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Faculty Research

Sharon Christ

  • Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Dr. Christ’s work focuses on the effects of maltreatment (abuse and neglect) during childhood and adolescence on adolescent well-being and development. A particular focus is on the question of how adolescent involvement in formal and informal groups outside the family impact development and may mitigate the negative impacts of maltreatment.

    Dr. Christ has also been studying how employment and the characteristics of employment during adolescence and young adulthood impact the health and well-being of individuals over the life course.
  • Methodology: Dr. Christ’s methodological work is quantitative and focuses on structural equation modeling (SEM) and hierarchical (HLM) or mixed-effects modeling, especially longitudinal models of development. Particular interests are in measurement, missing data, and complex sample data analysis. Her work is centered on the accommodation of complex sample design features in SEM and HLM including probability weighting. She is also applying generalized linear structural equation modeling (GLSEM) methodologies to her work in adolescent well-being and development. 

Aryn Dotterer

  • Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Dr. Dotterer's work in this area examines the development of ethnic/racial identity, school transitions, academic achievement and school engagement, and parent-adolescent relationship quality. 
  • Diversity and Culture: Dr. Dotterer is interested in child development and parent-child relationships among low-income and ethnic minority families. Her work examines racial, gender, and achievement socialization in African American families; relations between discrimination at school and school engagement among African American and Latino adolescents; and parenting practices and school readiness among African American, Latino, and European American children.
  • Relationships: Dr. Dotterer studies parent-child relationships from early childhood through late adolescence. She examines race and SES differences in parenting beliefs and parent-child interactions and their links to school readiness. She also examines parent-child relationships in adolescence including changes in relationship quality during adolescence and socialization practices (race and achievement). Dr. Dotterer is interested in the links between parent-child relationships and adolescent academic achievement and school engagement.

James Elicker

  • Early Childhood: Dr. Elicker is investigating child care quality and young children's development in early care and education contexts. (Evaluation of Child Care Quality Rating Systems; Child Care Quality and Child Outcomes in Low Income Working Families) 
  • Relationships: Dr. Elicker is investigating the nature and developmental influences of teacher-caregiver relationships with infants and toddlers in early childhood programs. (Early Head Start; Tuning In)

Melissa Franks

  • Biobehavioral Processes: In her research on marital interactions in the context of chronic illness management, Dr. Franks explores biobehavioral processes as intervening mechanisms in, and as markers of, anticipated linkages among social and health lifestyle behaviors of each partner and the health behaviors, physical health and well-being outcomes of the other. Her current work includes innovative nutrition assessments of both married partners in daily management of diabetes and is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Carol Boushey from the University of Hawaii, Cancer Center.   
  • Adult Development and Aging: Dr. Franks' research focuses on dyadic processes of married couples managing chronic illness in middle and late life.
  • Families, Development and Health: Dr. Franks' research focuses on the ways in which a spouse's involvement in the day-to-day management of her or his partner's chronic illness affects the health and well-being of both married partners. In her research, Dr. Franks also investigates correspondence in health behaviors between married partners, and the influence of this correspondence on their marital interactions and on their individual health and well-being.

Doran French

Elliot Friedman

  • Adult Development and Aging: Dr. Friedman’s research examines the biological imprints of challenges and life transitions in middle aged and older adults as well as the protective influences of social and psychological resources. Healthy/successful aging is a central focus of this work.
  • Biobehavioral Processes: Dr. Friedman’s research focuses on physiological regulation in older adults as a function of social, psychological, and behavioral factors interacting over time.
  • Families, Development, and Health: Links between both positive and negative aspects of familial and other social relationships and biological and behavioral processes related to health are central to Dr. Friedman’s research.

Blake Jones

  • Adolescence and Young Adulthood:  Risk for obesity increases during certain stages of childhood and adolescence, and the majority of those who become obese during these critical times often remain obese into adulthood. Dr. Jones is interested in understanding how to prevent obesity throughout childhood and adolescence and to help adolescents establish healthy routines that will promote health throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
  • Biobehavioral Processes:  Dr. Jones is interested in how stress and physiological reactivity are related to obesity. His work examines the mechanisms by which stress and physiological reactivity influence food consumption, consistency of daily patterns and routines, and food choices and preferences that relate to chronic exposure to stress.
  • Diversity and Culture:  Obesity, sleep, and other health disparities are disproportionately higher in certain at-risk populations. Dr. Jones examines child obesity and health outcomes in minority families, families with low-incomes, and single-parent families to better understand the unique challenges that these families face. He is also interested in how cultural differences relate to the strengths and resiliency that are demonstrated by many at-risk families.
  • Early Childhood:  Early childhood is a critical time for establishing healthy habits and behaviors. Factors predicting long-term obesity and sleep deficits are often seen in early childhood. Unfortunately, problems with obesity and sleep deficits in early childhood are often stable and predict long-term problems with these issues. Dr. Jones is interested in child obesity prevention, and works with parents, child-care workers, and teachers to understand how to promote health and prevent obesity in young children.
  • Families, Development and Health:  Dr. Jones examines child obesity and health in relation to family processes and daily routines in the home. His research is built on family systems and ecological systems theories that emphasize the collaborative influences of family members on one another. The family and home environment directly influence child development and health on a daily basis. Dr. Jones seeks to understand how the daily choices of parents and children affect their health and well-being over time.
  • Relationships:  Dr. Jones’ research focuses on the influences that parent-child relationships have on child obesity and health outcomes. For example, Dr. Jones examines the influence of relationships and communication that occur during daily routines such as family mealtimes and preparation for bedtimes. Understanding parent-child relationships is critical to understanding the development of child obesity, as well as how to inform our efforts for child obesity prevention.
  • Work-Family:  Parents spend a significant amount of their lives in the workplace. Just as personal and family life can affect one’s performance in the workplace, paid work can influence personal and family outcomes in the home. Dr. Jones examines how parent and child obesity, sleep, health, and well-being are impacted by work schedules, workplace flexibility, dual-earner couples, and how parents balance work and family life.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth

  • Adult Development and Aging: One of the primary contexts within which adult development occurs is the workplace. Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth's research has examined connections between work conditions and adult expressions of generativity, or investments in caring for and maintaining the larger society. 
  • Families, Development and Health: Stressful experiences at work have been linked to a variety of health-related behaviors. Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth is interested in connections between work stressors and psychological and physical well-being.
  • Relationships: Many marriages are affected by events that occur in the partners' workplaces. Workers' experiences affect not only their own well-being, but reverberate within the marital relationship. Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth's recent research considers the impact of deployment on marital dynamics.
  • Work-Family: Other than home, the workplace is the setting where adults spend most of their time. Work conditions influence many aspects of family life, and Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth's research focuses on how challenges and opportunities at work are linked to individual and family well-being. In recent years, this research has been conducted in both military and civilian settings.

Germán Posada

  • Diversity and Culture: Attachment theory suggests that attachment relationships is a universal phenomenon that is sensitive to context. Dr. Posada's research investigates central propositions of the theory through studies that include cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and cross-SES explorations and comparisons to test the generality and specificity of attachment relationships processes.  
  • Relationships: Dr. Posada's research focuses on the development of child-parent attachment relationships in infancy and early childhood. It includes both behavioral and representational issues, as well as contextual influences in the development of such relationships. Longitudinal observational methodologies in naturalistic settings are emphasized.

Douglas Powell

  • Early Childhood: Early literacy and language skills provide an important foundation for later school success, including reading competence. Dr. Powell's research focuses on the development and evaluation of professional development interventions with pre-kindergarten teachers aimed at enhancing the early literacy and language development of at-risk preschoolers.

David Purpura

  • Early Childhood: Dr. Purpura’s research focuses on understanding the development of early mathematical concepts and behavioral problems. Specifically, he is interested in investigating how these domains, and other factors, interact across early development.
  • Methodology: Dr. Purpura’s methodology interests focus on academic and behavioral assessment development. He has placed a particular emphasis on utilizing Item Response Theory to develop reliable, valid, and efficient measures of children’s mathematical skills and behavioral problems.

Sara Schmitt

  • Early Childhood:  Dr. Schmitt’s research focuses on optimizing young children’s development, particularly during the early childhood years. Specifically, she studies factors that support children’s school readiness, with an emphasis on self-regulation, executive function and early academic skills. In particular, she is interested in the role of early care and education experiences and family stability in preparing children for kindergarten entry. In addition, she develops and evaluates interventions that strengthen school readiness skills for children from disadvantaged families.
  • Diversity and Culture:  Dr. Schmitt’s research investigates academic achievement disparities among children from underrepresented and at-risk populations. She is interested in the effects of poverty, cultural and linguistic diversity, residential mobility, rurality, and child welfare involvement on young children’s school readiness. Her work also explores factors that protect children from the adverse effects of these risk factors.

A.J. Schwichtenberg

  • Biobehavioral Processes: Dr. Schwichtenberg is interested in infant physiological regulation. She assesses infant sleep and daytime regulation using standard (e.g., actigraphy) and no-contact technology. She is interested in how physiological regulation influences developmental trajectories in typically developing children and in children with developmental concerns (e.g., autism spectrum disorders).
  • Families, Development and Health: Optimal sleep is a critical element of development for all children. Dr. Schwichtenberg's research addresses several aspects of infant sleep development including child physiological regulation, parent-child bedtime settling behaviors, and family sleep choices. Dr. Schwichtenberg also has a strong interest in the sleep behaviors of children with and at-risk for autism spectrum disorders.

    Early Autism identification is the primary goal of Dr. Schwichtenberg’s current research project. Using new technologies to assess infant development across a number of domains (e.g., physiological regulation, sleep, language, social skills), Dr. Schwichtenberg and the Developmental Studies Laboratory team are following a cohort of infants from 6 to 36 months of age to identify the earliest behavioral signs of autism spectrum disorders.

Cleveland Shields

  • Families, Development and Health: Health concerns are central to family life across the developmental spectrum. Dr. Shields' research examines how couples and families manage the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Along with his students, they study family communication and its effect on adjustment. They also study how patients' and family members' communication with healthcare providers affects their mental health and quality of life.

Zoe Taylor

  • Adolescence and Young Adulthood:  Dr. Taylor’s research examines psychological, environmental, and biological processes that contribute to social and emotional development during the transition from middle childhood into early adolescence. In particular, she focuses on positive dispositional characteristics, as well as parenting behaviors, that are linked to positive development and competence in youth.
  • Biobehavioral Processes:  Dr. Taylor is interested in individual differences in physiological reactivity and regulation in response to stress, and their relations to both risk and resilience. She is particularly interested in exploring how physiology interacts with family processes and other individual characteristics in relation to social and emotional adjustment.
  • Diversity and Culture:  Dr. Taylor’s research examines family functioning and children’s social-emotional development in underrepresented populations such as Hispanic families and single-parent families. In particular, she examines factors that help buffer parents and their children from
    environmental adversity (e.g. economic hardship), and that are associated with positive family processes and competence.
  • Families, Development and Health:  Dr. Taylor is interested in biological, environmental, and individual processes that are related to positive adjustment and psychological health in families and their children. Her work explores how factors such as social support, dispositional optimism, and family relationships, contribute to psychological and physiological adjustment.
  • Relationships:  Dr. Taylor examines how family relationships (e.g. quality of parent-child relations, marital relationships) relate to social and emotional competence in children and adolescents. She also examines links between social support and social bonds in relation to psychological well-being and family adjustment.

Shawn Whiteman

  • Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Dr. Whiteman's research examines the family processes related to youth's family relationships and individual adjustment from adolescence into early adulthood. He is particularly interested in how siblings directly and indirectly influence each other's attitudes, behaviors, and personal qualities during this period.   
  • Families, Development and Health: One of Dr. Whiteman's emerging interests is how siblings influence one another's health risk behaviors in adolescence and early adulthood. Specific attention is paid to processes by which older siblings influence their younger brothers' and sisters' alcohol and substance use.
  • Relationships: Dr. Whiteman's research examines the direct and indirect ways siblings influence family relationships and individual adjustment. A related secondary interest is the application of different research methodologies to the study of family relationships.