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.

memorySupporting Early Adolescents’ Learning and Social Success (SEALS)

Jill Hamm (co-PI), School of Education & Tom Farmer (co-PI), CDS Affiliate Faculty, School of Education (VCU)

With funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, this research project evaluates a universal intervention program that is aimed at creating classroom instructional contexts and school social communities that promote the adaptation of students during the first year of middle school. Building from developmental research showing that early adolescent adjustment problems reflect correlated academic, behavioral, and social risks, Project SEALS is designed to systematically address each of these domains. The goal of Project SEALS is   to evaluate a professional development intervention program designed to help 6th grade teachers create classroom instructional contexts and school social communities that promote the adaptation of  students in the transition to 6th grade.

dchdThe Durham Child Health and Development Study (DCHD)

Martha Cox & Peter Ornstein (co-PIs), Department of Psychology

With support from the National Science Foundation, this 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.

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

Peter Ornstein (co-PI), Department of Psychology & Jennifer Coffman (co-PI), Ctr for Developmental Science

With support from the Institute of Education Sciences, 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.

Genetic Risk, Pathways to Adulthood, and Health Inequalities

Michael Shanahan (PI), Department of Sociology

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, this research project examines the ways in which genetic factors influence a cascade of behaviors and social events that ultimately create health inequalities in young adulthood.  These health inequities in turn have implications for educational processes and attainment, social integration into young adult roles, and health-related behaviors. In this project, the potential for various forms of social capital and control to attenuate pathways of risk for adult outcome is examined. Of interest are meditational social processes by which neurogenetic factors, educational processes, and social roles are associated with inequalities in health as well as the gene-environment interactions according to which social capital and control promote well-being in young adulthood despite genetic risk factors. Findings will shed light on how early health inequalities reflect the longitudinal interplay of genetic and social factors.

Below are active CDS-affiliated projects.  More information can be found by clicking on the following weblinks for some of these project.  For those without weblinks, please contact PIs directly for more information or the CDS.