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This page will showcase the current projects that are being conducted in the Child Behavior Lab.

Child Behavior Research

Parent-training programs for Native American families - Megan S. Dunlap

My current research interests include parent-training programs for Native American families. Although there are many theoretical articles available regarding cultural differences in parenting styles between various minority groups and the majority culture, empirically supported articles are sparse. This is especially true with the Native American population. While there are theoretical articles suggesting that, compared to the majority culture, Native American parents may hold different expectations for their children and have different parenting styles, there are few published empirically-based research regarding this topic. This information could be significantly helpful to clinicians working with Native American populations, particularly because the majority of clinicians working with this population are not Native American themselves and thus not familiar with cultural beliefs and customs. Information about Native American parents’ beliefs and parenting styles could also lead to more culturally sensitive approaches to parent training with this population. Currently there are theoretical articles suggesting that alterations should be made to parent training programs, such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), with Native American families, but specific suggestions are awaiting an empirical examination of possible parenting differences.

My dissertation study will attempt to address these concerns. It should be noted that “Native American culture” is not comprised of one single cultural identity, but instead is made up of many culturally rich independent tribes. The current study will only examine parenting beliefs and styles within the Native American population of Oklahoma, and the results are not intended to be generalized to other Native American populations. Thirty mother/child dyads will participate in a videotaped interaction. This interaction will consist of proactive and prohibitive components, and will allow for natural mother/child responses. Two independent observers will code each videotaped interaction. The mother will also complete a set of questionnaires designed to further examine parenting beliefs and styles.

Effects of child-directed interaction on verbal behaviors, generalization of skills, and parenting stress - Raegan B. Smith

The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of the Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) component of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) relative to a no-treatment control group in a sample of 3-year-old children and their mothers. Participants will be solicited from local Head Start facilities and other community resources, if necessary, and will, therefore, represent a population of children at-risk for behavior problems due to low socioeconomic status. Treatment and control participants will complete several measures before and after the intervention period. Children’s behavior will be measured using the Child Behavior Checklist/1 ½ -5 (CBCL), the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), and the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System-II (DPICS-II). In addition, children’s expressive and receptive verbal abilities will be measured using the Language Development Scale (LDS) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R), respectively. Furthermore, mothers’ stress will be measured using the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI/SF), and their behaviors will be measured during structured play interactions using the DPICS-II. The intervention will require mothers to learn and practice a set of proscribed and prescribed verbal behaviors to use during 5-minute play periods called “special time.” In order to confirm that the treatment mothers are practicing at home without further differentiating treatment from control, checklists will be completed on a weekly basis via phone contact with both groups to assess the frequency of typical parent-child interactions. Following completion of the intervention with all treatment group mothers, control group mothers will be invited to attend a group workshop on parenting skills similar to those learned by the treatment group mothers. The following hypotheses will be made: the treatment group mothers will demonstrate higher levels of verbal behaviors dictated by the CDI training, these skills will generalize to other structured parent-child interactions in the laboratory, the intervention will prevent escalation of problem behaviors in the treatment group children compared to the control group children, and the treatment group mothers will report lower levels of parenting stress related to parent-child interactions compared to the control group mothers. In addition, exploratory analyses will be conducted on measures of verbal behavior to determine any differences between and within groups before and after the intervention period.

Parental attributions and affect on children's behavior - Laura A. Knight

For my dissertation, I am planning an experiment designed to examine the types of attributions that parents make for child behavior and the relationship between attributions and parental disciplinary responses. The main goals of this study will be to examine the effects of manipulating parents’ attributions for young children’s behavior on parental affect and on their responses to that behavior. Participating mothers will be given primarily child-responsible attributions or primarily child-not-responsible attributions prior to engaging in a series of tasks with their children, some of which will be designed to elicit misbehavior. Parents’ affect in response to the behavior and preferred method of responding to that behavior will be assessed. Measures of attributional style and disciplinary style will be given prior to the manipulation to determine how parents typically make attributions regarding their child’s behavior, to understand how attributions affect disciplinary decision-making, and to determine if a manipulation of attributions occurred.

Reasoning and nurturance on child compliance in father-child dyads - Chuck Edgington

In the past several decades numerous studies have examined the effects of various parenting strategies on child compliance. The majority of these have centered on the mother-child interaction. The present study examines the influence of reasoning and nurturance on child compliance in father-child interactions. Participants will be 30 father-child dyads, with children of both sexes between 24 and 30 months of age being recruited. Each dyad will participate in 3 distinct phases of interaction (free-play, toy clean-up, and utensil sorting) the latter two of which will have an immediate condition (father present) and a delayed condition (father busy working on forms with back to the child). The fathers will complete a demographic questionnaire, the CBCL/1 ½ - 5 (Child Behavior Checklist 1 1/2 - 5, Achenbach 1992), the Eyeberg Child Behavior Inventory (Burns & Patterson, 1990; Eyeberg & Ross, 1978), the Parenting Scale (Arnold, et al. (1993), and the TBAQ (Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire, Goldberg, 1996). It is hypothesized that children will engage in differing rates of compliance when given reasons for compliance vs. when they are not. Children are expected to engage in more compliance in the immediate vs. the delayed conditions.

Peer relations and parenting of Native American children - Tamara C. Wilburn

I am currently working on my thesis, but all of the specific details have not been fleshed out at this time. I plan on examining peer relations and parenting of Native American children. I will be collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Some of the factors I will be measuring will include problem behaviors as well as prosocial behaviors in the children; parenting responsibilities, strategies, and goals in the parents; and acculturation in both the parents and children.

Disaster Effects Research

Effects of Seasonal Natural Disasters on Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Attributions - Caleb W. Lack

This project will examine the effects of seasonal natural disasters upon symptoms commonly associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 8-10 year olds, as well as the attributions made for disasters. For many people living in disaster-prone areas, such as "Tornado Alley" or hurricane prone locations, there is a pervasive sense of anxiety during the disaster season. This anxiety tends lessen as one grows older and is more exposed to the constant barrage of information concerning such disasters. But children, just starting to pay attention to the news and media that surround us, have no such immunity to this information overload. Presumably, this new awareness of such disasters would lead to a heightened level of general anxiety. Elevated levels of anxiety have been previously shown to inhibit both learning ability and performance on tasks. With it well known that anxiety can retard test performance, many school systems attempt to relax their students as much as possible before and during such tests. But many types of achievement tests are given during periods of seasonal disasters, possibly increasing the children's anxiety level even more than usual and thus retarding test performance and overall abilities. Little research has been conducted on the factors of seasonal disasters and level of distress, and so this study proposes to examine the effect seasonal disasters have on symptoms related to PTSD. In order to do so, the investigator will administer a set of tests measuring PTSD symptoms and attributions, including Frederick's Reaction Index (RI) and Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS), and Trauma Attributions Checklist (TAC) at three separate times (October, January, and April). These three time periods will allow the tracking of seasonal variance on the tests at periods at the end (October), outside of (January), and the middle of (April) tornado season. Participating school districts were heavily impacted by a major tornado in October 2001. Analyses will then be conducted to see what sort of patterns of anxiety emerge and how that anxiety is related to the attributions made for the disaster. Understanding how such seasonal disasters affect anxiety level could make a difference in when and how major tests (such as the yearly achievement tests given by all school systems) are given.