Infancy and Childhood

The infancy and childhood periods are central for understanding human development. Research on infants and children in the HDFS department addresses multiple issues. Those include studies about children’s health, e.g., obesity and sleep problems, early childhood developmental trajectories of children at risk for autism, parenting and parent-child relationships, peer relationships, and how individual, family and home factors can protect children against adverse developmental outcomes and promote social competence and well-being. Also, a group of researchers in the department are concerned with the development of children’s literacy and language skills, effects of literacy and executive functioning skills on the development of young children’s mathematical knowledge, contributions of early childhood programs and families to children’s learning and development, and coaching-based professional development.

Studies are typically conducted in consideration of context, e.g., family, socio-economic background, under-represented groups, and culture. This is done with a variety of methodological approaches (e.g., naturalistic and lab observations, experiments, survey and interviews, and secondary data analyses) and design strategies (e.g., longitudinal and cross-sectional studies).

Faculty Research

Jennifer Dobbs-Oates

Dr. Dobbs-Oates' work in the area of school readiness has focused primarily on children who are three to five years old.

Robert Duncan

Dr. Duncan studies the ways that environments in infancy, early childhood, and middle childhood can affect children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. He is particularly interested in the impacts of early environments and skill development for later developmental outcomes.

Sarah Eason

Dr. Eason’s research is focused on early childhood, primarily with preschoolers (aged 3-5 years), and how children’s experiences help them acquire the skills and knowledge to succeed when they enter elementary school.

James Elicker

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, non-parental caregivers and young children.

Valerie S. Knopik

Dr. Knopik’s work incorporates prenatal substance exposures and the effects of exposures during the first 5 years of life on later behavioral and mental health outcomes. Dr. Knopik conducts research on genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences in the prenatal period and childhood in order to understand later outcomes in late childhood and adolescence.

Kristine Marceau

Dr.  Marceau’s work incorporates prenatal exposures and experiences, as well as parenting during early childhood. Dr. Marceau conducts research on genetic and environmental influences in childhood in order to understand changes across childhood and adolescence.

Carolyn McCormick

Dr. McCormick studies the early developmental trajectories of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work has involved examining different dimensions of development from infancy through early childhood.

Kameron Moding

Dr. Moding examines socioemotional and health outcomes during the first 5 years of life. Her work primarily focuses on child characteristics (e.g., temperament) and parenting during infancy and toddlerhood.

Maggie O'Haire

Dr. O’Haire conducts research on interventions that incorporate animals (e.g. animal-assisted activities) and how these programs influence the social development, behavior, and physiology of neurotypical children as well as children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Germán Posada

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).

David Purpura

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

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

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.


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