AT-RISK RESEARCH PROGRAM

As part of an ongoing longitudinal study, inner-city children from disadvantaged neighborhoods were recruited in Grades 1, 4 and 7. Consequently, they have been studied through adolescence and young adulthood, and into parenthood, offering the unique opportunity to study two generations.  As the original participants have since participated in a number of studies with their children, offspring development and outcomes are being examined.  Currently, we are in the early stages of the third generation. In following this sample, the foci in ongoing studies include, among others: (1) developmental trajectories from infancy through adulthood; (2) long-term outcomes; (3) health and development; (4) risk and protective factors; (5) parent-child and peer relationships; (6) transition to formal schooling, transition from elementary to high school, academic performance, and school achievement; and (7) social, emotional and behavioral competence. Within this project, current studies in my lab examine several different developmental domains.

Below are a few examples:

  • Emotional competence is linked to concurrent and later social adjustment and competence, and is thus an important predictor of healthy child development. Emotion regulation, expression and communication are important foci in some of our studies.

  • Early maladaptive child behaviors have been linked to later health-risk behaviors such as smoking and early sexual activity, as well as negative health outcomes in the next generation. Prospectively following individuals, in particular women, can explain the impact of early behaviour problems and health-risk behaviors on the next generation.

  • Child compliance with maternal requests is an important index of toddlers’ ability to self-regulate and behave in a socially acceptable manner. In addition, child compliance behaviours have been linked to autonomy, mutuality and partner dominance. Assertive types of noncompliant behaviour reflect children's emerging development of autonomy. Children's compliant and noncompliant behaviour is influenced by their mothers' request strategies, which can be influenced by different risk factors. Observing mother-child interactions within a naturalistic context can highlight the influence of early risk status on request strategies, as well as indicate how poor strategies affect their children's compliant and noncompliant behaviour.

  • Becoming a distinct person, while maintaining close relationships with others, is a challenge central to social competence. This challenge is particularly noteworthy during middle childhood, a critical transition period during which parents begin to gradually relinquish control over their children. Investigating this developmental process is essential in families with histories of psychosocial risk, where the likelihood of psychological and behaviour problems is increased. Observing the constructs of autonomy, mutuality, and partner dominance during at-risk mother-child interactions elucidates our understanding of the intergenerational transfer of risk and the development of competence in vulnerable populations.

  • Studies examining how the mother-child relationship is vital to the development of emotion communication skills in children provide a significant context in which we can understand how emotions are socialized, expressed, and regulated.

  • Studies examining parenting patterns, such as maternal reactions to children's performance during teaching tasks, in relation to children's subsequent academic outcomes (e.g., cognitive and academic achievement and success).

  • Studies examining the contribution of maternal childhood risk status, child age and gender to the prediction of maternal emotional expressiveness and emotionality, as well as parenting behaviours, are being studied.
  • The quality of parent-child interactions over time (beginning in infancy) and as a function of risk status is being studied. Constructs that are examined include, but are not limited to: parenting stress, temperament, emotional availability, maternal expressivity, maternal autonomy support and co-regulation processes.

     

The Concordia Project is a collaborative project under the joint direction of
Drs. Stack and Serbin.

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