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Penn State University Park Researchers

Mayra Bamaca-Colbert, Ph.D.

Mayra Bamaca-Colbert, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
More about Mayra Bamaca-Colbert, Ph.D....

My research aims to provide a more accurate and complete account of the individual and contextual factors that are linked to the development and outcomes of ethnic minority and immigrant youth, with an emphasis on Latinos. Grounded in developmental, ecological, and culturally informed theoretical frameworks, my research focuses on the interplay among contextual factors (i.e., interpersonal, cultural, and place) in informing youth outcomes (e.g., mental health and substance use) across development (early-, middle-, late-adolescence).

Kristin Buss, Ph.D.

Kristin Buss, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Psychology
  • Director of PACT
More about Kristin Buss, Ph.D....

Dr. Kristin Buss is the Director of Parents and Children Together (PACT). Dr. Buss’ work is focused on the development of risk for adjustment problems, with particular focus on the development of anxiety symptoms for children with fearful temperaments. This work has implications for identifying which fearful children are at risk for developing anxiety problems. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the processes and situations that influence adaptive and maladaptive outcomes for fearful and anxious children. With this goal she has developed a community-based participatory research project designed to work toward the development of a preventive intervention for children at risk for anxiety problems as they transition to school.

Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Ph.D.

Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
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Cynthia Huang-Pollock is interested in understanding the cognitive and neuropsychological mechanisms that contribute to the development of severe attention, learning, and disruptive behavior problems in children, namely Childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD often have weaknesses in executive functions including attention, inhibitory control and working memory, weaknesses that put children at risk for academic difficulties. There is also strong evidence that when speeded responses are required, children with ADHD respond more slowly and more variably. Funded in part by the National Institutes of Mental Health, her recent work has found that this slower global speed may be driving deficits in executive functions as well as academic difficulties. Because it's not clear whether slow processing speed can be improved in a way that would lead to downstream improvements in executive processes or academic achievement, her current work is to find out what causes slow processing speed, which in turn will tell us how we might improve it.

Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.

Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Associate Director of Education, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network
More about Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D....

Dr. Lunkenheimer’s research program revolves around regulatory processes in the family, with the dual goals of (1) understanding how mother-child and father-child interaction patterns act as risk and protective processes for developmental psychopathology and (2) uncovering malleable relationship processes that could aid in the tailoring and improvement of preventive intervention programs for families at risk.  Grounded in dynamic systems theory and using dynamic time series statistical approaches, Dr. Lunkenheimer studies the moment-to-moment coregulation of emotions, goal-oriented behaviors, and physiology between parents and young children in relation to familial risk factors and child outcomes (e.g., children’s self-regulation).  A primary interest is examining the role that these parent-child coregulation patterns play in the development of child maltreatment, as well as their association with related maltreatment risk factors (e.g., harsh parenting, parental mental health problems and stress, children’s behavior problems).  Ultimately, this work is designed to obtain a better understanding of the etiology of developmental psychopathology and inform the prevention of child maltreatment.

Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D.

Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
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Koraly Pérez-Edgar is interested in the relations between temperament and psychopathology. Children with the extreme temperamental trait of behavioral inhibition show increased risk for social anxiety. However, individual differences in attention mechanisms may play an important role in shaping this risk. In conducting her work, Dr. Pérez-Edgar uses multiple methods including behavior observation, psychophysiology (EEG & ERP), and neuroimaging (fMRI).  One important study will examine how the relation between attention and emotion emerges in the first two years of life.  The study will recruit families and infants from the main Penn State campus and from PACT facilities at Harrisburg.

Douglas Teti, Ph.D.

Douglas Teti, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology and Pediatrics
  • Head, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
More about Douglas Teti, Ph.D....

Dr. Doug Teti studies parenting and infant and childhood socio-emotional development in low and high-risk contexts. His work investigates parental influences on infants and children, looking specifically at the impact of parental competence, mental health, and child and ecological factors. He is currently the principal investigator on several ongoing projects: SIESTA (Study of Infants’ Emergent Sleep TrAjectories, funded by NICHD), Project Touch (infant massage and its impact on infant stress reactivity, the immune system, and the parent-infant relationship, funded by Penn State’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute), and Minds Of Mothers Study (MOMS) (mothers’ emotional regulation as indexed by prefrontal cortical EEG asymmetry, funded by NICHD). His work also includes the study of parenting and development among African American infants at double-jeopardy (at both medical and environmental risk) in the Baltimore-Washington area, and the study of ethnicity as a factor in how parents structure infant sleep.

Laureen Teti, Ph.D.

Laureen Teti, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Director, Child Study Center
  • Associate Director, PACT
More about Laureen Teti, Ph.D....

Dr. Laureen Teti is one of several Penn State faculty working to promote relations between the minority communities in Harrisburg and child researchers at the Child Study Center.  These efforts resulted in the 2007 establishment of Parents and Children Together (PACT), a community-university partnership which includes representatives from early childhood agencies, parents, and other key leaders from minority communities in Harrisburg, PA. As a member of PACT’s Steering Committee, Dr. Teti chairs PACT’s Dissemination subcommittee. Dr. Teti is a co-investigator on the community-engaged BRAVE project, Dr. Kristin Buss, PI, which is developing an intervention in Harrisburg to reduce anxiety in urban African-American children. Since Fall 2012, Dr. Teti has served on Penn State’s Presidential Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED), now serves on CORED’s Executive Leadership Team, and is spearheading efforts to increase the hiring and retention of diverse faculty at Penn State.  

Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D.

Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
More about Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D....

Martha Wadsworth’s research interests include: child stress and coping, the role of chronic stress in health disparities, and development and evaluation of family strengthening and coping-based programs to counteract chronic stress. In her work, Martha focuses on children at elevated risk for physical and mental health problems resulting from chronic adversity, especially poverty. Her research involves multiple levels of analysis and multiple methods, including physiologic, experimental, observational, and multi-informant methods to measure coping in lab studies and intervention trials.

Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D.

Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Associate Director, PACT
More about Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D....

Dawn Witherspoon is interested in how context shapes adolescent development. Her work focuses on neighborhood, school, and family factors that affect adolescents’ socioemotional and academic adjustment. In addition, she examines how race, ethnicity, and other cultural attributes interact with contextual characteristics to influence adolescent outcomes. Her current work examines adolescent development from middle to high school to understand how aspects of the residential neighborhood, school, and family contexts are related to adolescents’ academic adjustment and beliefs as well as their deviant behaviors, racial identity, and discrimination experiences. She also examines how the neighborhood context is associated with parenting behaviors and strategies. A goal of her research is to elucidate the development of urban and rural adolescents and their families, with particular attention to contextual supports.

Susan Woodhouse, Ph.D.

Susan Woodhouse, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Counseling Psychology
More about Susan Woodhouse, Ph.D....

Dr. Woodhouse's research interests focus on applications of attachment theory to (a) children’s and adolescents’ relationships with parents and peers, (b) process and outcomes of psychotherapy, and (c) psychotherapy research focused on improving preventive interventions for underserved, diverse families with young children to promote school readiness and mental health. In terms of promotion of school readiness and mental health outcomes, Dr. Woodhouse is particularly interested in culturally-appropriate, preventive interventions to support positive parenting. Her work focuses on better understanding the role of parenting in the development of children's emotion regulation capacities. In her research she uses a variety approaches, including physiological indicators of emotion regulation (e.g., heart rate variability) and stress reactivity (e.g., cortisol), as well as observational, and self-report measures. Practice and clinical training interests include the integration of attachment theory, object relations, self-psychology, and relational psychodynamic approaches with a multicultural and feminist approach.

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