Faculty

Kym Ahrens interests are in promoting positive physical and mental health outcomes in at-risk youth. Some of her past research has focused on the influence of adult mentors on the adult outcomes of youth in foster care and youth with learning disabilities. Dr. Ahrens is currently conducting a series of NIH-sponsored research studies focused on developing an intervention program to reduce risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV among adolescents in the foster system.

Cathryn Booth-LaForce is the Charles and Gerda Spence Endowed Professor in the School of Nursing. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and an Affiliate of the Center on Human Development and Disability and Infant Mental Health and Development. Dr. Booth-LaForce's primary research interest is the social-emotional development of children. In longitudinal projects that follow children from infancy to adolescence, she investigates early experiences in various contexts to examine how these experiences affect children's development. 

Primary research interests focus on the development and implementation of multi-tiered, response to intervention service delivery models. In particular, he is interested in designing and researching the benefits of this type of service delivery model with regard to the promotion and treatment of students’ mental health.

Her research interests are in evidence-based treatments (EBT) for children and adolescents, with a particular focus on dissemination and implementation of EBT domestically and internationally. Her work has often focused on Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), with hybrid research designs that include both effectiveness and implementation questions. She has focused on adaptation of EBT for unique populations (e.g., foster care) and on training and supervision strategies to deliver TF-CBT and other EBT. Dr. Dorsey is a Principal Investigator on two NIH-funded randomized controlled trials (RCT) involving TF-CBT, both of which include implementation and clinical outcome research questions. The first, in Washington State, studies the role of supervisors in public mental health settings in supporting EBT with clinicians under their supervision. The second, in Tanzania and Kenya, is a RCT of TF-CBT using a task-shifting/task-sharing model in which lay counselors, with little to no prior mental health training, deliver group-based TF-CBT to orphaned children and adolescents, under close supervision by local supervisors, themselves supervised by TF-CBT experts.

Annette Estes interests include the development of quantitative phenotypes for genetic studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and changes in children with ASD throughout childhood. She also studies family adaptation and stress and the role of the family in promoting positive outcomes and reducing associated conditions in children with autism. Estes has recently begun studies with infant siblings and toddlers at risk for autism and is working to identify very early signs of autism risk and test the effectiveness of very early intervention.

Lynn Fainsilber-Katz focuses on children’s social and emotional development in the context of family relationships, including marital conflict, domestic violence, and parent’s use of emotion coaching. She is particularly interested in children's ability to regulate emotion in face of adverse environments and life events, and how parenting buffers children from negative outcomes and helps them develop successful healthy relationships with others, including peers. Her studies have involved children exposed to varying types of adverse circumstances, including domestic violence and pediatric cancer. In Dr. Katz’s most current work, she is developing a parenting intervention to promote the use of emotion coaching in families experiencing domestic violence to reduce the likelihood of behavioral and emotional problems in children.

Measurement; Analysis of change over time; Substance use and development of dependence

Cheryl Kaiser is interested in the development of self, social identity, prejudice, stigma, social justice, and the intersection of social science and law.

Suzanne Kerns is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy. Clinical and research interests focus on translation of evidence based practices to real-world settings, their acquisition, adoption, and sustainability. She currently collaborates with agencies, communities and Tribes to develop strategic planning to increase effective utilization of evidence-based practices. She is a program consultant and involved in research of Family Integrated Transitions, an intervention targeting youth returning to their communities after being incarcerated, and Project Focus, an experimental study of strategies designed to increase access to evidence-based services for youth in foster care through caseworker and clinician training and consultation. She is also a certified trainer for Triple P Positive Parenting Program.

Pathways to Alcohol and Drug Use and Dependence, Stress and Coping, Developmental Psychopathology, Longitudinal Methods

Liliana Lengua studies children’s individual differences in response to the experience of socioeconomic, psychosocial, family, and parenting risk factors. Children’s temperament, or individual differences in emotionality and self-regulation, differentiates children who are likely to develop problems in the face of risk from those who are resilient. Dr. Lengua’s most recent work examines the development of children’s self-regulation, a key predictor of their social, emotional, and academic competence, in preschool children growing up in poverty and low income homes. Advserity, family functioning, parenting and physiology are studied as potential mechanisms in children’s developing self-regulation. The information gained from this study will be used to develop an intervention that will give parents the tools they need to help their children develop this critical skill.

Cari McCarty focuses on understanding risks and pathways to the development of depression in adolescence. Her research takes a preventive approach by identifying skills and competencies that may help young people cope more successfully with stress and negative emotions. She has developed a school-based intervention program “Positive Thoughts and Actions” which strives to help middle school students improve their relationships, school performance, and health behavior, with the ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of depression in young adolescents. Dr. McCarty is also interested in the role of emotionality in other problem behaviors of adolescence, including alcohol and substance use. 

Katie McLaughlin's research seeks to identify psychological and neurobiological mechanisms linking adverse childhood environments to the onset of psychopathology in youths using a variety of tools, including neuropsychological assessments, electrophysiology (e.g., measures of autonomic nervous system function, EEG) and brain imaging, including structural and functional MRI. Dr. McLaughlin has used these tools to study children and adolescents exposed to a wide range of adverse environmental experiences, including caregiver maltreatment, community violence exposure, institutional rearing, and poverty, and has identified a variety of neurodevelopmental mechanisms that underlie the relationship between adverse environments in childhood and the subsequent onset of mental disorders, including elevated emotional and physiological reactivity to stress, poor emotion regulation skills, executive functioning deficits, and disruptions in social cognition. 

Paula Nurius studies processes and effects of stress on youth and families, with special interest in combined and distinct contributions of adverse or traumatic experiences and chronic stress associated with social disadvantage. Populations include victims of violence, longitudinal tracking of at-risk youth into adulthood, links to health disparities such as adverse birth outcomes as a function of lifecourse stress, effects of adverse childhood experiences on later mental and physical health conditions, and stress effects of combat and repeat deployment on military personnel and their families. Focus is on basic as well as applied prevention-oriented research, assessing cumulative and distinct stressor effects on mental health and psychosocial outcomes, as well as the effects of protective factors in fostering resilience.

Kristina Olson studies social cognition in the preschool and middle childhood years. Her current research interests include how children think about and are influenced by social inequalities, the development of social class and raced-based prejudice, the motivations underlying prosocial behaviors such as sharing and helping, and gender nonconforming or transgendered youth.

Betty Repacholi studies social-cognitive and emotional development in infancy and early childhood. Her main research focus has been the exploration of infants’ responses to, and understanding of, other people’s emotional expressions. For instance, her work has explored whether infants understand a) what another person is emoting about and b) that different people can have different emotional responses about the exact same object or event. Her most recent research has examined infants’ ability to engage in emotional eavesdropping, whereby infants use emotional information gleaned from other people’s social interactions, to regulate their own actions. She is also exploring the role of infant temperament, inhibitory control, parental behavior, and family emotional climate in determining how infants respond to other people’s emotional displays.

Holly Schindler’s research focuses on how interventions and policies can best target family and school contexts during early childhood to prevent behavior problems and promote mental health in vulnerable populations of families. She is particularly interested in the role of fathers and is currently developing a strength-based program aimed at promoting healthy interactions between fathers and their young children.

Ronald Smith and Frank Smoll collaborate on basic and applied research, concerning psychosocial aspects of children’s participation in youth sports. The major purposes of their Youth Enrichment in Sports project (www.y-e-sports.com) are to develop, evaluate, and disseminate psychoeducational interventions for coaches and parents that are designed to foster more positive sport outcomes for young athletes. The project initially involved development of the Mastery Approach to Coaching (MAC) and the Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports (MAPS) workshops – two interventions that are based on principles derived from social-cognitive and achievement goal theories. The interventions were then tested and proven efficacious in a series of field experiments. The MAC and MAPS workshops have been transformed into DVD format. Future research will involve assessment of the effectiveness of the DVD self-instruction programs, after which they will be distributed to national youth sport organizations.

Frank Smoll and Ronald Smith collaborate on basic and applied research, concerning psychosocial aspects of children’s participation in youth sports. The major purposes of their Youth Enrichment in Sports project (www.y-e-sports.com) are to develop, evaluate, and disseminate psychoeducational interventions for coaches and parents that are designed to foster more positive sport outcomes for young athletes. The project initially involved development of the Mastery Approach to Coaching (MAC) and the Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports (MAPS) workshops – two interventions that are based on principles derived from social-cognitive and achievement goal theories. The interventions were then tested and proven efficacious in a series of field experiments. The MAC and MAPS workshops have been transformed into DVD format. Future research will involve assessment of the effectiveness of the DVD self-instruction programs, after which they will be distributed to national youth sport organizations.

Jessica Sommerville examines early social and physical reasoning and the role of agency in infant cognitive and memory development. She is particularly interested in the development of infants’ and children’s psychological understanding and causal reasoning, the ways in which these domains intersect in the course of development, and mechanisms supporting cognitive development, broadly construed.

Susan Spieker focuses her research on infant and child social and emotional development. Most of her projects investigate caregiving and child outcomes in high-risk, vulnerable populations, including low-income families and maltreating or substance-using parents. She currently directs a major clinical trial to test the comparative effectiveness of two brief, home visiting interventions to help foster parents support the relationships they are developing with their foster infants and toddlers.

Wendy Stone’s primary clinical and research interests focus on early identification and early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Her research involves the characterization of early-emerging behavioral features of autism, with the dual goals of understanding the core deficits and mechanisms underlying development of the disorder, and designing targeted interventions to prevent or attenuate the expression of symptoms.

Pooja Tandon is interested in developing, studying and advocating for programs and policies that promote the health of children by focusing on modifiable environmental risk factors for obesity. She is studying the impact of nutrition menu labeling on restaurant food purchasing for children. Her research also includes studying the physical activity and nutrition environments of child care settings. Dr. Tandon supervises residents in continuity clinic at the UW Pediatric Care Center.