For the new study, published in Nature Human Behavior, Northwestern University researchers and colleagues analyzed data for 6,078 adults who were 47 years old on average. According to the data, 2,883 reported experiencing emotional abuse as children, 1,594 reported moderate physical abuse, and 695 said they experienced severe physical abuse. Across the next 20 years, 17 percent of participants died.
The findings showed that participants who survived severe physical abuse were 19 percent less likely to die during the study period if they had supportive relationships during adulthood. Survivors of moderate physical abuse were 12 percent less likely, and survivors of emotional abuse were 11 percent less likely. The findings suggest that supportive relationships in adulthood may help buffer or reverse negative health effects caused by abuse experienced during childhood, the researchers said.
According to Masten, who wrote an accompanying editorial to the study, “toxic stress” caused by abuse or other traumatic events can impact brain development and lead to medical issues like heart problems, premature cellular aging, obesity, or depression, among others.
“Adult survivors of child abuse can cultivate and invest in supportive relationships through enduring ties to friends and family, cultural and religious practices, community engagement and many other social activities,” Masten said. “They can also keep an eye on their own mental health, getting early treatment for signs of trauma, depression, substance use problems or suicidal thinking.”
Momoko Hayakawa, Ph.D., is a research associate at Twin Cities PBS, where she primarily develops science-based curriculum for young children. She earned her Ph.D. at the Institute of Child Development (ICD). In a recent interview, she shares how her experience at ICD helped prepare her for her current role.
Why did you choose the Institute of Child Development?
I chose the Institute of Child Development because of the breadth of opportunities the program offered. Not only did ICD provide research and teaching experiences across numerous areas of psychology, but it also helped me understand my particular field within the context of other fields. I truly value the ecological systems framework that’s woven into every area at ICD and the representation of child psychology from theory to application.
How would you describe your research interests?
My research interests lie in the intersection of early childhood education, family engagement, and public policy. My research is motivated by the question: How can we efficiently use public programming to support diverse communities in providing a high quality educational experience in the early years so that all children are ready to succeed in school?
How would you describe your current role?
I currently direct all aspects of research for the development of a new superhero TV show for children, as well as accompanying digital games, activities, and apps at Twin Cities PBS. My key role is to help develop a kindergarten-third grade school readiness curriculum aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, and oversee the national implementation and evaluation of the program. I also conduct formative testing to help decide on the characters and stories for the shows, as well as to make decisions on digital game development.
How did ICD prepare you for your career in the private sector?
Twin Cities PBS is a non-profit organization. ICD prepared me for my current position by exposing me to various experiences that blended the theoretical aspects and application of child development research to the real world. As a graduate student, it was eye-opening to see that so many different areas of research were possible under the umbrella of “child development.” In the children’s transmedia world, the knowledge necessary to make strong television and digital games spans across cognitive development, socio-emotional development, intervention/prevention, risk/resilience, physical development, education, and research methods. ICD provided me with a strong foundation to understand children from an interdisciplinary framework!
If you could give advice to future ICD students, what would you say?
A Ph.D. from ICD is a giant window of opportunity. There are ICD alums everywhere (both geographically and in terms of various companies). While in graduate school, connect with as many people as you can outside of your specific area of interest – you never know when those connections will lead to a new pathway or a new collaboration!
Founded in 2014 by Institute of Child Development professors Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Phil Zelazo, Ph.D., Reflection Sciences provides professional development, training, and tools for assessing and improving executive function skills. Executive function is the set of neurocognitive functions that help the brain organize and act on information. These functions help us pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly – skills that are key for school readiness.
Through the new collaboration, researchers will be able to track the development of executive function skills over the course of childhood and beyond using Reflection Sciences’ Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS™) App. The MEFS App is a scientifically valid and reliable game-like tablet measure of executive function for ages 2 and up.
“The research literature clearly points to the critical role that early executive function plays in children’s academic and social success, so we need to make sure the study effectively captures children’s skills in this area,” said co-principal investigator Stephanie Jones, Ph.D., a professor of education at Harvard. “MEFS combines the strength of a trusted measure of executive function with the power of big data, allowing us to view the findings from our study within the context of the thousands of other children who have used the app.”
For the Early Learning Study at Harvard, which is supported by the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative and led by Jones and Nonie Lesaux, Ph.D., researchers will follow a sample of 5,000 randomly selected families with children ages 3 and 4 years from more than 100 communities throughout Massachusetts. An estimated 40 percent of the children are in an informal childcare setting, such as family care; the other 60 percent are enrolled in a formal setting, such as an early childhood education center. Across four years, researchers will document each child’s early learning experiences and measure outcomes including language, executive function, and academic and social-emotional skills.
This study aims to address important questions about how formal and informal early learning environments impact learning outcomes and developmental gains. The researchers hope to achieve a better understanding of which early education features have the greatest benefits for children, which models of Pre-K work best, why they work, for whom they work, and under what conditions. The team hopes their findings will inform public policy efforts and decisions regarding opportunities and challenges facing early childhood education.
“The Early Learning Study at Harvard is setting the standard for research on early childhood education practices and we are delighted to be able to help them achieve results using our measure,” Carlson said.
Participating in an intensive early childhood education program from preschool to third grade is linked to higher educational attainment in mid-life, according to a new study by researchers in CEHD’s Institute of Child Development (ICD).
The study, published inJAMA Pediatrics, tracked the progress of more than 1,500 children from low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, from the time they entered preschool in 1983 and 1984 in Child-Parent Centers (CPC) until roughly 30 years later. The children were part of the Chicago Longitudinal Study, one of the longest-running follow-ups of early childhood intervention.
“Children from low-income families are less likely to attend college than their higher-income peers,” said lead author Arthur J. Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor in ICD and director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study. “A strong system of educational and family supports in a child’s first decade is an innovative way to improve educational outcomes leading to greater economic well-being. The CPC program provides this.”
The JAMA Pediatrics study is the first of a large-scale public program to assess impacts on mid-life educational attainment and the contributions of continuing services in elementary school. The study’s co-authors include Suh-Ruu Ou and Judy A. Temple of the University of Minnesota’s Human Capital Research Collaborative.
For the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers followed the progress of 989 graduates of the Chicago Public School District’s CPC program, which provided intensive instruction in reading and math from preschool through third grade as part of a school reform model.
The program provides small classes, intensive learning experiences, menu-based parent involvement, and professional development. The children’s parents received job skills training, parenting skills training, educational classes and social services. They also volunteered in their children’s classrooms, assisted with field trips, and attended parenting support groups.
The authors compared the educational outcomes of those children to the outcomes of 550 children from low-income families who attended other early childhood intervention programs in the Chicago area. The researchers collected information on the children from administrative records, schools and families, from birth through 35 years of age. More than 90 percent of the original sample had available data on educational attainment.
On average, CPC graduates—whether they participated in preschool only, or through second or third grade—completed more years of education than those who participated in other programs.
For children who received an intervention in preschool, those in the CPC group were more likely to achieve an associate’s degree or higher (15.7 percent vs. 10.7 percent), a bachelor’s degree (11.0 percent vs. 7.8 percent), or a master’s degree (4.2 percent vs. 1.5 percent). These differences translate to a 47 percent increase in an earned associate’s degree and a 41 percent increase in an earned bachelor’s degree.
CPC graduates through second or third grade showed even greater gains: a 48 percent increase in associate’s degree or higher and a 74 percent increase for bachelor’s degree or higher.
“Every child deserves a strong foundation for a successful future, and this report provides more concrete, compelling evidence that investments in early childhood education pay dividends for decades,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago is expanding access to early childhood education so every child, regardless of their zip code or parents’ income, can have the building blocks for a lifetime of success.”
According to the study’s authors, successful early childhood programs not only may lead to higher adult educational achievement, but also to improved health. The authors note that adults with less education are more likely to adopt unhealthy habits like smoking and to experience high blood pressure, obesity, and mental health problems than those who complete more schooling.
“This study shows that a well run early childhood intervention program can have benefits well into adult life,” said James Griffin, Ph.D., Deputy Chief of the Child Development Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.
In previous studies, the researchers showed that CPC program participants have attained higher incomes, and experienced lower rates of serious crime, incarceration, and depression than participants of other programs. CPC has also shown a return on investment: cost-benefit analyses have shown economic returns of 7 to 10 dollars per dollar invested.
The CPC program expanded beyond Chicago beginning in 2012. The program is now also in parts of Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Funding for the study is from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. To read the full research paper titled, “A Multicomponent, Preschool to Third Grade Preventive Intervention and Educational Attainment at 35 Years of Age,” visit the JAMA Pediatrics website.
The articlediscussed a study published in Current Biology that examined eye movements of identical and fraternal twins who were 11 years old. The study showed that twins tend to look at the same parts of pictures, while unrelated children have different gaze patterns. The findings suggest that genes have an impact on eye movements well into childhood.
A separate study, which was published in July 2017 and involved toddlers, found that genetics may explain why children with autism tend to avoid eye contact. According to Spectrum, these studies “highlight the need to dig deeper into the brain mechanisms that govern gaze in both typical children and those with autism.”
Commenting on the findings, Elison, who was not involved in either study, said, “The idea that this behavior may persist from 24 months to 11 years old might suggest that this behavior becomes exceptionally entrenched and is less vulnerable to interventions.”
In the commentary, Koenig and Tiberius discuss recent child development research that shows that young children are able to identify false information without prior training and that children prefer to learn from those who are familiar, dominant, or attractive.
According to Koenig and Tiberius, this research suggests that “children would benefit from seeing their culturally favored sources — parents, teachers, family, clergy, political leaders — admit to the limits of their knowledge, openly discuss their mistakes, profess their doubts and make their uncertainty clear.”
In health care-related environments, children and youth may face stressful or traumatic situations that can negatively impact not only their physical and emotional health but also their development. That’s where certified child life specialists (CCLS) step in. As trained professionals, they promote optimum development and coping through medical preparation and education, play, and therapeutic activities. They advocate for patient- and family-centered care and work in partnership with all members of a patient’s medical team.
Sarah Wiebler, MS, CCLS, child life coordinator in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), answered questions about the child life profession and a new master’s program in ICD.
What inspired you to enter the child life field?
As an undergraduate child psychology student in ICD, I developed a passion for working with children as well as a strong interest in the research of how hospitalization can impact a child’s development. I’m grateful to one of my professors, who encouraged me to meet with a child life specialist and pursue a master’s degree in the field. After working as a CCLS for more than 8 years at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, I’m happy to be back where my journey began.
What are trends you see in the child life field?
While pediatric hospitals and clinics still employ most certified child life specialists, we’re seeing more specialists working in settings like pediatric home care and hospice, bereavement programs, camps, nonprofit community support groups, dental settings, and with children of adult patients.
What type of preparation is needed to become a CCLS?
Starting in 2022, theAssociation of Child Life Professionals, which establishes and maintains professional standards for the field, will require newly credentialed certified child life specialists to have a master’s degree in child life.Last year, ICD launched a master’s in applied child and adolescent development, which offers three tracks: child life, infant and early childhood mental health, and individualized studies. The child life track will prepare students to pursue the child life certification.
What sets ICD’s master’s program apart from other child life graduate programs?
ICD has a long been a leader in the field of developmental science and research. Developmental science helps us understand how best to communicate with and support children of all ages through traumatic or stressful experiences, such as illness, injury, hospitalization, or grief. Our students will graduate with a deep knowledge of how to best serve children and their families during life’s most challenging moments.
These funds are awarded to students whose research proposals merit special recognition and display a strong potential to contribute to the field of child development. The purpose of the award is to fund the research costs and professional development of the proposed dissertation research project.
Chan’s research focuses on how things like play activities, visual contexts, and examiner’s actions affect children’s attention to numbers and interpretation of number words. Her dissertation tests how non-numerical skills such as language and executive function influence mathematical thinking and learning.
The event consisted of 3 days of research presentations and educator outreach, and featured speakers from the fields of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and educational psychology. The conference was followed by 2 days of workshops, which were attended by the U.S. delegation of eight graduate students and five faculty members.
During the post-conference workshops, Semenov and the U.S. delegation met with researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute. These workshops addressed research topics, such as new technologies, social and emotional determinants of learning, and multimedia learning. They also covered international collaboration and scientist/educator collaboration. Semenov presented his project on introducing structured family routines to Head Start and Early Head Start families as a way to improve executive function in children.
According to the blog, parents who participated in Project ADAPT reported feeling better about their parenting, which in turn leads to improvements in the child’s adjustment. The project has also reduced depression, PTSD symptoms, and thoughts of suicide for the parents involved.
Laura Reimann, a child psychology undergraduate student, shares why she chose to study child psychology and gives advice for other students pursuing the major.
How and why did you choose your major?
As a freshman, I did an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, and it changed my entire outlook on mass incarceration and the effects it has on children and families. I heard devastating stories of separation, and of parents who knew their incarceration was impacting their children, but did not know how to mitigate those effects. They were scared and uncertain of where their children were and how they were doing. As I completed my internship I realized this was the area I wanted to try and help to change, but I knew that I did not want to be an attorney. So, I approached the child psychology advisor and asked for more information. He gave me some advice about how to choose a major and encouraged me to connect with Dr. Ann Masten. I read more about her research and about the classes in the major and knew this was where I wanted to be!
Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.
The child psychology major is unique because it combines a lot of different class work with field work and research opportunities. During my time as a child psychology major, I have participated in a variety of activities, including field work at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center and have participated in research in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience and the Shlafer Lab, which studies the effects of mass incarceration on families.
What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)
I am involved as an officer in the Child Psychology Student Organization where we participate in various events which include community service, hosting guest speakers to talk about topics our members are interested in, and free food! During my first year, I had an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office where I got to see the court system in action and observe the effects of incarceration firsthand, which led to my involvement in research with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, that systematically examines these effects. My research interests also led me to pursue an undergraduate research assistant position in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience, examining risk and protective factors in the lives of children experiencing homelessness and high mobility, under the direction of Dr. Ann Masten. Finally, I work on campus as a peer assistant at the University Honors Program.
In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?
Find something you are passionate about, get involved, and be assertive! The Institute of Child Development has so much to offer and it is so important to find an issue or area within the field that you are passionate about and find a way to work on it. Whether it is volunteering at a local school or spending your time in a lab doing research, make sure you love it. When you find something that you care about, be assertive and find a way to get involved. Even if you are nervous, approach professors doing research you care about and talk to them about what opportunities they know of that fall within your areas of interest. The undergraduate experience is what you make it, so pursue things you love and do not be afraid to try something new.
Ann S. Masten, Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), was recently featured in an article appearing in the September 2017 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology.
The article, “Maximizing children’s resilience,” by Kirsten Weir, highlighted new research that examines how to foster resilience in children and adolescents and the importance of early intervention.
According to Masten, the field has shifted from focusing on traits of resilient individuals to looking at resilience from a systems perspective. For example, Masten, along with other researchers, have found that having supportive relationships, including with parents or primary caregivers, is important for healthy development.
“The resilience of an individual depends on drawing resources from many other systems,” Masten says. “A child is embedded in interactions with friends, family, community. The way those other systems are functioning plays a huge role in the capacity of that child to overcome adversity.”
Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, was interviewed by WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV about her research program, ADAPT, that supports military families reintegrating following deployment. The unique program provides tools and resources to support positive parenting. A U.S. Department of Defense grant is underwriting an online version of ADAPT to serve more military families.
Shlafer, who teaches an honors class titled, Incarceration and the Family, partnered with Diana Poch, a psychologist at Sandstone, to launch the project. Poch had noticed positive behavior changes in inmates who learned how to crochet and were teaching others the craft.
Last semester, Shlafer and her students collected a total of 350 pounds of yarn to provide to the inmates. With the yarn, the inmates crocheted animals for sick children at four Twin Cities Ronald McDonald Houses.
“It was so powerful for my students to learn how many consequences there are to sometimes very limited decisions,” Shlafer said. “They made an impact in a way that really challenged the students’ assumptions about who is in prison for what and why, raising questions around equity.”
Reimann plans to continue to raise awareness about Project Teddy Bear next semester as Shlafer’s teaching assistant. “People have a tremendous capacity to change if given the chance and the resources,” Reimann said. “They are creating something with another human in mind and giving something back to a community that thinks they are only taking.”
The Smith College Medal was established in 1962 to recognize alumnae who exemplify in their lives and work “the true purpose” of a liberal arts education. More than 200 Smith alumnae have received the award, including journalist and activist Gloria Steinem and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Masten was one of four alumnae to receive the medal this year.
Masten is a leading psychologist who focuses on competence, risk, and resilience in human development, especially in children and families threatened by adversity. The goal of her work is to inform science, practice, and policy around human adaptation and resilience.
Masten will receive the medal during Smith College’s Rally Day, which will take place on Feb. 21, 2018.
During their trip, Thompson and Aleixo visited the SNU lab school, a training site for graduate students, and met with teachers to exchange ideas on research and best practices for early childhood education. Thompson also gave a talk on big body play and integrating early childhood education.
“It was an amazing first meeting with the faculty and grad students at SNU,” Thompson said. “The level of dedication and eagerness to learn displayed by the students shows the workings of a great potential partnership. We look forward to continuing to cultivate our relationship with SNU and its Lab School.”
The award is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Women’s Center. It recognizes women faculty at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities who have achieved significant scientific accomplishments, national and international reputations, and who contribute as leaders on campus.
Up to two awards are offered per year, one in science and engineering and one in humanities, arts, and social sciences. As a recipient of a 2017 award, Koenig will receive $5,000 to support her research.
The summer institute is a community event hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. The 3-day event aimed to bring together teachers, researchers, clinicians, and practitioners to discuss mindfulness research and ways to promote practices that support wellbeing in school communities.
For the event, Zelazo delivered a keynote address that focused on how mindfulness practice has been shown to promote reflection and executive functions in children and adults.
Semenov’s presentation highlighted findings from curriculum evaluation conducted this past year. The novel curriculum, developed in collaboration with the Center for Spirituality and Healing, introduced mindfulness practice to a cohort of elementary school teachers in an effort to improve teacher wellbeing and promote mindful approaches to student-teacher interactions.
The Diversity in Psychology Program is designed for individuals who are historically under-represented in psychology graduate programs and who are interested in learning about graduate training in psychology, child psychology, and educational/school psychology at the University of Minnesota.
The program will feature a coordinated set of formal and informal experiences designed to familiarize participants with strategies for constructing successful graduate school applications, and to provide them with the opportunity to learn more about the experience of graduate education in UMN psychology departments.
To be eligible to apply, individuals must:
be enrolled in a college or university as a junior or senior, or who have graduated within the last two years (i.e., 2015 or thereafter). Individuals currently enrolled in a terminal masters-level graduate program in psychology are also eligible.
identify as a member of groups underrepresented in graduate training in psychology, including ethnic and racial minority groups, low-income backgrounds, persons with disability, LGBTQ+, military veterans, and first-generation college students or graduates.
Individuals must also meet one of the following criteria:
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in either child psychology or educational/school psychology. OR
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in psychology in one of the following programs of research offered by the Department of Psychology: clinical science and psychopathology; counseling psychology; cognitive and brain sciences; industrial/organizational psychology; personality, individual differences, and behavior genetics; quantitative psychology/psychometric methods; or social psychology.