Chad E. Shenk 

photo of Chad Shenk

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

230 Health and Human Development Building
Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


Research Interests

My research examines the longitudinal pathways from child maltreatment to the onset of adverse health outcomes in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. This work uses both experimental and observational research to identify the mechanisms of various outcomes present in the child maltreatment population across multiple levels of analysis (e.g. psychological, biological, familial). A central translational goal of this research then is to develop novel prevention programs and optimize existing clinical interventions by targeting putative risk and protective mechanisms more directly and effectively. Thus, prevention, clinical trials and dissemination research are current interests in the lab. Active projects where graduate and undergraduate students play an active role include:

The Life Events and Reactions Study (LEARS; Shenk, PI). LEARS is a genetic case control association study examining the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms associated with the onset of psychiatric disorders in the child maltreatment population. Children between the ages of 8 and 15 years of age who have experienced substantiated child maltreatment are currently being recruited for this study. Graduate and undergraduate students collect biospecimens (oral fluid, buccal swab) and administer a structured psychiatric interview determining the presence and course of multiple disorders. Students are also actively involved in the entry, coding, and cleaning of data in preparation for eventual analysis. Results from this study will provide insight into the genetic, epigenetic, and psychological contributions for these disorders in the child maltreatment population so that interventions targeting these processes can be developed or applied more effectively. This multi-site project is funded by a KL2 award from Penn State.

Selective Prevention of Psychiatric Disorders Subsequent to Child Maltreatment (Shenk, PI). Recent research on the etiology of psychiatric disorders suggests that child maltreatment affects a circumscribed set of centralized risk mechanisms, known as transdiagnostic mechanisms, responsible for the increased incidences of multiple psychiatric disorders in this population. This recently funded and IRB-approved study is testing the feasibility of a newly developed selective prevention program that aims to alter transdiagnostic mechanisms in order to optimize treatment effects and reduce the incidences of multiple psychiatric disorders subsequent to child maltreatment. Graduate students and clinical staff are developing treatment protocols, beginning recruitment efforts, organizing treatment evaluation materials, and developing databases.

The Female Growth and Development Study (FGDS; Shenk, Co-I). FGDS is a 30-year prospective cohort study of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on subsequent female health outcomes. Research from this study has provided some of the most definitive results to date on the adverse developmental effects following CSA, including neuroendocrine disruption, premature cognitive aging, sexual risk behaviors, and pubertal timing. Recent funding (Co-PI’s: Noll & Trickett) is extending this study into middle adulthood where the effects of CSA on some of the leading health risks of this developmental period, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity, are being examined. FGDS will also examine the changes in suspected biobehavioral mechanisms across development that may increase the risk for these adverse outcomes in this population. Such efforts will inform multiple types of clinical intervention as well as identify the optimal point in development to deliver such interventions. Graduate students are actively involved in conducting home visits, administering research protocols evaluating developmental outcomes in both adults and children, observational coding of parent-child interactions, as well as data entry and coding.


2010--Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Child Maltreatment, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
2007--Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno
2007--Pre-Doctoral Clinical Internship, University of Rochester Medical Center
1998--B.A., Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University

Professional Experience

  • 2013- Present: Assistant Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
    Department of Pediatrics, Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics, Hershey Medical Center
  • 2013-Present: Clinical Psychologist, The Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center
    Center for the Protection of Children
    Stine Foundation Transformaing the Lives of Children Clinic
  • 2010-2013: Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology, Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Joint)

Selected Publications

Shenk, C.E., Noll, J.G., Peugh, J.L., Griffin, A.M., & Bensman, H.E. (2016). Contamination in the prospective study of child maltreatment and female adolescent health. Journal of Pediatric Psychology: Special Issue on Trauma and Child Health. 41, 37-45. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsv017.

Teeters, A.R.*, Ammerman, R.T., Shenk, C.E., Goyal, N.G., Folger, A.T., Putnam, F.W., & van Ginkel, J.B. (2016). Predictors of maternal depressive symptom trajectories over the first 18 months in home visiting. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

Shenk, C.E., Griffin, A.M., & O’Donnell, K.J. (2015). Symptoms of major depressive disorder subsequent to child maltreatment: Examining change across multiple levels of analysis to identify transdiagnostic risk pathways. Development and Psychopathology. 27, 1503-1514. doi: 10.1017/S0954579415000905.

Shenk, C.E., Dorn, L.D., Kolko, D.J., Rausch, J.R., & Insana, S.P. (2014). Prior exposure to interpersonal violence and long-term treatment response for boys with a disruptive behavior disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 27, 585-592. doi: 10.1002/jts.21962.

Shenk, C.E., Putnam, F.W, Rausch, J.R., Peugh, J.L. & Noll, J.G. (2014). A longitudinal study of several potential mediators of the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms. Development and Psychopathology.26, 81-91. doi:10.1017/S0954579413000916.

Noll, J.G. & Shenk, C.E. (2013). Teenage birthrates in sexually abused and neglected females. Pediatrics, 131, e1181-e1187. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3072.

Shenk, C.E., Putnam, F.W. & Noll, J.G. (2013). Predicting the accuracy of facial affect recognition: The interaction of child maltreatment and intellectual functioning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 229-242. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.08.007. PMCID: PMC3576026.

Shenk, C.E. & Fruzzetti, A.E. (2011). The impact of validating and invalidating responses on emotional reactivity. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(2), 163-183. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2011.30.2.163.

Dorn, L.D., Kolko, D.J., Shenk, C.E., Susman, E.J., & Bukstein, O.G. (2011). Influence of treatment for disruptive behavior disorders on adrenal and gonadal hormones in youth. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 40(4), 562-571. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2011.581614.

Shenk, C.E., Noll, J.G., Trickett, P.K., & Putnam, F.W. (2010). A prospective examination of the role of childhood sexual abuse and physiological asymmetry in the development of psychopathology. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(10), 752-761. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.02.010.

Curriculum Vitae

.pdf icon Chad Shenk vitae

Center Affiliations

  • Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Domains of Health and Behavior