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Faculty Research

Sharon Christ

Adolescence | Dr. Christ studies the causes and consequences of adolescent’s exposure to maltreatment (abuse/neglect), and how work experiences during adolescence relate to health and well-being in adolescence and young adulthood. Her work in these areas has a strong methodological focus.

Adulthood and Aging | Dr. Christ studies the relationships between visual impairment, functioning, psychosocial health, and mortality during the aging process.She also studies how employment and work characteristics impact health and mortality among adults. Her work in these areas has a strong methodological focus.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Christ studies 1) the relationships between work characteristics and health across the life course, 2) how adolescent’s exposure to maltreatment affects their social, emotional, and physical health, 3) and how visual impairment impacts health and mortality among aging adults. Her work in these areas has a strong methodological focus.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Christ studies the relationships between parents and their adolescent children, particularly relationships resulting in maltreatment of adolescents. Her work in these areas has a strong methodological focus.

Jennifer Dobbs-Oates

Adolescence | Dr. Dobbs-Oates conducts scholarship on teaching and learning in the higher education context. Thus, the learning of college students, who are often in late adolescence and emerging adulthood, is a particular interest.

Early Childhood Education and Care | Dr. Dobbs-Oates has worked in the area of school readiness, particularly children’s learning (math and literacy) and behavior development in the context of child care settings. Children at risk due to poverty are a special interest.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Dobbs-Oates’s work in the area of school readiness has focused primarily on children who are three to five years old.

Aryn Dotterer

Adolescence | 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.

Culture and Diversity | 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 and relations between discrimination at school and school engagement among African American and Latino adolescents.

Interpersonal Relations | 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, school engagement, and academic achievement.

Cézanne Elias

Adulthood and Aging  | Dr. Elias' research focus centers on how physical health and wellbeing and patient activation impacts aging individuals, caregivers, and other subsystems within and outside of the family system. She is currently studying the impact of patient-physician behaviors in decision making and pain assessment on health outcomes.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Elias' research focus centers on how physical health and wellbeing and patient activation impacts aging individuals, caregivers, and other subsystems within and outside of the family system. She is currently studying the impact of patient-physician behaviors in decision making and pain assessment on health outcomes.

James Elicker

Early Childhood Education and Care | In addition to research on quality interactions between teachers and children in early childhood programs, Dr. Elicker designs and carries out comprehensive evaluations of large scale early childhood programs and quality improvement initiatives. Current projects include a multi-year evaluation of Indiana’s child care quality and improvement system, Paths to QUALITY, and a needs assessment for pre-kindergarten programs on overseas military bases. Under his guidance, his students are also studying the learning potentials of play with various kinds of blocks.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Elicker studies the social, emotional, and cognitive development of infants, toddlers, and young children in the context of early childhood programs. He is especially interested in the influence of quality of interactions and relationships among teachers, parents, caregivers and young children.

Melissa M. Franks

Adulthood and Aging | Dr. Franks’ research is focused on social influences on health among midlife and older adults. Her current work is focused on marital interactions that promote dietary adherence among patients with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, her collaborative work with Dr. Friedman addresses social ties and health outcomes among midlife and older adults managing multiple chronic conditions.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Franks’ research is focused on social influences on physical health and psychological well-being in later life. Her current work addresses interpersonal interactions between married partners that promote one partner’s proper management of type 2 diabetes. In her collaborative work with Dr. Friedman, she also explores linkages between social interactions and health outcomes among midlife and older adults managing multiple chronic conditions.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Franks’ research focuses on the interpersonal interactions of married partners in the management of chronic illness. She explores spouses’ involvement in the management of a partners’ chronic illness, and the association of spouse involvement with the health and well-being of both partners. Additionally, she investigates correspondence in health-promoting behaviors of married partners such as diet and exercise, and the association of this correspondence with their individual health and well-being.

Doran French

Adolescence | Dr. French studies both children and adolescents. He is currently completing a study of social competence, peer relationships and bullying in fifth grade children in the U.S., China, and Indonesia. He is completing a longitudinal study of adolescent in China, and has conducted research on adolescents in Indonesia.

Culture and Diversity | Dr. French’s research on culture focuses has been conducted in China, Indonesia, Turkey, and S. Korea. He has specifically studies culture and friendships, peer relationships, conflict, and social competence. He has studied Islam and social competence in both Indonesia and Turkey.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. French’s research focuses on the peer relationships of children and adolescents both in the U.S. and in other countries (i.e., China, Indonesia, and S. Korea). Specific topics of study include friendships, conflict, and social competence.

Elliot Friedman

Adulthood and Aging | Dr. Friedman examines psychological and biological processes related to healthy aging.

Culture and Diversity | In his research, Dr. Friedman seeks to understand how adult health and biological processes related to health are shaped by cultural and social factors.

Health and Wellbeing | A centerpiece of Dr. Friedman's research is the role of positive psychological functioning in the maintenance of health and the biological mechanisms involved.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Friedman examines the ways in which interpersonal relationships and aging interact to affect health and biological processes related to health.

Blake Jones

Adolescence | Dr. Jones is interested in potential changes in healthy routines and health outcomes during transitions throughout adolescence. This includes a current project that focuses on protective factors that lower stress, risk for substance use, and obesity in Latino youth and their families.

Culture and Diversity | Dr. Jones is interested in the examining the health disparities related to obesity prevalence and sleep problems in different groups. Specifically, his work focuses on differences relating to gender, race, maternal education, and poverty.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Jones is interested in how daily routines (such as family mealtimes, sleep schedules, work schedules, and media use),and daily stressors within the home environment, are related to child obesity and sleep.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Jones examines daily routines and home environments associated with obesity and sleep problems in preschool-aged children. This is a critical age for identifying ideas for prevention programs that protect against the onset of obesity and insufficient sleep.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth

Adulthood and Aging | Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth’s research focuses on the experiences of early and middle adulthood, as workers navigate the challenges of fulfilling their responsibilities at work and at home.

Military Families | Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth’s research focuses on military families as service members and family members encounter the seminal challenges of military life, including relocation, separation, and exposure to dangerous and difficult work.

Germán Posada

Culture and Diversity | Dr. Posada's research on attachment relationships is conducted in diverse cultural and social contexts. His studies have included samples from 14 different countries, and samples from middle-class and low income sectors of the population.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Posada investigates the development of child-parent attachment relationships during infancy and early childhood. He studies both child and parent behavior during interactions in naturalistic settings (e.g., homes and playgrounds).

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Posada studies child-parent attachment relationships in relation to family characteristics (e.g., marital conflict and support and child-rearing discipline practices) and their associations with children's socialization outcomes (e.g., interactions with peers).

Douglas Powell

Early Childhood Education and Care | Dr. Powell is directing a translational research project designed to develop a research-based curriculum for the U.S. Department of Defense Child Development Program, which serves children from birth through age 5 years on military installations worldwide. The comprehensive program is focused on school readiness outcomes. Another part of his research program is investigating effects of an intervention aimed at improving low-income children’s literacy and language skills via a coaching-based professional development with teachers.

Infancy and Childhood | Current research projects focus on identifying promising practices in promoting young children’s school readiness in early childhood education programs and in family engagement interventions.

Military Families | Strategies for promoting family engagement in young children’s learning and development are an integral element of the research-based curriculum for the U.S. Department of Defense Child Development Program being developed by Purdue University.

Megan Purcell

Early Childhood Education and Care | Dr. Purcell's research and teaching are intertwined and drive her preparation of providers who will serve young children with and without disabilities and their families. Through best practice and the implementation of the DEC Recommended Practices, we see an increase in positive outcomes for children and families. Her ultimate goal is to work with and prepare current and future early childhood educators and early interventionists to provide highly effective, inclusive services for ALL children to achieve the best possible outcomes.

David Purpura

Early Childhood Education and Care | In Dr. Purpura's research, he focuses on understanding how young children learn math. He studies how math skills develop, how early literacy and cognitive skills affect math development, and how to identify early those children likely to struggle later on in math.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Purpura's research is focused on academic development during the preschool and primary school years in the contexts of school and family. Although early math is his main area of research, his work extends to literacy and cognitive skills as well.

Sara Schmitt

Culture and Diversity | Dr. Schmitt’s research investigates cross-cultural variation in important school readiness skills, particularly among American and Chinese children. In addition, she studies disparities in school readiness among children experiencing socio-demographic risk.

Early Childhood Education and Care | Dr. Schmitt is interested in the effects of early care and education experiences on children’s school readiness and the extent to which high quality early care and education buffers the impact of poverty and other risk factors.

Infancy and Childhood | Dr. Schmitt’s research program is broadly focused on examining contextual factors that contribute to multiple aspects of school readiness (e.g., self-regulation, executive function, social-emotional adjustment, pre-academic skills, physical health) during early childhood.

A. J. Schwichtenberg

Health and Wellbeing | Early childhood sleep trajectories are a key area of Dr. Schwichtenberg’s research. From infancy to school entry, Dr. Schwichtenberg assesses the role(s) of sleep development in at-risk populations (e.g., infants born preterm, siblings of children with an autism spectrum disorder).

Infancy and Childhood | Early childhood developmental trajectories are Dr. Schwichtenberg’s passion. Using longitudinal designs, Dr. Schwichtenberg’s research assesses the dynamic associations between physiological (e.g., sleep) and social development. Her previous studies have followed infants from birth to 6 years of age.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Schwichtenberg’s research focuses on families raising children who are at risk for social difficulties (e.g., infants born preterm, siblings of children with an autism spectrum disorder). Using prospective longitudinal designs Dr. Schwichtenberg examines parent-child dyadic interaction trajectories.

Cleveland Shields

Adolescence | Dr. Shields collaborates with colleagues at Purdue and at IU to examine how adolescents talk to their physicians or other health providers about health and sexuality.

Adulthood and Aging | Dr. Shields’ research examines how older patients interact with physicians and nurse practitioners to obtain the medical care they need.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Shields’ research examines how older patients interact with physicians and nurse practitioners to obtain the medical care they need. He also collaborates with colleagues at Purdue and at IU to examine how adolescents talk to their physicians or other health providers about health and sexuality.

Zoe Taylor

Adolescence | 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.

Culture and Diversity | 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.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Taylor is interested in individual differences in physiological reactivity and regulation in response to stress, and their relations to processes of risk and resilience. She is particularly interested in exploring how stress physiology is associated with psychological health and how it contributes to other markers of adjustment such as emotion regulation.

Interpersonal Relations | 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.

Natasha Watkins

Adolescence | Dr. Watkins' research focuses on the developmental period of adolescence, with an emphasis on positive youth development and the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Culture and Diversity | Dr. Watkins' research is focused on understanding and improving the capacity of community-based youth programs to support the positive development of ethnic minority youth. She is specifically interested in how community-based youth programs may promote youth’s civic development and multicultural competence.

Shawn Whiteman

Adolescence | Dr. Whiteman's research investigates various family processes related to youths’ family relationships and individual adjustment from adolescence into early adulthood. He is particularly interested in how siblings influence each other’s attitudes, behaviors, personal qualities, and development during these periods.

Health and Wellbeing | Dr. Whiteman's research explores 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 each other’s alcohol and substance use behaviors and related cognitions.

Interpersonal Relations | Dr. Whiteman's research examines the direct and indirect ways that siblings influence family relationships and individual adjustment. He is particularly interested in sibling relationship processes (including processes of socialization) and within-family differences in parenting (i.e., differential treatment). A related secondary interest is the application of different research methodologies to the study of family relationships.

Military Families | Dr. Whiteman's research on military families focuses on the ways in which siblings and sibling relationships evolve and serve as protective factors for individual adjustment following family transitions. A second line of his research examines the education and adjustment of student service members/veterans (SSM/Vs) enrolled in higher education.