Affiliated Projects

The following projects are affiliated with the Center for Child and Family Well-Being. The Center promotes multi-method, interdisciplinary research from many departments and schools across the University.

UWellness Study- Opportunity to Participate

Principal Investigator: Lauren Papp, Ph.D.
Human Development and Family Studies

The UWellness Study is a new research study focused on daily behaviors and wellness in college. We are interested in learning more about college students’ behaviors in day-to-day life and health & well-being over time. Participants will attend two lab sessions on campus and will be asked to fill out brief electronic surveys in daily life for up to one month. Freshmen and sophomores at UW-Madison are invited to complete a phone screen; eligibility will be determined prior to enrollment. Sessions are conveniently offered throughout the week. Future phases of the research will involve online surveys every six months over the next two years. Compensation is provided for participation.
If you are interested in participating or learning more, please email the project staff at UWellness@sohe.wisc.edu or call 608-263-2351. General questions about the research should be directed to Professor Lauren M. Papp in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at papp@wisc.edu or 608-262-8611. Visit us at UWellness.sohe.wisc.edu.

Empty Nest Marriage Relationships

Principal Investigator: Lauren M. Papp, PhD
Human Development and Family Studies

The UW Couples Lab in the School of Human Ecology is currently recruiting midlife couples whose adult children have recently left the home (“empty nesters”) to participate in a relationship study. We are interested in learning about the romantic relationships of empty nesters. If you take part in this study, you and your partner would attend two lab sessions together approximately two weeks apart on the UW-Madison campus. Between these visits, both of you will be asked to fill out brief daily diaries for 14 days. To be able to take part in this study, both partners must be between 43 and 57 years old and have entered the empty nest period within the last two years; additional eligibility criteria may apply.  Sessions are conveniently offered during daytime/evening hours, including on weekends. Compensation is provided for participation.

If you are interested in participating, please email the UW Couples Lab at relationships@sohe.wisc.edu, or call 608-263-2351. Feel free to share this opportunity with others.  General questions about the research should be directed to Professor Lauren M. Papp in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at papp@wisc.edu or 608-262-8611.

Young Adult Dating Couples

Principal Investigator: Lauren M. Papp, PhD
Human Development and Family Studies

The UW Couples Lab in the School of Human Ecology is looking for young adults to participate in a dating study. We are interested in learning more about the connections between close relationships and daily feelings and behaviors. This study is particularly interested in how young adults use prescription medication. If you take part in this study, you and your partner would attend two lab sessions two weeks apart on the UW-Madison campus. Between these visits, both of you will be asked to fill out brief daily diaries for 10 days. To be able to take part in this study, both partners must be at least 18 years old and dating exclusively for at least one month; additional eligibility criteria may apply.  Sessions are conveniently offered during daytime/evening hours, including on weekends. Compensation is provided for participation.

If you are interested in participating, please email the UW Couples Lab at relationships@sohe.wisc.edu, or call 608-263-2351. General questions about the research should be directed to Professor Lauren M. Papp in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at papp@wisc.edu or 608-262-8611.

Family Outcomes and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Principle Investigator: Sigan Hartley, Ph.D.
Human Development and Family Studies

It is now estimated that 1 in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASDs present with a challenging and lifelong profile of autism symptoms (deficits in communication, social relatedness, and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviors) and co-occurring behavior problems such as inattention, depressed and anxious affect, and aggression. Little research has examined family-level outcomes within families of children with ASDs. Mothers and fathers of children with ASDs encounter unique parenting experiences, yet virtually nothing is known about the impact of these unique parenting experiences on their marital relationship.  In turn, divorce and marital discord may have considerable consequences for the functioning of children with ASDs.  The overarching goal of this study is to examine how children with ASDs affect and are affected by parents’ marital relationship and why some couples are able to successfully adapt to the unique challenges of having a son or daughter with an ASD, and may even grow closer, whereas other couples are not.  Specifically, we are investigating the within-family associations between the child functioning, parental experiences, and marital adjustment as these processes unfold in naturalistic contexts and across 5 years. Findings from the study can be used to identify potential avenues for improving the well-being of both parents and children with ASDs.   In total, 175 couples of children with an ASD (aged 5 to 12) will participate in the study at multiple time points across 5 years. We are also recruiting a control group of 150 couples of children without a disability. This study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Please visit the Hartley Lab (http://hartleylab.wordpress.com/) for more information.

Learning from Touchscreens in Early Childhood

Heather

Principal Investigator: Heather Kirkorian, Ph.D.
Human Development and Family Studies

Young children are spending an increasing amount of time with interactive screen media (e.g., computers, iPad-style tablet devices) and the mobile application market is becoming saturated with allegedly educational products targeting toddlers and preschoolers. Yet researchers know almost nothing about the impact of these newer technologies on children. Research suggests that television and videos are not educationally valuable for children younger than three years of age. However, some studies suggest that toddlers learn from screens when they are interactive. For instance, toddlers are more likely to learn from video when interacting with another person via video chat. What remains unclear is whether video needs to be socially interactive (i.e., adaptive, reciprocal) in order for very young children to learn. Do interactive screens in and of themselves promote learning by very young children? If so, how is it effective? Interactive media may have far greater potential than traditional screen media to offer any benefit to children younger than three years of age.

In our current studies, we explore whether and how young children learn from interactive and non-interactive video using a touchscreen tablet. These studies are unique in their multi-method approach to observe learning by very young children and in their focus on not just whether but also how contingency facilitates learning. This project will generate applicable knowledge that will educate parents, teachers, policymakers, and other child development experts about the efficacy of educational, interactive media products for very young children. This knowledge will also inform the production of these products to maximize learning. If you have a two-year-old child and are interested in participating, you can sign up on the Cognitive Development and Media Lab website by clicking here.

How Children Play and Learn in the Context of Television

Principal Investigator: Heather Kirkorian, Ph.D.
Human Development and Family Studies

Understanding the impact of screen media on young children requires understanding how children respond to screen media in real time during everyday activities. In the U.S., young children often play in the presence of background TV, and our research shows that this can have an impact on the quantity and quality of children’s play and social interactions. Using the observational playroom in the Lehman Lab, we observe how young children play and learn in the context of background TV. We use behavioral measures (e.g., attention, play complexity) as well as psychophysiological measures (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance) to observe the effects of TV in real time, and we test how well children remember what they did during the play session. Studies like this one help to inform policy recommendations regarding “healthy media diets”.

Examining the Role of Peers on Childhood Obesity and Fitness in New York City

Principal Investigator: Jason Fletcher, Ph.D.
Public Affairs

This project will use innovative quantitative methods to estimate the effects of social influences on weight and fitness outcomes across critical developmental periods in childhood using a unique and detailed longitudinal dataset of over 1 million New York City public school children. We focus on estimating the causal impact of peer health characteristics on BMI and fitness measures across grades and within schools over time, and look for heterogeneity by multiple socio-demographic subpopulations. Understanding the causal impacts of peer effects is important as policies can leverage social multipliers to maximize effectiveness and slow obesity rates.

Family Impact Institute: The Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars

Principal Investigator: Karen Bogenschneider, Ph.D., Professor Emerita
Human Development and Family Studies

The Family Impact Seminars are a proven, replicable, and rapidly expandable model for building better public policies for families. The Seminars are a series of presentations, discussion sessions, and briefing reports that provide high-quality, objective information to policymakers including legislators, legislative aides, Governor’s Office staff, state agency officials, nonpartisan legislative service agency analysts, etc. The Seminars are unique in addressing topics identified by legislators; providing objective, nonpartisan information; encouraging policymakers to examine policies through the family impact lens; and offering a neutral, off-the-record setting for dialogue across the partisan divide. Since 1993, Professor and Extension Specialist Karen Bogenschneider has directed the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars that has convened 30 Seminars on topics such as early childhood care and education, economic development, education and school finance, evidence-based budgeting, family violence, health care, jobs, juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy, welfare reform, and workforce development.

Since 1999, Bogenschneider has directed the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars, which builds capacity for evidence-based policymaking for families in two main ways: (1) The Institute provides technical assistance to and facilitates dialogue among the 22 sites, all university-based, that are conducting Family Impact Seminars for policymakers in their states. (2) The Institute also trains professionals who want to learn what it takes to communicate research findings to policymakers in the timely, accessible, and nonpartisan format they prefer (for more information, see: www.familyimpactseminars.org).

Parenthetical Online Parenting Education and Support Program

Principal Investigator: Stephen Small, Ph.D.
Human Development and Family Studies

Human Development and Family Studies professor Stephen Small, Outreach Specialist Rebecca Mather, and Human Development and Family Studies doctoral student Anne Samuelson are in the process of developing a unique online platform and program for parent education and support. Whereas many websites already provide high-quality information regarding parenting and child development, they do not take full advantage of current web usage trends and capabilities. Small’s team has created the parent education and support platform, called Parenthetical, to offer ongoing, interactive, online programs for parents that merge high-quality research-based education, co-learning among parents, and the emotional support and networking of a trusted community.

Parenthetical is aimed at providing a supportive online setting where parents can develop trusting relationships with one another and site facilitators, have opportunities to discuss and share their experiences as parents, access well-researched information, and participate in intentionally designed education about effective parenting. While the first programmatic use of the platform is aimed at mothers of early adolescents, future versions of Parenthetical will be designed for other types of parent audiences, such as parents of newborns, families experiencing divorce or parents of special needs children.  A statewide pilot and evaluation of Parenthetical is currently underway. For more information online parenting, please visit http://myparenthetical.com/.

Family Transitions, Marital Functioning and Health: Longitudinal and Dyadic Links

Principal Investigator: Lauren M. Papp, PhD
Funded by the National Institute on Aging

Experiencing family transitions involving grown children, including the empty nest, during marriage is highly normative in middle adulthood in the United States, yet scant longitudinal marital research has been conducted during this period. Establishing how spouses and marriages fare during family transitions is important because marital functioning predicts an extensive set of older adults’ outcomes in the later years of life, including physical, psychological, and financial health, and mortality. As well, midlife health and well-being reliably predict the developmental transition to old age. In this project, I set forth two specific aims to address gaps in our understanding of the role of the empty nest in middle adulthood marital functioning and health. First, I propose to examine empty nest status as a predictor of both marital functioning (quality and course) and health (mental and physical) for men and women over time, and to then test moderators of the longitudinal associations. Second, I propose to use dyadic data obtained from participants and their spouses to test within-couple associations between concurrent empty nest status and husbands’ and wives’ marital quality and health, respectively, and to again test moderators of these linkages. This proposal seeks to conduct these aims with value-added secondary analysis of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS). The WLS is uniquely suited to accomplish the proposed aims for several reasons. First, detailed interviews that spanned middle adulthood tracked participants’ empty nest status, relationship functioning, and health over time. Here, sophisticated quantitative methods will appropriately handle longitudinal data. Additionally, the WLS incorporates marital functioning indicators of quality and course in a single study, offering the potential to reconcile disparate findings in the existing empty nest literature. Second, the WLS includes a spousal sub-sample, which will facilitate direct statistical tests comparing effects of the empty nest on marital quality and health for husbands versus wives. Again, appropriate dyadic quantitative modeling will be employed. Third, a broad array of theoretically-informed spouse and marriage characteristics will be tested as covariates and potential moderators, thereby elucidating protective and risk factors. Thus, the proposed research holds important implications for translational efforts designed to prevent and alleviate distress in partners and relationships. Identifying protective factors that encourage some spouses and marriages to thrive and endure in middle adulthood is critical to understanding the determinants of healthy aging and promoting public health.

Improving Child Safety and Well-Being in Foster and Relative Placements 

Principal Investigator: Kristen Johnson, Ph.D.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency

Johnson (PI) and other NCCD Children’s Research Center (CRC) researchers are exploring how best to improve the safety and well-being of children placed in relative and foster care placements in collaboration with Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) foster care program staff and Casey Family Programs. We started by examining cases of foster child maltreatment, to better understand the nature and context of foster child maltreatment. Toward this objective, we (1) examined recent literature and research to identify promising efforts to ensure the safety of children in foster care by preventing child maltreatment by relative and foster caregivers; and (2) analyzed existing data, administrative and paper file, from investigations of licensed foster care and relative care providers substantiated in fiscal year (FY) 2012 to determine the nature of foster parent-child maltreatment in Michigan. One task was to observe the prevalence of risk factors that can be helpful in targeting prevention efforts toward high-risk placements.

Estimating Youth Risk of Homelessness and Aging out of Care

Principal Investigator: Kristen Johnson, Ph.D.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency

A second effort engaged in by NCCD and Kristen (PI) is the development of predictive models is to help the Department of Children and Families’ Office of Youth Services (OYS) staff target foster youth at greatest risk of aging out and homeless in order to most effectively target them with intensive resources and service planning. The US Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families selected Wisconsin to receive the Youth Homelessness Prevention Planning Grant in October 2013. This two-year, $700,000 planning grant funds planning and capacity-building efforts to prevent and respond to youth homelessness among those in or aged out of foster care. A critical piece of this effort is the development of predictive models to estimate the likelihood of youth becoming homeless or aging out of foster care. The purpose of the predictive models is to help DCF staff target youth at greatest risk in order to most effectively target them with intensive resources and service planning.