Child clinical psychology, intellectual disability, dual diagnosis, developmental psychopathology, parenting, community programs for youth, program evaluation.
My primary research seeks a better understanding of family functioning and effective intervention programs for children and their families. I am especially interested in three populations: (1) Families of children and adolescents with developmental disorders (e.g. intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder); (2) Behavior disorders in young children with developmental disorders; and (3) Protective factors for family functioning.
My primary recent study has been the NICHD-supported Collaborative Family Study, a 15-year longitudinal study of families of children with developmental disabilities or typical intellectual development. This has been a three-site study, in collaboration with Professor Jan Blacher at UC Riverside and Professor Keith Crnic at Arizona State University. When the study began, there was some evidence that persons with intellectual disability are at greatly heightened risk for mental disorder, but there was virtually nothing known about manifestations in early childhood or about causal pathways. We followed 200 young children and their families annually from child age 3 to 9 years, and then at ages 13 and 15, focusing on child emotion regulation, behavior problems and social competence, and family processes. Our measures were obtained from parents, youth, and teachers, and including questionnaires, interviews, naturalistic observations, and coding of target laboratory tasks. We conducted assessments in English or Spanish and examined parenting processes and cultural influences within Anglo and Latino families. We are presently beginning a follow up Transition to Adulthood study of these now young adults (ages 20-22) and their families.
Students in our lab are also involved in Smooth Sailing, an IES-funded study (Jan Blacher, PI) of young children with autism spectrum disorder, examining predictors of child functioning during the first two years of schooling. A further interest of mine is development, evaluation, and dissemination of intervention programs for high-risk children and families. I am pursuing this as a consultant with Children’s Institute Inc., Los Angeles’ leading child abuse, neglect, and trauma agency.