The Catholic University of America

CFC Research Areas

Adolescent Suicidal Behavior

Early Acculturative Processes and the Transmission of Cultural Beliefs and Practices

Effectiveness of a Resilience-Based Group Psychotherapy for Youth with Social Deficits

Even Start Intervention for Latino Migrant Families

Language and Literacy Development

Marital Conflict and Children

Preventive Interventions for Emotion Regulation in Children/Adolescents

Resilience-Based Interventions for Children with Social Deficits

 
Adolescent Suicidal Behavior
One major effort is a prospective longitudinal study of adolescent suicide attempters and their parents, concerned with answering the following questions: (a) Can we identify family risk factors that distinguish hospitalized adolescent suicide attempters from hospitalized adolescents who differ only in that they have never attempted suicide? (b) Do any of the potential family risk factors predict whether the adolescent will have a suicidal relapse in the two-year period following their hospital discharge? (c) Can we identify patterns of coping with stress that are unique to suicidal adolescents, and if so, do these seem to be linked in any meaningful way with the strategies their parents use to manage stress, or the characteristic communication style of their parents? (d) Is there any evidence that the suicidal youth is the family scapegoat (i.e., the family member who is typically blamed for any family problems)? Graduate students and faculty are currently writing and analyzing data on behavioral observations of family interaction, attachment, coping/emotion regulation, adherence to treatment interventions post-attempt, and differences in parental treatment of siblings.
A second project has tracked the development of suicidal symptoms in an epidemiologically defined population of mostly African American youths who were assessed repeatedly from first grade through young adulthood. Recent papers have documented the frequency of suicidal symptoms and the co-occurrence of those symptoms with psychiatric disorders, the association of child maltreatment with suicidal symptoms, and prediction of adolescent and young adult suicidal symptoms from childhood depression. We are currently writing a report based on the results of an analysis showing prediction of adolescent suicidal symptoms from first grade peer nominations. 
 
Early Acculturative Processes and the Transmission of Cultural Beliefs and Practices
As stated in the overview of the CFC program, developmental research is needed to provide a clearer conceptualization of normative processes among ethnic minorities in order to contribute to the foundation of psychopathology research within this population.  One example of this in our work is an examination of the cultural environments of young children of immigrant African and Latino families.  In collaboration with investigators at Children’s National Medical Center, we are researching acculturative processes and cultural development at the early periods of life, as well as exploring the extension of current acculturation models to early childhood.  In addition to better informing theories on cultural development, we are interested in the clinical application of such research in terms of acculturative stress and the “acculturation paradox,” where greater levels of psychopathology are evidenced among more acculturated generations than recently immigrated generations.
  
Even Start Intervention for Latino Migrant Children
There are over three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States who contribute to a $28 billion dollar agricultural industry, but yet experience poverty, poor health conditions, low literacy rates, limited English proficiency, and one of the highest grade retention and high school dropout rates in the country. Recently, the Department of Education provided funding to develop, deliver, and examine a multisystemic intervention program aimed at increasing the language and literacy development of Latino preschoolers and their farmworking families. In addition to examining the intervention’s overall implementation, delivery, and effectiveness, we are examining how variations in child, parent, and family characteristics (such as, linguistic processes, acculturative stress, mental health, attendance) relate to the variations in intervention response.
 
Language and Literacy Development
In addition to sociocultural processes, language and literacy development is of critical importance among ethnic minorities.  Nearly 1 in 5 children in the United States is raised in a bilingual environment, a proportion that has been increasing dramatically over the past century.  However, relatively little is understood about the language development of bilingual children, which limits clinical, medical, and pedagogical practices.  Our research examines language development of children reared with varying degrees of exposure to two languages and the effects of psychological and sociological factors on Latino’s early language development. 
 
Marital Conflict and Children
Ongoing research aims to test models of the processes by which marital conflict influences the adjustment of children.  Of particular recent and current interest is longitudinal work examining whether emotional security may mediate the effects of destructive and constructive marital conflict on children, and cross-cultural investigations of children's perceptions of marital conflict. Other work is examining variations in developmental trajectories of boys and girls through the transition to adolescence, and the possible moderating roles of family factors including parental psychopathology. 

 

Preventive Interventions for Emotion Regulation in Children/Adolescents
We are at the initial stages of testing pilot interventions of parent groups which aim to teach parents how to best interact with their early adolescent offspring during emotionally charged incidents. The interventions incorporate education about adolescent development, and aim to foster an "emotion-coaching" philosophy.
 

Resilience-Based Interventions for Children with Social Deficits 

This research seeks to determine the efficacy of a group therapy program for children with deficits in social skills and self-regulation. The project investigates the effectiveness of a resilience-based group therapy program in improving social competence and emotional and behavioral self-regulation in children, most of whom have anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or Autism Spectrum Disorders. This study explores the efficacy of this group therapy in clinical service settings and schools for underpriviledged children.  
 
 

Supportive Caregiving Linking Early Individual Differences to Adaptive Outcomes

As research on emotional development has increased over the years, so has an interest in individual differences in emotional reactivity, or temperament. Research studies show links between early temperamental differences and later social, professional, and psychopathological outcomes. Models of temperament have often focused on differences in motivation (e.g., approach vs. withdrawal) or differences in the expression of specific emotions (e.g., fear, anger). However, our work integrates these models to study individual patterns of reactivity to specific types of stimuli (e.g., novelty, goal blockage) in relation to social-emotional and clinical outcomes. In particular, exuberance (positive reactivity to novelty) has been identified as a unique temperamental style with potential ties to both adaptive (i.e., positive) and maladaptive outcomes, such as social engagement and externalizing problems. Further work highlights positive caregiving environments supporting self-regulation as most advantageous for exuberant youth. Thus, in the presence of specific types of supportive social relationships, all individuals can adapt and flourish, while those exposed to environments less supportive of their pattern of reactivity may develop an increased risk of maladaptive outcomes. Our current research is focused on identifying the trait-specific biological and behavioral markers of temperamental exuberance in childhood through adolescence, as well as the types of social supports that help exuberant individuals succeed.