sparked your interest in adolescent sexual and reproductive health?
I taught at a high school in West Africa during my Peace Corps service. I was fascinated to learn that the majority of the students were parents—some with school-aged children attending the primary school next door. I was surprised to see that nearly half the female students in the seventh grade were pregnant. Before long, I started working with the local hospital to host family planning interventions. I also ran an afterschool health club that debunked a lot of wild myths and misinformation about sexual and reproductive health. I was the first female teacher in the school in quite some time, so it was an especially great opportunity for the female students to discuss topics they would have otherwise felt uncomfortable raising. This experience cemented adolescence as the sweet spot for my research focus on population health.
What books or journal articles have most influenced you?
Book-wise, my first thought is of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, by Joy DeGruy Leary. Reading this book opened my mind to how trauma can be culturally passed through generations and helped me reflect on which parts of African American culture stem from traumatic or healing experiences. I felt even more respect, empathy, and love for us as a people than I already did prior to reading. As for a journal article, I would say Completing the Demographic Transition, by John Bongaarts and Rodolfo A. Bulatao, was a foundational read in my demography days when I was first learning about population dynamics.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of research?
I am an amateur foodie and have been blogging to justify how much I spend eating out and cooking. If all goes well, my plan for 2023 is to blog about local African restaurants and mom-and-pop shops in my area since they’re less covered in travel and food blogs. In the same vein, I enjoy creating new recipes by blending aspects of different cultures into one dish. I will be adding those to the blog as well. Most recently, I attempted a soursop-ade (instead of lemonade) with family and friends. No one liked it! I’ve had a better track record with past dishes, however.
To wrap up, can you tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself or your family?
I have a little Yorkipoo named Kobazzie. (He’s named after a Liberian singer.) He is very “mini” and gets treated like a baby, because he is the first dog in my family. None of us know how else to respond to a small dog. I think he identifies as human because he ignores other dogs but thinks he can take on humans.