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Human beings are inherently social creatures. Familial relationships set a foundation and provide a context for emotional, social, and cognitive achievements. Departmental research considers how parents, siblings, friends, in-laws, stepparents or children, and other social partners influence each other's well-being and development. Our research covers the life-span from infancy to old age, looking at individuals and families.

Faculty Research

  • Aryn Dotterer 
    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
    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)
  • Blake Jones
    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.
  • Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth
    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.
  • Germán Posada
    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.
  • Zoe Taylor
    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
    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.