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Psychology | Developmental Issues Lab

The Developmental Issues Lab, directed by Carol Weissbrod, focuses on a range of research areas related to children, adolescents, and families. Please see below for examples of recent research topics.

  • The Child’s Experience of Growing up with an Ill Parent
  • Emotional Reactivity
  • Parent Responses to Child Negative Affect
  • Other Projects

The Child’s Experience of Growing up with an Ill Parent

A number of our research projects have explored the child’s experience of growing up with an ill parent, with an emphasis on the types of variables that may make a child more or less vulnerable to negative outcomes (i.e., increased depression and anxiety and decreased life satisfaction). Constructs of interest include dispositional gratitude, posttraumatic growth, family quality of life, and emotional reactivity. We also aim to better understand the particular types of illness characteristics (e.g., severity, perceived stress, number of hospitalizations, etc.) that may correlate with child outcomes.

Emotional Reactivity 

Our lab is also interested in the ways in which individuals react to the emotions of others. Therefore, one of our recent lab projects has focused on exploring individual differences in emotional reactivity, using both self-report as well as physiological assessment tools. Additional variables explored include emotional contagion, empathy, interpersonal reactivity, and grit.  


Parent Responses to Child Negative Affect

We are interested in understanding the ways in which parents react to their children’s negative affect during everyday stressors. For instance, some parents may “catch” their child’s frustration after he or she loses in a game, while others may experience a different emotion. We are also interested in the degree to which parents suffer in response to their child’s negative affect. Other constructs of interest include emotion regulation, parent depressive symptoms, and child psychopathology. 

Other Projects 

The Impact of Social Media on Loneliness and Social Connectedness: This project examines the way college students use Facebook and the relationship between type of Facebook use and individual factors such as loneliness and social connectedness. Specifically, we are interested in how a student’s level of social skill may moderate this relationship. The principal investigator hopes that this study will contribute to a growing literature on the psychological benefits and drawbacks of using social media websites like Facebook by taking a closer look at who benefits versus who does not. We also hopes this research will have future intervention applications for individuals who may struggle with social skills, such as those on the autism spectrum.  

The Impact of Moving Home After College on Self Efficacy: This project focuses on young adults who have moved back in with their parents after college, an increasingly common phenomenon. We are looking at how the move home impacts this cohort. Specifically, we are curious about whether young adults who live at home experience lower levels of self-efficacy, and which aspects of living at home may explain this difference. 

The A, B, C's, and Zzz's of Sleep Health Education in a College Population: The current study aims to define the nature and prevalence of sleep disturbances within a sample of undergraduate students attending a private university in an urban, northeastern city. College students, typically in the developmental period of late-adolescence/emerging adulthood, form a unique population that, through a combination of biological, social, and academic demands, is highly vulnerable to sleep disturbances. This study further aims to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of providing students with an easily accessible online sleep health education program that will offer students sleep health facts and recommendations derived from evidence-based behavioral interventions. These recommendations aim to reduce the impact of sleep disturbances on students’ social, emotional, and academic functioning.

Current Students

Four graduate students are currently active in our lab. 

Nikia Scott is a sixth year student with primary interests in child and adolescent clinical psychology. She will be on internship at the Mailman Center for Child Development beginning Fall 2014. She is a graduate of Howard University, where she studied Biology and Chemistry before working as a high school science teacher in Washington, DC. Nikia’s research has focused on the impact of parental illness on the social and emotional functioning of children and adolescents. Her clinical experience has included individual and family therapy, with a focus on mood, anxiety and attachment issues. She also maintains specialized interests in ethnic minority populations and pediatric sleep disorders.

Maggie Stoeckel is currently a fifth year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program. She will be on internship at Oregon Health & Science University beginning Fall 2014. Her research has focused on the child experience of growing up with an ill parent. Within this topic, her thesis and doctoral dissertation have explored the constructs of dispositional gratitude, posttraumatic growth, family quality of life, and emotional reactivity. Her primary clinical interests are within the domain of pediatric psychology, specifically working with children and families coping with medical illness. She also has a range of experiences working with child and adolescent anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders. 

Leah Rothschild is currently a third year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. She is broadly interested in clinical issues facing children and families, with specific interests in developmental disorders and anxiety disorders in kids. Her master’s thesis is examining Facebook use among college students, and its relationship to factors of well-being such as loneliness and social connectedness. Leah will be an extern at the Center for Autism Spectrums Disorders at Children’s National Medical Center beginning Fall 2014.

Kat Allen is currently a second year master's student in the psychology program. She is interested in behavior disorders such as ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder in children and adolescents. Kat will move on to her second year in the master's program and work on her thesis in the Fall of 2014.