Bruce Ellis leverages knowledge from both evolutionary biology and developmental science to address core issues in developmental psychopathology, especially in relation to child and adolescent health. This work employs life history theory to model stress-health relations over the life course. A major emphasis of his research has been the development of Biological Sensitivity to Context theory and its recent extension the Adaptive Calibration Model, which focus on how our biobehavioral systems respond to specific features of family environments and the larger ecological context. HIs empirical work examines the impact of fathers, family relationships, and socioecological conditions on children’s biological stress responses, timing of pubertal development, risky adolescent behavior and cognition, and related health outcomes. In addition to this basic research, he is interested in real-world applications in the form of theoretically-based interventions.
Lisa Diamond studies the development and expression of sexual identity and orientation over the life course. She is particularly interested in investigating the potential underpinnings of different subtypes of sexual-minority experience (such as stable versus fluctuating patterns of attraction and exclusive versus bisexual patterns), and examining how these patterns relate to tonic levels and phasic changes in gonadal hormones, oxytocin, HPA axis activity, and autonomic nervous system activity. Dr. Diamond is particularly interested in the application of dynamical systems models to patterns of short-term and long-term variability in sexual expression.
Daniel Adkins’ research program is aimed at integrating social, developmental and genomic perspectives on mental health. His current work includes four specific, quantitative foci: (a) longitudinal analyses of the influence of social adversity on health trajectories; (b) environmental moderation of genome-wide polygenic risk for health outcomes; (c) epigenomic studies of psychosocial stress, poverty, and psychopathology; and (d) machine learning and parallel computing in the behavioral sciences. His overarching goal is to improve models of human health and behavior by combining social inequality perspectives, big data, and statistical modeling. His research also includes a theoretical dimension, investigating issues at the intersection of inequality, biology and social justice, considering the ways in which social structure biologically impacts health and behavior.
Elisabeth Conradt is interested in how some children seem to thrive, while others succumb to the effects of early life stress. She studies physiological risk and protective factors of early life stress exposure, to identify who may be particularly susceptible to the development of psychopathology. Her research program includes the study of populations exposed to diverse forms of early life stress, disproportionately represented in populations of low socio-economic status including infants of mothers with depression and infants with prenatal substance exposure. Given that individual differences in how one responds physiologically to stress can inform the development of psychopathology, it is important to investigate the mechanisms that drive the development of this response. Therefore, she incorporates epigenetic methods in her work with the goal of uncovering how both adaptive and maladaptive responses to stress may form in infants and young children. Ultimately, her goal is to elucidate sensitive developmental periods and identify particularly pernicious forms of stress that, when targeted for preventative intervention, will mitigate the negative health effects of poverty-related early life stress.
Sheila Crowell’s research is focused on mechanisms underlying risk for suicide and severe psychopathology among intentionally self-injuring adolescents. She is particularly interested in researching biological vulnerabilities for emotion dysregulation (ED) and impulsivity and understanding how these vulnerabilities interact with potentiating environmental experiences across development (from conception onward). A unifying theme across her research is to better understand ED, including intergenerational and reciprocal transmission between parent and child, ED as a developmental precursor to psychopathology, psychophysiological, genetic, and epigenetic correlates of ED, and contextual processes contributing to ED within family and peer dynamics. As a lifespan developmental psychopathologist, Dr. Crowell is especially interested in elucidating early targets for intervention and prevention of depression, self-injury, suicide, and personality disorders.
Patricia Kerig’s research concerns risk and protective mechanisms underlying the association between interpersonal adversities and biopsychosocial outcomes for young persons. As a developmental psychopathologist, her interests span across developmental periods, from early childhood to emerging adulthood. Her most recent studies have focused on adolescents involved or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system in order to investigate the emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, and psychophysiological factors that might explain the association between childhood trauma exposure and adolescent delinquency. She also has abiding interests in gender differences in developmental psychopathology as well as in the study of family processes, including triangulation and boundary dissolution, that provide the contexts in which youth development takes place, for better or worse. Her ultimate goal is to produce research that generates insights that will inform more effective prevention and intervention efforts for children, adolescents, adults, and families who are at risk.
Students: Crosby Modrowski, Michaela Mozley, Lucybel Mendez, Mallory Kidwell
Lee Raby’s research focuses on longstanding questions regarding the significance of early parent-child relationship experiences. Specifically, he is interested in understanding (a) the degree to which various early caregiving experiences predict individuals’ social, cognitive, and behavioral functioning during childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood as well as (b) the representational and physiological processes that may account for these enduring effects. Currently, he is investigating these issues among families with adopted children. The two-fold goal of this work is to deepen understanding of the interplay of children’s genetically based characteristics and environmental experiences while simultaneously providing information about how parent-child relationship experiences can promote the healthy development of these at-risk children.