Sigan Hartley

Sigan Hartley

100 Women Chair in Human Ecology, Director of SoHE Graduate Studies: Waisman Center Investigator, Associate Professor
Human Development and Family Studies Department and Major
4101 Nancy Nicholas Hall 1300 Linden Drive
Office Hours
Email to set up appointment
608-265-5424

My research seeks to promote health and well-being in individuals with developmental disabilities and their families across the life course. My research focuses on developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and fragile X syndrome. I am interested in understanding how biological, cognitive, and behavioral factors interact with the environmental context, including the family, support services, and broader community, to contribute to health and well-being in children and adults with developmental disabilities and their parents. My research employs multifaceted methodologies (e.g., daily diaries, medical and public record reviews, observational coding systems, physiological measures, biological markers), using a range of analytic approaches (e.g., multilevel longitudinal modeling and survival analyses).

Download CV button

Professor Hartley’s program of research is aimed at promoting optimal development and health in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. Her work takes a biopsychosocial approach to examine how development and health are the result of interactions between biology, psychological factors, and life contexts. This work has spanned a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities (e.g. intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, Fragile X syndrome). A few of our current projects are described below.

Aging in Down syndrome

Adults with Down syndrome evidence accelerated aging, including an earlier onset and increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive declines. Yet, despite sharing genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease (i.e., trisomy 21) there is marked variability in the age of onset of dementia. We recently received a R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how lifestyle factors – such as sleep, physical activity, employment and cognitively stimulating activities, and social interactions — may contribute to differences in the timing of Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome. These lifestyle factors may be important modifiable resiliency mechanisms for delaying dementia in adults with Down syndrome despite their genetic risk.

Family Environment and neurodevelopmental conditions

Our research is also aimed at understanding how the lives of parents and children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome are connected to influence development and well-being. Findings from the study are being used to identify avenues for supporting families and improving current interventions and services. An important aspect of this research is focused understand co-occurring mental health conditions in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, including anxiety and depression. Our research examines how these mental health conditions may result from the interaction of the child with autism’s neurobiology and family environment risk and resiliency factors across time. Currently, 300 families of children with autism from across Wisconsin are participating in this study.  We are similarly examined how the family environment and parent-child interactions shape development and emotion regulation in children with Down syndrome. Our studies have also examined parent health in the context of fragile X syndrome.

Visit the Hartley Lab website to learn more: Hartley Lab

Representative Publications

Aging in Down syndrome

Hartley, S.L., Handen, B.L., Devenny, D, Tudorasu, D., Piro-Gambetti, B., Zammit, M.D., Laymon, C. M., Klunk, W., Zaman, S., Cohen, A., & Christian, B.T. (2020). Cognitive indicators of transition to preclinical and prodromal stages of Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring, 12 (1), e12068. doi: 10.1002/ dad2.12096

Mihaila, I., Handen, B. L., Christian, B. T., & Hartley, S. L. (2020). Leisure activity in middle‐aged adults with Down syndrome: Initiators, social partners, settings and barriers. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. https://doi.org/10.1111/jar

Cody, K. A., Piro-Gambetti, B., Zammit, M. D., Christian, B. T., Handen, B. L., Klunk, W. E., Zaman, S., Johnson, S. C., Plante, D. T., Hartley, S. L. (2020). Association of sleep with cognition and β-amyloid accumulation in adults with Down syndromeJournal of Neurobiology of Aging. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.04.018.

Snyder, H.M., Bain, L.J., Brickman, A.M., Carrillo, M.C., Esbensen, A.J., Espinosa, J.M., Fernandez, F., Fortea, J., Hartley, S.L., …Rafii, M.S. (2020). Further understanding the connection between Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, 16, 1065-1077. doi: 10.1002/alz.12112

Handen, B.L, Lott, I.T., Christian, B.T., O’Bryant, S., Mapstone, M., Fagan, A.M., Lee, J.H., Tudorascu, D., Want, M-C, Head, E., Klunk, W., Ances, B., Lai, Fl., Zaman, S., Krinsky-McHale, S., Brickman, A.M., Rosas, H.D., Cohen, A., Andrews, H., Hartley, S.L., Silverman, W., & Alzheimer’s Biomarker Consortium-Down syndrome (ABC-DS). The Alzheimer’s Biomarker Consortium-Down syndrome: Rationale and methodology. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, 12, e12065. doi:10.1002/dad2.12065

Rubenstein, E., Hartley, S., & Bishop, L. (2019). Epidemiology of dementia and Alzheimer disease in individuals with down syndrome. JAMA Neurology, 77(2):262‐264. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.3666

Mihaila,I., Handen, B., Christian, B.T., Lao, P.J., Cody, K., Klunk, W.E., Tudorascu, D.L., Cohen, A.D., Okonkwo, O., & Hartley, S.L. (2019). Leisure activity, brain β-amyloid, and episodic memory in adults with Down syndrome. Developmental Neurobiology, 79(7):738-749. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22677.

Tudorascu, D.L., Anderson, S.J., Minhas, D.S., Yu, Z., Comer, D., Lao, P., Hartley, S.L., …Christian, B.T. (2018). Comparison of longitudinal Aβ in non-demented elderly and Down syndrome. Neurobiology of Aging, 73:171-176. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2018.09.030.

Lao, P.J., Handen, B.L., Betthauser, T.J., Mihaila, I., Hartley, S.L., Cohen, A.D., et al…Christian, B.T. (2017). Longitudinal changes in amyloid PET and volumetric MRI in the non-demented Down syndrome population. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, 9, 2-9. doi:  10.1016/j.dadm.2017.05.001

Hartley SL, Handen BL, Devenny D, Mihaila I, Hardison R, Lao PJ, Klunk WE, Bulova P, Johnson SC, Christian BT. (2017). Cognitive decline and brain amyloid-β accumulation across 3 years in adults with Down syndrome. Neurobiololgy of Aging, 58:68-76. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.05.019.

Mihaila, I., Hartley, S.L., Handen, B. L., Bulova, P.D., Tumuluru, R.B., Devenny, D.A., et al. (2016). Leisure activity and caregiver involvement in middle-aged and older adults with Down syndrome. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 55, 97-109. doi: 10.1352/1934-9556-55.2.97.

Esbensen, A.J., Hooper, S.R., Fidler, D., Hartley, S.L., Edgin,J., d’Ardhuy, X.L. et al. (2017). Outcome measures for Clinical Trials in Down syndrome. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 122, 247-281. doi: 10.1352/1944-7558-122.3.247.

Lao, P.J., Betthauser, T.J., Hilmer, A.T., Price, J., Klunk, W., Mihaila, I.,  Higgins, A.T., Bulova, P.D., Hartley, S.L. et al. (2016). The effects of normal aging on amyloid-β deposition in a population of nondemented adults with Down syndrome as imaged by [11C] PIBAlzheimer’s and Dementia, 12(4):380-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.05.013.

Hartley, S. L., Handen, B., Devenny, D. T., Christian, B. T., Hardison, R., Mihaila, I., Price, J. C., Cohen, A. D., Klunk, W. E., Mailick, M., & Johnson, S. (2014). Cognitive functioning in relation to the accumulation of brain β-amyloid in healthy adults with Down syndromeBrain137(Pt 9):2556-63. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu173.

MacLean, W. E., Jr., & Hartley, S. L. (2005). Down syndrome. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Development (pp. 309-321). Oaks, CA: Sage

Family Environment and Neurodevelopmental Conditions

Putney, J., Greenlee, J., & Hartley, S.L. (2020).  Use and benefit of dyadic coping for marital satisfaction in parents of children with autism. Family Process. Epub forthcoming.

Papp, L.M., Drastal, K.C., Lorang, E.K., & Hartley, S.L. (2020). Mother-father physiological synchrony during conflict and moderation by parenting challenges: Findings from parents for children with autism spectrum disorder. Families, Systems, and Health. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1037/fsh0000525.

Lorang, E., Hartley, S., and Sterling, A. (2020) Physiological arousal and observed behaviour in parent–child interactions involving young children with Down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 64(6):426-433. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/jir.12714.

Hickey, E. J., Bolt, D., Rodriguez, G., & Hartley, S. L. (2020). Bidirectional Relations between Parent Warmth and Criticism and the Symptoms and Behavior Problems of Children with Autism.  Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-020-00628

Hartley, S.L., DaWalt, L., Hong, J., Greenberg, J., & Mailick, M. (2019). Positive Emotional Support in Premutation Carrier Mothers of Adolescents and Adults with Fragile X Syndrome: Gene by Environment Interactions. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Rodriguez, G., Hartley, S.L., & Bolt, D. (2020). Transactional relations between parenting stress and child autism symptoms and behavior problems. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(5):1887-1898. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3845-x.

Hickey, E.J., Hartley, S.L., & Papp, L. (2020). Psychological Well-Being and Parent-Child Relationship Quality in Relation to Child Autism: An Actor-Partner Modeling Approach. Family Process. 7;10.1111/famp.12432. doi: 10.1111/famp.12432.

Hickey, E.J., Nix, R., & Hartley, S.L. (2019). Family Emotional Climate and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(8):3244-3256. doi: 10.1007/s10803-019-04037-6.

Hartley, S.L., Hickey, E.J., & Rodriguez, G. (2019). Broader Autism Phenotype and Couple Interactions in Parents of Children with Autism. Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice, 23(8):2068-2079. doi: 10.1177/1362361319841312.

Goetz, G.L., Hartley, S.L., & Rodriguez, G. (2019). Actor-Partner Examination of Daily Parenting Stress and Perceived Couple Interactions in the Context of Child Autism. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(5):554-564. doi: 10.1037/fam0000527.

Hartley, S.L., & Rodriguez, G. (2019). Self-care and raising a child with ASD. In B. Turns, J. Ramisch, and J. Whiting (Eds.) Systemically Treating Autism: A Guide to Empowering Families (pgs. 229- 237). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Papp, L.M., & Hartley, S.L. (2018). Child-present and child-themed marital conflict in daily life of parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Psychology, 55(1):148-156. doi: 10.1037/dev0000631.

Papp, L.M., & Hartley, S.L. (2018). Mothers’ and fathers’ prescription drug misuse in family contexts: Implications for the adjustment of parents of children with and without autism. Addiction Research and Theory, 26(4):267-274. doi: 10.1080/16066359.2017.1351552.

Bussanich, P.M., Hartley, S.L., & Bolt, D. (2017). Parental attributions for positive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 61, 643-655. doi:10.1111/jir.12 373.

Hickey, E. J., Dubois, L., & Hartley, S. L. (2017). Positive and Negative Social Exchanges Experienced by Fathers and Mothers of Children with Autism. The International Journal of Research and Practice, 1362361316687117

Hartley, S. L., Papp, L. M., Mihaila, I., Bussanich, P. M., Goetz, G., & Hickey, E. J. (2017). Couple Conflict in Parents of Children with versus without Autism: Self-Reported and Observed Findings. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(2), 2152-2165.

Hartley, Sigan L., DaWalt, Leann Smith, & Schultz, Haley M. (2017). Daily Couple Experiences and Parent Affect in Families of Children with versus without Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(6), 1645-1658.

Mihaila, I., & Hartley, S.L. (2016). Parental sleep quality and behavior problems of children with autismAutism: The International Journal Of Research And Practice, 22(3) 236–
244.

Hartley, S.L., Papp, L.M., Blumenstock, S., Floyd, F., & Goetz, G. (2016). The effect of daily challenges in children with autism on parents’ couple problem-solving interactions. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(6):732-42. doi: 10.1037/fam0000219.

Hartley, S.L., Papp, L., & Bolt, D. (2016). Spillover of marital interactions and parenting stress in families of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 47(sup1):S88-S99. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2016.1152552.

Taylor, J., Burke, M.M., Smith, L.E., & Hartley, S.L. (2016). Families of adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities. In R. Hodapp (Ed.). International review of research in developmental disabilities, Vol 41 (pp. 1-29). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.

Hartley, S. L., & Schultz, H. M. (2015). Support needs of fathers and mothers of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorderJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders45(6):1636-48. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2318-0.

Hartley, S.L., Wheeler, A., Mailick, M.R., Raspa, M., Mihaila, I., Bishop, E., & Bailey, D. (2015). Autism symptoms across adulthood in men with Fragile X syndrome: Findings from a Cross-sectional studyJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(11):3668-79. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2513-7.

Hartley, S. L., Mihaila, I., Otalor-Fadner, H., & Bussanich, P. M. (2014). Division of labor in families of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorderFamily Relations63(5):627-638.

Hartley, S. L., Schaidle, E. M., & Burnson, C. F. (2013). Parental attributions for the behavior problems of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disordersJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 34, 651-660.

Hartley, S. L., Seltzer, M. M., Hong, J., Greenberg, J. S., Almeida, D., Coe, C., & Abbeduto, L. (2012). Cortisol response to behavior problems in FMR1 premutation mothers of adolescents and adults with fragile X syndrome: A diathesis-stress modelInternational Journal of Behavioral Development36, 53-61.

Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Baker, J. K., Seltzer, M. M., & Greenberg, J. S. (2012). Marital satisfaction and life circumstances of grown children with autism across 7 yearsJournal of Family Psychology, 26, 688-697.

Hartley, S. L., Seltzer, M. M., Head, L., & Abbeduto, L. (2012). Psychological well-being in fathers of adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and autismFamily Relations, 61, 327-342.

Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Seltzer, M. M., Floyd, F. J., & Greenberg, J. S. (2011). Marital satisfaction and parenting experiences of mothers and fathers of adolescents and adults with autism. American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116, 81-95.

Barker, E. T., Hartley, S. L., Seltzer, M. M., Floyd, F. J., Greenberg, J. S., & Orsmond, G. I. (2011). Trajectories of emotional well-being in mothers of adolescents and adults with autism. Developmental Psychology, 47, 551-561.

Hartley, S. L., Seltzer, M. M., Barker, E. T., & Greenberg, J. S. (2011). Marital quality and families of children with developmental disabilities. In R. Hodapp, (Eds.) International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 41. Elsevier.

Hartley, S. L., & Seltzer, M. M. (2011). What forms of living are useful and available for adults with ASC? In S. Bolte, & J. Hallmayer (Eds.), Autism Spectrum Conditions: International Experts answer your Questions on Autism, Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS. Hogrefe.

Hartley, S. L., Seltzer, M. M., Raspa, M., Olmsted, M. G., Bishop, E. E., & Bailey, D. B. (2011). Exploring the adult life for men and women with fragile X syndrome: Results from a national survey. American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116, 16-35.

Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Seltzer, M. M., Floyd, F. J., Orsmond, G. I., Greenberg, J. S. et al. (2010). The relative risk and timing of divorce in families of children with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 449-457.

Hartley, S. L., & Sikora, D. S. (2010). Detecting autism spectrum disorder in children with intellectual disability: Which DSM-IV-TR criteria are most useful? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25, 85-97.

Hartley, S. L., & Sikora, D. S. (2009). Sex differences in autism spectrum disorders: An examination of developmental functioning, autistic symptoms and coexisting behavior problems in toddlersJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 1715-1722.

Hartley, S. L. & Sikora, D. S. (2009). Which DSM-IV-TR criteria best differentiate high- functioning autism spectrum disorder from ADHD and anxiety disorders in older children? Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 13, 485-509.

Hartley, S. L., Sikora, D. S., & McCoy, R. (2008). Prevalence and risk factors of maladaptive behaviors in young children with Autistic DisorderJournal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52, 819-829.

Hartley, S. L., Buckendorf, B., Haines, K., Hall, T., & Sikora, D. S. (2008). The Oral and Written Language Scales: Is it useful for older children with autism spectrum disorder? Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders2, 137-146.

Sikora, D. S., Hall, T., Hartley, S. L., Gerrard-Morris, A., & Cagel, S. (2008). Does parent report of behavior differ across Autism Diagnostic and Observation Schedule-Generic Classifications: Analysis of scores from the Child Behavior Checklist and Gilliam Autism Rating Scale. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 38, 440-448.

Sikora, D. S., Hartley, S. L., McCoy, R., Gerrard-Morris, A., & Dill, K. (2008). The performance of children with mental health disorders on the ADOS-G: A question of diagnostic utilityResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2, 188-197.

Mental health and Intellectual Disability

Hickey, E.J., & Hartley, S.L. (2016). Conservatorship. In E. Braatan and B. Willoughby (Eds.), Encyclopedia of intellectual and developmental disorders. Sage Publications.

Hartley, S. L., Esbensen, A. J., Shalev, R ., Vincent, L., Mihaila, I. , & Bussanich, P. ( 2015). Cognitive behavioral therapy for depressed adults with mild intellectual disability: A Pilot StudyJournal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 8, 72-97.

Milevicuite, I., & Hartley, S.L. (2015) Self-reported versus informant-reported depressive symptoms in adults with mild intellectual disabilityJournal of Intellectual Disability Research59(2):158-69. doi: 10.1111/jir.12075.

Esbensen, A. J., & Hartley, S. L. (2013). Mood disorders. In J. L. Taylor, W. R. Lindsay, R. Hastings, & C. Hatton (Eds.), Psychological Therapies for Adult with Intellectual Disabilities. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2006). A review of the reliability and validity of Likert-type scales for people with intellectual disabilityJournal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 813-827.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2009). Depression in adults with mild intellectual disability: Role of stress, attributions, and copingAmerican Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 114, 147-160.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2009). Stressful social interactions experienced by adults with mild intellectual disabilityAmerican Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 114, 71-84.

Hartley, S. L., & Beirgenhon, D. (2009). Nonverbal social skills of adults with mild intellectual disability diagnosed with depressionJournal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 2, 11-28.

Hartley, S. L., Lickel Hayes, A., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2008). Reassurance-seeking and depression in adults with mild intellectual disabilityJournal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52, 917-929.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2008). Coping strategies of adults with mild intellectual disability for stressful social interactions. Journal of Mental Health Research in Developmental Disabilities, 1, 109-127.

Hartley, S. L., Horrell, S. V., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2007). Science to practice in intellectual disability: The role of empirically supported treatments. In J. W. Jacobson, J. A. Mulick, & J. Rojahn (Eds), Handbook of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (pp. 425-444). Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2007). Staff-averse challenging behavior in older adults with intellectual disabilitiesJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 20, 519-528.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E., Jr. (2006). A review of the reliability and validity of Likert-type scales for people with intellectual disabilityJournal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 813-827.

Hartley, S. L., & MacLean, W. E. Jr. (2005). Perceptions of stress and coping strategies among adults with mild mental retardation: Insight into psychological distressAmerican Journal on Mental Retardation110, 285-297.

Hartley, S. L., MacLean, W. E., Jr., Butler, M., Thompson, T. & Zarcone, J. (2005). Maladaptive behaviors and risk factors among the genetic subtypes of Prader-Willi syndrome. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 136, 140-145.

Undergraduate Courses

HDFS 363: Development- Adolescence through Old Age, University of Wisconsin-Madison

HDFS 471: Parent-Child Relations, University of Wisconsin-Madison School

HDFS 592: Research Experience in HDFS

HDFS 501: Neurodevelopmental Conditions and the Family

Graduate Courses

Human Development and Family Studies 763: Families of Children with Disabilities, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Human Development and Family Studies 842: Parent-Child Relations across the Life course, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Human Development and Family Studies 865: Family Theory I, University of Wisconsin-Madison