Adolescent Health Promotion Lab
Childhood Cognition Lab
The Adolescent Health Promotion Lab is overseen by Dr. Elizabeth H. Weybright, and includes undergraduate and graduate students. Recognizing adolescence as a critical period of biological, cognitive, and social development, we seek to optimize health and put adolescents on a thriving trajectory toward adulthood. Using a prevention science framework we work to identify what facilitates and impedes healthy adolescent development and use this information to develop and/or refine preventive interventions that promote the health of adolescents and emerging adults.
Current research projects include:
Understanding Boredom in Adolescence: Boredom is a common experience in adolescence but, as researchers, we don’t fully understand when boredom may be helpful or harmful. To answer these questions and better understand the experience of boredom in adolescence, I’m collaborating with Drs. John Schulenberg and Linda Caldwell. We are using both cross-sectional and longitudinal data from U.S. (Monitoring the Future) and South African adolescents to answer questions such as: How does boredom change across adolescence? and How is boredom related to externalizing and internalizing symptoms? Research opportunities related to this project include 1) experience working with secondary data from cross-sectional and longitudinal data sets, 2) learning person-centered (latent profile analysis) and longitudinal (growth curves) methodological approaches, and 3) the ability to answer your own research question with a nationally representative dataset.
Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!): YA4-H! is an umbrella program that engages teens and adults in partnership to address crucial community health issues through learning, research, advocacy, and/or teaching. Under this umbrella, the Youth Voice: Youth Choice program was implemented using youth-adult partnerships to support teenagers as teachers and advocates to teach younger youth nutrition. This project is funded by the National 4-H council and Wal-Mart. Research opportunities related to this project include 1) collection and analysis of survey data from children and teens on nutrition, physical activity, community engagement, and leadership skills and 2) collection and analysis of focus group and individual interview data from teen teachers.
Healthy Leisure in Adolescence and Emerging Adults: Very little is known about how adolescents and young adults conceptualize, or define, healthy and unhealthy leisure. Ultimately, we want to identify how perceptions of healthy and unhealthy leisure are associated with healthy adolescent development. In collaboration with Drs. Linda Caldwell and Julie Son, we have conducted focus groups with young adults and are currently conducting thematic analysis of this data. Research opportunities related to this project include 1) co-facilitation of focus groups with adolescents and 2) qualitative data analysis including transcribing and coding.
General opportunities for students include:
Although research opportunities will vary depending on current projects, we welcome both undergraduate and graduate students interested in adolescent health promotion. Examples of research opportunities include:
- Involvement in quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis
- Access to secondary data for new research questions
- Experience contributing to scholarly work (papers, posters, newsletters)
- Being a part of exciting and groundbreaking research!
Childhood Obesity Prevention
Dr. Sammy Perone oversees the Childhood Cognition Lab. Our research utilizes a variety of cutting-edge methodologies to understand the processes by which cognition changes during early childhood, including electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking, and neural network models. Research in the lab is guided by the belief that an understanding of how cognition changes yields a powerful knowledge base to promote healthy cognitive development in all children.
The Childhood Cognition Lab provides undergraduate students an excellent opportunity to participate in all phases of research, including working with children, coding behavior, recruiting, data management, data interpretation, and reading and discussion of the extant literature. Experienced students may also have the opportunity for advanced opportunities, such as independent research, presentation, as well as community outreach and engagement in civic science.
There are three ongoing lines of research:
Strengthening Executive Function: Executive function (EF) refers to a set of neurocognitive processes (e.g., working memory) involved in goal-directed behavior, forethought, perspective taking, and self-control. EF has a foundational role in development by supporting academic and social abilities. A central goal of our research is to develop innovative tools to strengthen children’s EF during the preschool years to prepare them to enter school. Our research has revealed that simple learning experiences (e.g., playing matching games) can strengthen children’s EF (e.g., thinking flexibility). We are currently investigating how learning games can impact EF across a wide array of task contexts.
Brain and Cognitive Development: Early childhood is a period of rapid change in cognition. Surprisingly, little is known about how brain and cognitive development are connected during this period. A better understanding of this connection can help us identify the experiences to promote healthy cognitive and brain development. We are working toward this goal in a collaborative project with Dr. Stephanie Carlson (University of Minnesota) that is examining how developmental change in neural activity using EEG is related to children’s developing cognitive abilities.
Learning and Executive Function: It is well known that good EF abilities are associated with positive academic achievements, such as reading and math. It is not clear, however, if such achievements are attributable to the causal role of EF in learning. In collaboration with Dr. Philip Zelazo (University of Minnesota) and Prevention Science graduate student Alana Anderson, our lab is testing whether children can use EF (e.g., reflection, goal-setting, planning) to guide their own learning in a video-game context. Our goal is to develop new methods to teach children how to guide their own learning achievements.
Community Prevention Wellness Initiative (CPWI)
Dr. Tom Power , his graduate students (Veronica Bonilla-Pacheco, Jackelyn Hidalgo-Mendez, Yadi Olivera, Guadalupe Ramos, and Karina Silva), post-doctoral research associate Ashley Beck, and numerous faculty colleagues are working on three large-scale projects on childhood obesity prevention – one funded by NIH and two by the USDA. In these projects, we are conducting basic research on parenting and children’s eating behavior, as well as developing, evaluating, and disseminating a family-focused obesity prevention program for parents of preschool children. A particular focus of this research is on how parents influence children’s self-regulation in eating and non-eating contexts. This research is being conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine, Colorado State University, the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, North Carolina State University, Temple University, and WSU Extension.
A brief overview of our approach can be found in this video produced as part of an earlier USDA grant.
Our research team meets every week. We go over ongoing research tasks and discuss a variety of readings about parenting research, methodology, and current concerns. Students work on preparing and coding data on a variety of tasks including those assessing children’s stress and coping behaviors, children’s eating behavior, and parents’ scaffolding behaviors. Graduate researchers get experience helping organize the work of a research lab, leading seminar-type discussions, mentoring undergrads, and coding and analyzing data collected on a variety of tasks. Undergraduate researchers get hands-on experience with a variety of research tasks, learn what graduate school would be like, and have a chance to lead discussions and conduct their own research projects if they wish.
Family Life and Study: Interparental Discord and Child Stress
Dr. Brittany Cooper and Dr. Laura Hill are PIs on a state project to examine the effectiveness of community coalitions in reducing youth substance abuse. Across the state of Washington, 59 communities have received funding to form prevention coalitions. Members of the coalitions are trained in needs assessment, selecting evidence-based programs, and evaluating implementation and outcomes. Graduate students are participating in all phases of the statewide evaluation of CPWI effectiveness, including interviewing and conducting focus groups with members; organizing trainings for evidence-based programs; conducting analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data; and designing reports.
Human Animal Interaction Lab
The primary goal of this study, conducted by Dr. Patricia Pendry and funded by the National Center for Research on Marriage and Families, is to better understand how exposure to interparental conflict in infancy and early childhood is associated with child maladjustment in socioemotional and behavioral domains, with an emphasis on discovering a physiological pathway (e.g., child stress hormone levels, sleep) by which interparental conflict leads to child maladjustment. A second goal is to examine if relatively stable child characteristics (e.g., negative emotionality) can help explain why some children exposed to family conflict are negatively affected, while others are not, or less so. A third goal is to examine if young children exhibit differential physiological reactions to witnessing interparental discord based on the nature of parental disagreement (e.g., content, style). This study is funded by the National Center for Research on Marriage and Families.
Improving Prevention through Action Research (IMPACT) Lab
Dr. Patricia Pendry’s research takes a biobehavioral approach towards the study of human animal interaction and human development by examining the effects of animal assisted programs in reducing the physiological ramifications of social and academic stress, with an emphasis on strengthening adaptive functioning of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) activity in children, adolescents, and college students. While this research is broadly situated within a prevention science perspective, it is also informed by the interdisciplinary fields of human development and learning science through its emphasis on the social-psychological foundations of human development and learning, as well as on the design and evaluation of programs that enhance learning environments. Work conducted in the Human Animal Interaction lab includes basic and applied approaches and draws from literatures of child and adolescent development, animal assisted intervention and therapy, developmental psychoneuroendocrinology as well as program design, implementation, and evaluation.
Current research projects include:
PETPALS – Pets for Promotion of Academic Life Skills: Funded by MARS/WALTHAM, the PETPALS study is a randomized controlled trial examining the effects of college-based, animal-assisted stress prevention programs on human and animal participants. The main goal of this study is to examine the causal effects of infusing various levels of HAI (Human Animal Interaction) on college students’ executive functioning, motivation and learning, mental health symptomatology (anxiety, perceived stress, depression, and worry) and stress-related physiology (diurnal and momentary cortisol and alpha-amylase production). Another goal is to better understand the effects of participation in HAI programming on stress behavior of emotional support animals, and the role played by the quality of HAI on human and animal outcomes.
Pet your Stress Away Study: This randomized control trial examines the efficacy of an animal-assisted stress reduction program conducted at a college campus in the week leading up to final exams examining effects of a 10-minute session of canine and feline petting on students’ momentary emotion, perceptions of stress, and momentary cortisol levels.
Physiology and Emotion during Human Equine Interaction: This study examines the diurnal and momentary activity of adolescents’ cortisol and alpha-amylase levels and their emotional and behavioral responses to various equine facilitated learning (EFL) program activities.
Strengthening Families Program – Equine Assisted: This is a pilot project conducted by Dr. Patricia Pendry and Stephanie Roeter, doctoral candidate in Prevention Science, examining an equine-assisted version of the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), a nationally and internationally recognized, evidence-based parenting and family skills training program for high-risk and regular families. This mixed-methods project examines the design, implementation and evaluation of SFP-E, including a clinical trial on the effects of family-level, equine facilitated learning activities on the quality of family interactions and their physiological, behavioral and emotional correlates.
PATH to Success Study: This NIH-funded, experimental study includes collaborators in the College of Education and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and is testing the effects of PATH to Success, a 12-week, equine-assisted growth and learning program, on the physical and mental health of 5th-8th grade children and the physiological pathways underlying these effects.
Media, Youth, and Healthy Relationships Research
The IMPACT (IMproving Prevention through ACTion) Research lab is led by Drs. Laura Hill, Brittany Cooper, and Louise Parker, and includes undergraduate and graduate students interested in the prevention of social, emotional and behavioral health problems for youth, families and communities. Our research is aimed at closing the gap between the science and real-world practice of prevention, and therefore strong collaborations with prevention practitioners and policymakers are central to our approach. Specifically, our goal is to better understand what it takes to get effective, culturally relevant prevention programs and policies widely disseminated, implemented with high quality, and sustained across time in diverse community settings. To this aim, we engage in action-oriented, mixed-methods research on quality implementation, and sustainability, and conduct evaluations (including non-experimental evaluation in real-world settings) of evidence-based prevention interventions.
Current translational research projects include:
- Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI) Evaluation: We are collaborating with The Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery to conduct a statewide evaluation examining the effectiveness of community coalitions in reducing and preventing youth substance use.
- Sustaining Prevention of Youth Substance Use Prevention: In this mixed method study, we explore the community, organizational, and program factors associated with the sustainment of the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Adolescents 10-14 in a sample of communities across Washington State.
- Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Adolescents 10-14 Evaluation: Our lab conducts state-wide evaluation activities to: (1) identify which communities in Washington State are regularly implementing the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14, (2) determine the number of parent and youth participants, and (3) assess program implementation and effectiveness. In addition to studying the natural dissemination, implementation and sustainability of the program, we also develop local evaluation reports for our community partners to use for quality improvement and promotion of their program to local stakeholders.
- Creating Connection to Values and Purpose: Over the next several years, we will train WSU faculty to implement experiential teaching pedagogies and brief evidence-based behavioral interventions that have been shown to increase student success. Using implementation and dissemination research approaches from prevention science, the goals of the project are to increase student resilience, retention and academic success by increasing their sense of purpose, their belief that they can succeed, their connection to the university and to important adults, and their academic and life skills.
Opportunities for students include:
- Develop data collection tools (e.g., surveys, interview protocols)
- Collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data
- Gain experience in managing large data sets and applying advanced statistical methods
- Create content and visuals for reports and presentations to communicate research findings to multiple stakeholder groups (e.g., prevention providers, community members)
- Present posters and papers at regional and national conferences
- Co-author research publications
- Participate in trainings and workshops related to prevention science
- Provide technical assistance to prevention program providers
- Foster collaborations with program providers and practitioners as part of the research and evaluation projects
- Collaborate on projects that directly affect local and state policies
- Cultivate a professional network with leading prevention researchers and practitioners
Parental Influences on How Children Cope with Stress
Dr. Rodgers’ research explores factors within the individual, family, and non-family environments related to adolescent health and sexual risk behaviors. Current research with Dr. Stacy Hust (College of Communication) has two related tracks. One focuses on media as a cultural context that can influence adolescent and emerging adults’ sense of self, understanding of romantic relationships, and understanding of media messages that inform sexual identity, sexual scripts, and the negotiation of wanted and unwanted sexual behaviors. Current dyadic analyses of parent-adolescent communication about romantic relationships and dating violence will identify factors and strategies that best facilitate communication between parents and teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Other quantitative and qualitative research focus on identifying the role of sexual scripts, norms, and other contextual factors related to consent negotiation and sexual dating violence among teens and young adults.
Current research projects include:
Sexual Scripts in Music Media: How do parents and teens talk about violence and sex in music media?
Our research team is currently conducting dyadic analyses on data from 50 parent-teen dyads who discussed issues related to dating, romantic relationships, and violence in relationships, prompted by music-media clips. The research will reveal ways that parents and teens negotiate difficult conversations about healthy and unhealthy relationships in an effort to identify factors and strategies that best facilitate communication between parents and teens about romantic relationships and dating violence.
Making Sense of Mediated Sexual Scripts and Adolescents’ Romantic Relationships
Our research team is currently analyzing qualitative data from focus groups with over 100 high school and young college students and 18 in-depth interviews with teens and emerging adults. These rich data are beginning to reveal how adolescents and young adults make sense of sexual scripts in media and identify ways in which these sexual scripts influence their behavior in romantic and sexual relationships.
Strengthening Families Program
Dr. Tom Power, his graduate students (SuYeon Lee, Yadi Olivera, and Guadalupe Ramos), and WSU Extension faculty members AnaMaria Diaz-Martinez and Louise Parker are developing and evaluating a program for low-income, Latina mothers of 8- to 12-year-old children to help their children cope with stress. This program is being piloted in Pasco and Prosser, WA in the summer of 2016 and will then be evaluated in 2016-2017 with a randomized control trial in Pasco, WA, Prosser, WA, and LaHabra, CA. The project is being funded by a grant from WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. This project is part of Dr. Power’s larger research program on parental influences on how children cope with stress (see his review article here). Plans for additional projects are currently underway.
Drs. Laura Hill and Brittany Cooper are conducting a longitudinal study of the implementation, dissemination, and outcomes of an evidence-based model program (the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14) in Washington State. In partnership with WSU Extension faculty Louise Parker, Drew Betz, Renee Overath, and Jenn Crawford, and with the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Dr. Hill is examining the behavior of a model substance abuse prevention program as it moves from a controlled research context to a real-world implementation. Dr. Cooper is examining the types of and reasons for program adaptations and their links with parent and youth outcomes as well as the organizational, program, and community factors associated with long-term program sustainability. Students working on this project gain experience in data entry and analysis, production of outcome reports for program providers, mail surveys and phone interviews. Marcelo Diversi joined the SFP project to assist in the development of culturally relevant implementation and evaluation among Latino participants.