Research

Developmental studies spanning from infancy to adulthood comprise the research portfolio of the CDS.  These studies share an emphasis on understanding the processes that underlie child development as it occurs across multiple levels of analysis both within the child (e.g., genetic, physiological, neurological, affective, cognitive and behavioral) as well as at the intersection of children and their surrounding contexts (e.g., peers, families, schools, cultures).  Over the last five years, research at the CDS has focused on applied outcomes in education, health, psychological adjustment, and risk behaviors as well as on understanding basic development processes such as family functioning, children’s memory development, and self-regulation in early childhood.

For a list of active CDS-affiliated research projects and associated weblinks, click here.

Highlights of current research studies at CDS include the following:


Long-term Effects of Parents’ Efforts to Foster Children’s Gratitude on Health, Well-Being and Character Development

Andrea Hussong, Ph.D., (PI), Center for Developmental Science
and Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Jennifer Coffman, Ph.D., (Co-I), Center for Developmental Science
Hillary Langley, Ph.D., (Co-I), Sam Houston State University

With funding from the John Templeton Foundation,
this research project is focused on whyraising_grateful_children_logo_black gratitude matters in children and what parents can do to best cultivate gratitude in their children and pre-adolescents. Building on a previous Templeton-funded study, researchers will follow a sample of children into pre-adolescence in order to examine whether a set of parenting practices foster future experiences of gratitude in children as well as greater health, well-being and character development.Using observational and survey data from parent-child dyads, this project allows for a description of the development of gratitude over ages 6-13, as well as an empirical base from which researchers can identify how to foster children’s gratitude, and discover the implications of gratitude for children on the brink of adolescence.In addition, an online training module for parents will be created and used in a randomized control trial in order to test whether parents who view the module show increases in socialization practices, as well as more positive attitudes, greater knowledge, and stronger behavioral interventions to use specific strategies in comparison to their peers, as well as have children who evidence more gratitude. Through this study, the research team will identify optimal ways for parents and children to discuss gratitude, highlight effective parenting strategies that foster gratitude in children and pre-teens, and take the first step toward translating these findings into effective programming for families.

Collaborative Research: PEARL: Peers Engaged as Resources for Learning

Jill Hamm, Ph.D., (PI), UNC Department of Education

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Peers 17314550841_ed6b668efc_oEngaged as Resources for Learning (PEARL) is a collaboration with Horizon Research, Inc. PEARL is designed to provide foundational research on small group learning environments in mathematics classrooms, bringing together theories and evidence-based practices regarding high quality mathematics education and productive classroom social dynamics. Currently ongoing, PEARL involves design, testing, and refinement of small group tasks, instructional strategies, and tools, in collaboration with middle and high school math teachers. The aim of the project is both to develop a conceptual framework of small group work to guide research on and implementation of small group learning, as well as to develop evidence-based resources for educators to support student engagement and learning.

Developing a Teacher-Based Intervention Involving Memory-Relevant Language during Instruction

Peter Ornstein, Ph.D., (co-PI), and Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Jennifer Coffman, Ph.D., (Co-I), Center for Developmental Science

With support from the Institute of Education Sciences,CMS CDS this innovative research project involves the development of an intervention for first-grade teachers that will enhance children’s memory and academic skills. Students’ basic memory and cognition are critical for success in school across math, reading, science, and other educational domains. Strategies for remembering are essential for academic success and teachers can be trained to use instructional practices that facilitate children’s memory and, in turn, academic achievement. This research involves a series of studies in after-school programs in which researchers simulate classroom instruction through exciting educational experiences (Legos and Engineering or Reporting the News) to identify successful instructional practices. This information will then be used to develop and pilot test an intervention in local first-grade classrooms that is designed to improve both teachers’ instructional techniques and their students’ memory and academic performance.

The Durham Child Health and Development Study (DCHD)

Martha Cox, Ph.D. & Peter Ornstein, Ph.D. (co-PIs), Department of Psychology & Neuroscience

With support from the National Science Foundation, dchdthis multi-investigator team illustrates the benefits of a multi-level approach – from genes to environments – for understanding development. In this unique longitudinal and mixed-method study, a broad sample of 200 infants born in 2002-2003 was recruited and studied (along with their families) at up to 10 assessment occasions between 3 months of age and 2nd grade. This study has spawned collateral grants that provide qualitative approaches to understanding the experiences of these children and their families as well as quantitative studies of the child care environment, key indices of cognitive functioning, and emotion socialization and understanding just before the point of school entry. Health outcomes related to immune functioning and genetic expression, in relation to their early environment, will be assessed when children are in the 5th grade. Key findings from this project show the complex interactions among biological and environmental experiences in developing young children.

Below are active CDS-sponsored projects.  More information can be found by clicking on the following weblinks for some of these projects.  For those without weblinks, please contact PIs directly of the CDS for more information.
Principal Investigator(s)Project Title
Andrea Hussong; hussong@unc.edu
(1) Human Development: Interdisciplinary Research Training;

(2) Long-term Effects of Parents’ Efforts to Foster Children’s Gratitude on Health, Well-Being and Character Development;

(3) Peer Mechanisms in the Internalizing Pathway to Substance Use; Reconceptualizing the Parenting of Adolescents
Dan Bauer; dbauer@email.unc.edu
(1) Harmonizing substance use and disorder measures to facilitate multi-study analyses;

(2) Diversity Supplement: Harmonizing substance use and disorder measures to facilitate multi-study analyses
Peter Ornstein; pao@unc.edu

Jennifer Coffman; coffman@unc.edu
(1) Developing a Teacher-Based Intervention Involving Memory-Relevant Language during Instruction
Cathi Propper; propper@unc.edu
(1) Prenatal Cigarette Exposure: The Role of Sleep and Parenting for Infant Outcomes;

(2) Integrating respiratory sinus arrhythmia into the assessment of executive function in young children;

(3) Infant Sleep Development: Contributions of Infant Vagal Tone and Parenting
Nisha Gottfredson; gottfredson@unc.edu
(1) The Impact of Affect Regulatory Mechanisms and Binge Eating on Drug Recovery
Jill Hamm; jill.hamm@unc.edu
(1) Collaborative Research: PEARL: Peers Engaged As Resources for Learning;

(2) Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success across the Middle School Years: The SEALS II Intervention Development Program;

(3) Networks of Teachers Affect Children in Transition (NTACT);

(4) Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success (SEALS);

(5) Rural Early Adolescent Learning (REAL)

Sherick Hughes; shughes@email.unc.edu
(1) The Color of Emotion: How Teacher Bias and Misinterpreting Children's Emotion May Influence Student Outcomes