My broad area of interest lies in children’s socioemotional adaptation and maladaptation within the context of close interpersonal relationships especially in family contexts. My three primary research aims are as follows:
- I am interested in understanding how and why children exposed to family adversity exhibit a heightened vulnerability to psychopathology. We focus specifically on understanding how children’s emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses to family stress help to account for why they are at specific risk for experiencing problems in homes characterized by interparental conflict, parent-child discord, family instability, family-level problems (e.g., enmeshment, disengagement), and parental psychopathology.
- My second interest involves identifying the different sources of variability in the outcomes of children from adverse home environments. Therefore, I seek to identify the potential conditions that shape children’s adaptation to family adversity as sources of resilience or vulnerability. Central factors in our search include family dynamics, extrafamilial attributes (e.g., peers), child psychological characteristics (e.g., temperament, success in resolving developmental tasks), and child physiological (e.g., cortisol, alpha amylase), and genetic mechanisms.
- My third interest lies in developing new ways of identifying children’s temperament characteristics based on how they hang together to form higher-order patterns (e.g., sensitivity). A key part of this research direction involves examining how these novel approaches inform an understanding of children’s trajectories of psychological and physiological functioning.
In addressing the three research aims, we continually develop, refine, and use theories as guides to developing programmatic research questions (e.g., emotional security theory, evolutionary models, family systems theory). We also seek to develop and use novel ways of assessing family and child functioning. Therefore, we typically use multiple measurement occasions, methods, and levels of analysis to better understand children’s growth and adjustment (e.g., observations of family and child functioning, physiological responses, molecular genetics, eye tracking, semi-structured interviews, clinical interviews, cognitive assessments). Outside of working, I like to spend time with my family, run and exercise, do masonry work (e.g., rock walls, patios) and landscaping, watch college football and basketball, and annoy Melissa Sturge-Apple.
My research broadly focuses on family processes, parental functioning and child development. My work is guided by theoretical conceptualizations derived from developmental psychopathology, self-regulation frameworks, evolutionary developmental theories, and parenting process models. My research integrates multiple domains including psychological processes (e.g., emotional, behavioral), neurobiological functioning (e.g., physiological stress response systems, cognitive processes), and ecological (e.g., socioeconomic stress) levels. I am also very interested in how we study families and children with an eye towards novel and innovative assessments (e.g., implicit assessments, observational paradigms) and analysis (e.g., latent profiles, dynamic modeling) of family and child functioning. My interests lie in exploring three separate but interconnected areas of research:
- My work seeks to identify underlying mechanisms of the interrelations between interparental and parenting domains and child adjustment. My work to date has utilized affective spillover conceptualizations and emotional security as a guide to identifying mechanisms that may account for links between family relationships and children’s adjustment. I have increasingly complemented this research with a focus on how evolutionary frameworks may provide further guidance in understanding how children adapt to family adversity.
- I am very interested in identifying the factors that predict parenting across the range from normative and promotive caregiving behaviors to parental neglect and maltreatment. In particular, emerging conceptual frameworks of parental self-regulation stress the importance of these processes in supporting parents with respect to behavioral regulation and maintenance of their intended socialization goals. Specifically, my work explores three regulatory domains including physiological, neurocognitive and social cognitive levels of analysis in the determinants of parenting.
- Although my work has sought to establish the presence of direct effects, it is clear that not all individuals are impacted similarly by family processes. As such, my work also focuses on more precisely identifying sources of heterogeneity in family process models through determining the factors which may moderate (e.g., temperament, neurocognitive factors, risk contexts) pathways of influence. My hope is that this work will inform prevention and intervention efforts with respect to family functioning and child development.
To date, my research has been supported through R01 funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as through University sponsored research projects. I am currently conducting an NICHD funded multi-method, three-year longitudinal study on the relative role of multiple mediators (e.g., psychological, physiological, cognitive) underlying spillover between interparental difficulties and perturbations in parenting in both mothers and fathers of young children. I am also very interested in studying these processes within maltreatment populations and I am a co-investigator on an upcoming project examining pre and postnatal risk factors in the antecedents of parental maltreatment and harsh caregiving.
Outside of research, I love to spend time on Canandaigua Lake, cook new recipes, and root for the best team in football – the Buffalo Bills!