Parent-Child Interaction Study (PCIS) - 2008-2010
Three year-old children are at a special time in their development. They are dealing with a new level of autonomy and negotiating with their parents what they are and are not allowed to do. They are taking on new skills in multiple domains, such as language, cognition, self-regulation, and social skills. Their parents are teaching them continually, through direct and indirect means, how to respond to the world around them. We know that parents are extremely important influences on young children and that certain parenting behaviors are more likely to promote children's healthy development. But we know much less about how this process occurs moment-to-moment -- for example, how and why a new positive or negative interaction pattern begins between parent and child, how each member of the interaction shapes this pattern in real time, why some patterns are short-lived and others become permanent styles of the relationship, and how different patterns ebb and flow depending on the particular situation or the developmental stage of the child and the family. We also know little about how parent and child physiology relates to these interaction patterns as they shift from one moment to the next. These are the dynamic areas we plan to explore in studying how parents and children interact and how these interactions contribute to children's normative and atypical development.
The PCIS is a short-term longitudinal study involving behavioral observations, questionnaires, and physiological data. Mothers and their 3 year-olds are observed communicating, playing, and solving puzzles together in the laboratory. We study patterns of interaction between mother and child, measuring emotions, behaviors, and physiological factors such as heart rate, breathing, and skin conductance. Children also take part in individual tasks with the experimenter to assess aspects of self-regulation, school readiness, and behavioral adjustment. Mothers and fathers/partners fill out questionnaires at Time 1, and mothers, fathers/partners, and preschool teachers fill out questionnaires at Time 2 (4 months later).
The PCIS is funded by the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Parenting Young Children Project (PYCP) - 2011-2016
When parents are already stressed or overburdened, even small, daily stressors can be difficult to manage. This may be especially challenging for parents of toddlers and children, who need close supervision, support, and guidance, and who also test their parents' limits on a regular basis. In these situations, stressed parents may have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors with their children. The Parenting Young Children Project is designed to understand how parents and children regulate their behaviors, emotions, and physiology with one another while tackling challenges, like solving a difficult problem or puzzle together. Our goal is to examine how moment-to-moment patterns and fluctuations in things like heart rate, expression of positive and negative emotions, and behaviors such as discipline and compliance act as risk and protective factors for familial problems. The question is whether a better understanding of these coregulatory patterns can help us to predict which families may be at higher risk. We hope this research will offer improved indicators of which families are in need of prevention and intervention services.
The PYCP is a longitudinal study involving behavioral observations, questionnaires, and physiological data at three time points: when children are aged 2 1/2, 3, and 4 years. Mothers and fathers will fill out questionnaires at all three time points, and mothers, fathers, and children will come into the laboratory when children are 3 and 4 years of age. Similar to the PCIS, we study patterns of interaction between parent and child, measuring emotions, behaviors, and physiological factors such as heart rate, breathing, and skin conductance. Children also take part in individual tasks with the experimenter to assess aspects of self-regulation and behavioral adjustment.
Families will be recruited for the study through partnerships with local schools, community agencies, organizations and Child Protective Services. Mentors and collaborators on the project include: Manfred Diehl, CSU; David Olds, University of Colorado-Denver; Pamela Cole, Penn State; Kristin Buss, Penn State; Elizabeth Skowron, Penn State; Steven Boker, University of Virginia; and Ruth Feldman, Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
The PYCP is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development within the National Institutes of Health, grant number K01HD068170.