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A variety of core concerns underlie child development research conducted in human development and family studies. Much of the research is motivated by questions about individual differences in children’s health and psychological development, as well as the origins and consequences of such variation. Another core issue is the way children change over time and the degree to which earlier developmental patterns and experiences can predict future growth and development.

Because the department has a multidisciplinary orientation, faculty are interested not only in biological and experiential causes and consequences, but also in working at multiple levels of analysis. Researchers take into account biology, genetics, psychophysiology, and health, as well as sociocultural factors, environment, and moment-to-moment interactions in the family and beyond. They study the broader settings in which parents and children develop, including day care and the workplace, and the historical and societal context in which the child, the family, and these settings themselves are embedded.

  • Christian Connell: Effects of maltreatment, trauma, and other adverse experiences on child behavioral health outcomes; effects of services, supports, and system involvement on behavioral health outcomes; social-ecological and contextual influences on child wellbeing; development of risky behaviors in childhood.
  • Diana Fishbein: Starting at the age of 5—when children often enter school—my studies have sought to (a) identify psychosocial and environmental factors that influence their development and (b) to identify mechanisms that explain differential outcomes in response to intervention.
  • Lisa Gatzke-Kopp: Developmental neuroscience of psychopathology, with a particular focus on how children develop behavior problems such as aggression, hyperactivity, and substance abuse.
  • Mark T. Greenberg: Intervening in the developmental processes in risk and non-risk populations with a specific emphasis on aggression, violence, and externalizing disorders; promoting healthy social and emotional development; school-based prevention; development of deaf children.
  • Susan M. McHale: Family relationships and family roles (particularly gender roles) in childhood and adolescence; differential socialization of siblings
  • Jennie Noll: Bio-psycho-social consequences of childhood sexual abuse; pathways to teen pregnancy and high-risk sexual behaviors for abused and neglected youth; the long-term adverse health outcomes for victims of sexual abuse, and the propensity for abused and neglected teens to engage in high-risk internet and social media behaviors.
  • Chad Shenk: Dr. Shenk’s basic science research examines methods of risk estimation and target identification for a variety of health outcomes in children and adolescents exposed to maltreatment. This work is identifying risk mechanisms for multiple forms of psychopathology using a multiple levels of analysis approach including biological, behavioral, affective, cognitive, and parenting processes.
  • Cynthia A. Stifter: Socio-emotional development in infants, toddlers, and preschool children, specifically focused on emotion regulation and the emergence of behavior problems. Other research areas: developmental psychophysiology, infant crying and colic, parental regulation strategies.
  • Douglas M. Teti: Socioemotional development in infancy and early childhood; parenting and coparenting in bedtime/nighttime contexts, infant sleep, and infant development; family-based preventive interventions to promote early development and parent-child relations; role of child sleep, parenting, and co-parenting in the transition to kindergarten.
  • Samantha Tornello: Sexual and gender minority parents; pathways to parenthood; couple dynamics and family functioning; division of labor; children's development, and stigma and discrimination.