CEHD News Institute of Child Development

CEHD News Institute of Child Development

ICD graduate students awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation fellowship

Isabella Stallworthy
Isabella Stallworthy
Shreya Lakhan-Pal
Shreya Lakhan-Pal

Isabella Stallworthy and Shreya Lakhan-Pal, graduate students at the Institute of Child Development (ICD), have recently been selected to receive the 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) grant. The fellowship is awarded to outstanding graduate students in NSF- supported sciences who are pursuing a research-based master’s or doctoral degree. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the country’s oldest fellowship that directly supports students in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

As a NSF Graduate Research fellow, Stallworthy plans to build on her past and current research focusing on self-regulation and social engagement in early infancy from bio-behavioral and social-cognitive perspectives. Through her research, Stallworthy hopes to inform parent education and caregiver interventions on ways to promote successful socio-emotional, communicative, and self-regulatory skills early in life. “I am excited to build upon my past research experiences to ask new questions about the emergence of the social mind and brain, synthesizing ideas from multiple labs and research traditions,” Stallworthy said.

Lakhan-Pal’s research focuses on the understanding of emotional regulation during the transition to adolescence. With help from the fellowship, Lakhan-Pal plans to use electroencephalography (EEG) to assess whether parenting practices around emotions have an impact on how effective teens are able to self-regulate. “I’m mainly curious on how parents’ supportiveness and tendency to coach kids through emotional experiences will affect their children’s ability to regulate during adolescence,” Lakhan-Pal said. 

Postdoctoral training in developmental psychopathology

Overview and Background

The Institute of Child Development offers NIMH-funded postdoctoral training via a T32 Institutional Training Grant. The grant supports two two-year postdoctoral traineeships during 2018-2020.

Specialized training is available in multi-level (genetic, neurobiological, behavioral and experiential) basic, translational, and clinical research in the development of cognitive and emotional processes that are dysregulated in mental disorders; longitudinal research that charts the emergence and change in emotional and behavioral problems of children who are at high risk of developing mental disorders in order to facilitate identification, prevention, intervention and treatment; and developing and testing better preventive interventions for children at high risk for developing psychopathology. Preference is given to applicants trained in psychopathology who need additional training in psychobiology/neuroscience, or the reverse.


The training program is directed by Dr. Dante Cicchetti, one of the founders of the field of developmental psychopathology, and is led by a group of internationally recognized faculty members with expertise in various sub-disciplines of developmental science, including child clinical psychology, developmental behavioral neuroscience/developmental psychobiology, socioemotional development, cognitive development, pediatrics, and prevention/intervention science. A primary mentor from among these faculty members must be identified by each applicant in their application to the program. Trainees are also welcome to work with and/or collaborate with multiple mentors from among the training faculty. ICD Internal Training faculty for the 2018-2020 fellowship include: Dan Berry, Ph.D, Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D, Dante Cicchetti, Ph.D, Jed Elison, Ph.D, Michael Georgieff, M.D., Abi Gewirtz, Ph.D, Megan Gunnar, Ph.D, Melissa Koening, Ph.D, Ann Masten, Ph.D, Michele Mazzocco, Ph.D, Arthur Reynolds, Ph.D, Glenn Roisman, Ph.D, Katie Thomas, Ph.D, Phil Zelazo, Ph.D. External training faculty include: Gerald August, Ph.D.(Family Social Science), Iris Borowsky, M.D., Ph.D. (Pediatrics: General Pediatrics & Adolescent Health), William Iacono, Ph.D. (Psychology), Suma Jacobs, M.D., Ph.D. (Psychiatry), Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Ph.D., (Psychology), Robert Krueger, Ph.D. (Psychology), Richard Lee, Ph.D., (Psychology), Monica Luciana, Ph.D. (Psychology), Matt McGue, Ph.D. (Psychology), Margaret Semrud-Clikeman, Ph.D., L.P., ABPdN, (Pediatrics: Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience), Neils Waller, Ph.D. (Psychology).

The core of the postdoctoral program is the research training. Trainees plan and execute their research studies with a primary mentor. Between 75% and 80% of the trainee’s time is spent in research. The research experience consists of both collaborative work with the mentor(s) and independent research.

Course work is minimal (no more than 1 per semester) for the postdoctoral trainees and tailored according to which type of cross-training they need. They will attend lab and reading group meetings. Postdoctoral trainees will take our grant writing seminar and will write an R21, R01, or K01 grant during their time in the program.

In addition, each trainee is expected to attend sessions of the biennial “Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology”, Dr. Cicchetti’s Journal Club, and weekly colloquia, without regard to subject matter. Postdoctoral trainees are expected to present their work at the weekly colloquia at least once per year. Attendance at annual meetings of relevant professional societies is encouraged and supported by the training grant.


The Institute of Child development holds a unique position as an internationally known, premier center of research in developmental science and the application of the science to improving the quality of human life. It was founded in 1925 with the goal of fostering the welfare of our nation’s children. Throughout its long history, the Institute has always been a leader in the field. It was a seminal site in the establishment of developmental psychopathology as a subfield and that focus has continued and strengthened in the decades since. The Institute also has led the field in integrating developmental psychobiology/neuroscience research into the study of normative and atypical development. There is growing interest in genetics, gene expression, and epigenetics. In addition, the Institute has led the field in multidisciplinary and translational research.


Preference is given to applicants trained in psychopathology who need additional training in psychobiology/neuroscience, or the reverse. Preferred qualifications include training and research productivity in behavioral/psychological/social sciences, strengths in statistical methods, and promise as a research scholar. Flexible start date, but expected to be August, 2018. A two-year commitment is required. The NIMH stipend will be commensurate with experience and consistent with UMN post-doctoral stipends. Doctoral degree must be completed by time of appointment. Applicant must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident.


Submit curriculum vitae, statement of research interest(s) including with whom you want to work, graduate transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and a sample of published or in press theoretical or empirical work via email to Dr. Dante Cicchetti, Training Grant Director, Institute of Child Development, 51 East River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0345. Email: cicchett@umn.edu. Application review begins 4/15/18. Positions open until filled. Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Inquiries may be directed to: Karlyn Wegmann, Assistant to Dr. Cicchetti, at wegm0001@umn.edu.

Two ICD doctoral students receive Doris Duke Fellowship

Katherine Ridge
Katherine Ridge
Christina Mondi
Christina Mondi

Katherine Ridge and Christina Mondi, doctoral students at the Institute of Child Development (ICD), have recently been awarded the Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being.

The fellowship, offered by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, aims to identify and develop a new generation of leaders who will create practices and policies that will enhance child development and prevent child maltreatment.

With the help of the fellowship, Ridge plans to investigate how characteristics of early relationships with caregivers influence children’s trusting decisions. In addition to pursuing a Ph.D. in child psychology at ICD, Ridge is also a student in the school psychological services M.A. and specialist certificate program in the Department of Educational Psychology. Ridge hopes to promote the development of positive relationships between children and adults. “With the support of the Doris Duke Fellowship, I am especially excited to use the knowledge gained from our research to inform school-based support groups for children and their relationships with others during my internship year,” Ridge said.

Mondi’s research and clinical work focuses on the promotion of socio-emotional learning with an emphasis placed on populations affected by adversity and trauma. Mondi hopes to better understand the role that early childhood intervention programs, such as the Child-Parent Center P-3 program, have on promoting lifelong wellbeing. As a Doris Duke Fellow, Mondi will use this opportunity to conduct research that will contribute to the growing national conversation about how to promote lifelong mental health. “I look forward to collaborating with and learning from other scholars who are passionate about promoting child wellbeing,” Mondi said.

Fellows receive an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to two years to support their dissertation and related research. Ridge and Mondi are two of 15 doctoral students to receive the fellowship this year.

Masten receives 2018 Smith College Medal

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

Ann Masten, Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development, recently received a 2018 Smith College Medal, which recognizes extraordinary Smith College alumnae for their professional achievements and outstanding service.

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.

“[Dr. Masten’s] impact on the field is immeasurable. Over the arc of her academic career, Dr. Masten’s work has spanned the local (homeless families in Minnesota) to the global (immigrant youth in Greece and Cambodians who fled the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot regime), closely observing the promotive and protective factors that characterize resilient youth and their ecosystems,” said Patricia Marten DiBartolo, Ph.D., associate dean of the faculty at Smith College. “Her multidisciplinary research, incorporating variables from the biological to the cultural, has nuanced and propelled resounding concepts in the discipline–resilience, pathways, developmental cascades, cumulative risk–that help weave together reproducible and predictive scientific knowledge with rich human narratives of triumph over adversity.”

Masten received the medal during Smith College’s Rally Day, which took place on Feb. 21, 2018. Watch Masten deliver her acceptance speech of the medal.

Roisman awarded Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

Headshot of Glenn Roisman, Ph.D.
Glenn Roisman, Ph.D.

Glenn Roisman, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of Child Development, has been awarded the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship, which honors the University of Minnesota’s highest-achieving mid-career faculty. Roisman is an internationally recognized leader in the study of how early relationships impact social, cognitive, and biological development across the lifespan.

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Roisman will receive a $100,000 grant for research and scholarly activities, and carry the title throughout his University career. Roisman is one of six University professors receiving the award in 2018. Four CEHD professors have earned the award previously, including Frank Symons of educational psychology, and Megan Gunnar, Ann Masten, and Stephanie Carlson, all of the Institute of Child Development.

At the Institute of Child Development, Roisman leads the Relationship Research Lab, which examines the legacy of early relationship experiences as an organizing force in social, cognitive, and biological development across the lifespan. Roisman also oversees the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which began in 1975 and primarily focuses on how people think about their social experiences, risk and protective factors, and issues of continuity and change.

Through his research, Roisman has used innovative statistical methods and the unique datasets provided by longitudinal studies to determine how early relationship experiences impact different individuals and how those experiences support or undermine their physical and psychological health as adults.

Roisman and the other winners of this year’s Distinguished McKnight University Professorships will be recognized at a Board of Regents meeting in Spring 2018 and honored at a celebratory dinner.

In Reuters, Masten discusses importance of supportive relationships in adulthood

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

In an article in Reuters, Ann Masten, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of Child Development, commented on new research that found that child abuse survivors have a lower risk of dying prematurely if they have strong, supportive relationships in adulthood.

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.”

ICD alumni spotlight: Momoko Hayakawa, Ph.D.

Momoko Hayakawa, Ph.D.

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!

CEHD collaborates with Harvard Graduate School of Education

Reflection Sciences founders Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., are professors in CEHD’s Institute of Child Development

Reflection Sciences, a Minnesota start-up founded by two CEHD professors, is teaming up with researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to understand how children develop in both formal and informal child care settings through measures of early learning.

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.

ICD researchers find early childhood program linked to degree completion

Arthur Reynolds, Ph.D.
Arthur Reynolds, Ph.D.

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 in JAMA 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.

Elison recently quoted in Spectrum

Dr. Jed Elison

Jed Elison, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Institute of Child Development, was recently quoted in an article in Spectrum.

The article discussed 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.”

Koenig comments on helping children think critically

Melissa Koenig
Melissa Koenig, Ph.D.

Melissa Koenig, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of Child Development, recently published a commentary in NBC News Think on how we can help children think critically in the era of “fake news.”

Koenig collaborated with Valerie Tiberius, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Minnesota, on the piece.

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.”

Discovering child life: An interview with ICD’s child life coordinator

A certified child life specialist engaged in medical play with a patient.

This article originally appeared in CEHD Connect magazine.

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, the Association 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.

Learn more about ICD’s MA in applied child and adolescent development and the Association of Child Life Professionals.

Chan receives SRCD Dissertation Funding Award

Jenny Yun-Chen ChanJenny Yun-Chen Chan, a doctoral student in the Institute of Child Development, has been awarded a Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) 2017 Dissertation Funding award by the SRCD and the Student and Early Career Council.

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.

Ph.D. student attends International Science of Learning Conference

Andrei Semenov works with a colleague during the International Science of Learning Conference

Andrei Semenov, a child psychology doctoral student in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), recently attended the International Science of Learning Conference in Brisbane, Australia, at the University of Queensland Brain Institute as part of a U.S. delegation of graduate students and faculty. The delegation was funded as a National Science Foundation Initiative. 

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.

Gewirtz featured on CEHD Vision 2020 Blog

Dr. Abigail Gewirtz

Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D., Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, and a professor in the Institute of Child Development, recently was featured  on the CEHD Vision 2020 Blog.

In her post, “Project ADAPT Improves Parental Self-Efficacy and Child Adjustment in Military Families, Gewirtz discusses Project ADAPT, which aims to help military families adjust to regular life after returning from deployment and teaches effective communication strategies between parent and child.

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.

Child psychology undergraduate spotlight: Laura Reimann

Child psychology undergraduate student Laura Reimann
Laura Reimann

This profile originally appeared on the UMN Center for Academic Planning & Exploration website.

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.

Masten discusses resilience in Monitor on Psychology

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

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.”

Gewirtz’s ADAPT program in the news

Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership Professor, Dept. of Family Social Science, and Institute for Translational Research in Child Development.


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.

ICD alumna, undergraduate featured in Star Tribune for restorative justice project

Rebecca Shlafer

Rebecca Shlafer, Ph.D., MPH, an alumna of the Institute of Child Development (ICD), and Laura Reimann, an undergraduate child psychology student in ICD, were recently featured in the Star Tribune for their involvement in Project Teddy Bear, a restorative justice project at a Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minn.

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.”

Masten awarded 2018 Smith College Medal

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

Ann Masten, Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development, is the recipient of a 2018 Smith College Medal, which recognizes extraordinary Smith College alumnae for their professional achievements and outstanding service.

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.