Current Research

Healthy Youth & Families REsearch Lab with image of stick figure family.

Research is important to increasing our understanding of the ways anxiety problem develop in youth, how anxiety affects youth, as well as understanding the factors which influence parenting behaviors. With information from our research, we can develop both intervention and prevention strategies to help other youth and families who struggle with anxiety and stress. We primarily rely on volunteers from the community to help us gather information to better understand issues such as the effect of child anxiety on family dynamics, the role of parenting stress on families with children with autism, and the effectiveness of behavioral intervention for children with autism.

Upcoming projects:

  • Child Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) for Allied Health Students: Increasing self-efficacy and perceptions of competence in working with children with disruptive behavior
  • Effectiveness and acceptability of a photovoice group intervention to promote resilience and coping skills among youth with pediatric sickle cell disease
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment to explore parental behavioral consistency and its relationships to parenting stress, burden, and quality of life in children with disruptive behavior
  • Development and testing of a neurocognitive screening to identify decline in youth with pediatric sickle cell disease

Our current and ongoing projects include:

Leveraging Technology to Evaluate Caregiver Stress and Quality Of Life

Led by Kristina Rossetti (5th year in Dr. Zlomke’s HYF Lab), this project focuses on the caregivers of children with ASD. Using mobile Ecological Momentary Assessment (mEMA), this study will evaluate the unique challenges those caregivers may face throughout their daily lives while caring for their children and how those challenges affect them in regards to their emotional and physical well-being. The mEMA method will also be used to explore parental behavioral consistency and its relationships to parenting stress, burden, and quality of life in children with disruptive behavior.

Sickle Cell Disease Child and Adolescent Neurocognitive Screening (S.C.A.N.S.)

Led by Jasmin Pizer (3rd year collaboratively involved in the labs of Dr. Hill and Dr. Zlomke), the S.C.A.N.S. study focuses on routine cognitive screening in pediatric SCD. Routine neurocognitive screening is recommended for early identification of cognitive impairments and increases access to remediation services, but no validated multidomain screening measure exists for pediatric populations to evaluate cognitive functioning in a brief and accurate manner. The aim of this study is to examine the use of a new neurocognitive screening tool within pediatric SCD, specifically within the USA Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, based out of the USA College of Medicine. Results of this study will assist in developing an efficient and valid system for neurocognitive screening within pediatric SCD.

Media Use in Parenting: Observations of Technoference

Although some research exists to examine the interference of technology on the parent-child relationship (aka technoference), very few have specifically assessed this through experimental methods. Led by Haley Adams (Dr. Zlomke’s 3rd year), the purpose of this research study is to evaluate family media use as exacerbating or enhancing the quality of the parent-child relationship and the effects media may have on child behavior. Project results are expected to shed light on family media use and its effects on the parent-child relationship.

Perceptions of racism, resourcefulness, and psychosocial factors in caregivers and pediatric patients with Sickle Cell Disease

This study focuses on the perceptions of racism, resourcefulness, and psychosocial factors in caregivers and pediatric patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).  This study aims to examine the role of potential protective or resilience factors (e.g., resourcefulness, spiritual practices) on perceived racism, quality of life, and healthcare satisfaction among children and caregivers. The proposed study would shed significant light on both the caregiver and patient experience within this population as minimal research has focused on these factors as contributing to well-being.

Promoting Psychosocial Functioning in Young Adult College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

With colleagues in the USA Department of Special Education, Dr. Zlomke and her team will be evaluating the impact of an intensive (twice a week, 7 weeks) PEERS program (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills). College students with ASD will participate in either an abbreviated PEERS group along with a support person (parent/guardian) following the published PEERS protocol or an adapted PEERS with Peers group that includes typically developing peer  mentors in group sessions. Outcomes of social skill knowledge, social functioning, well-being, loneliness, and social anxiety will be assessed. Social skills of young adults with ASD will be evaluated using observation based Contextual Assessment of Social Skills. 

Effectiveness of a Standardized Trauma Screen in Adolescent Medicine

In collaboration with the Division of Adolescent Medicine within the Department of Pediatrics, researchers will be examining the rates of identifying and addressing trauma and adverse childhood experiences within the medical record prior to and after the implementation of a standardized trauma screening (PEARLS).

Utilizing Child Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) Training to Improve the Knowledge, Self-Efficacy, and Use of Behavior Management Skills for Allied Health Students

Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) is a trauma-informed adaptation of Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)   for general usage by non-clinical adults who interact with children within a variety of settings. CARE provides adults with specific skills known to improve caregiver and youth interactions, which support positive relationships and effective behavior management in non-clinical children. CARE utilizes the 3 P skills Praise, Paraphrase, and Point-Out Behavior to connect with children, a set of techniques for giving children effective positive commands, and selective ignoring techniques to redirect problematic behaviors. CARE also contains a trauma education component to contextualize the use of these skills with the kinds of behaviors and problems exhibited by children with a history of trauma. This project will examine the effectiveness of a half-day CARE workshop for trainees within speech and occupational therapy programs on their knowledge of CARE tenets, self-efficacy and perceptions of effectiveness  of CARE in working with children with disruptive behaviors, and their accurate use of CARE skills during role-play interactions pre- and post-training. 

Some of our past projects include:

Effectiveness Trial of Parent Child Interaction Therapy: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an empirically-based, positive and intensive treatment program designed to help parents and children together to improve the quality of the parent-child relationship and to teach parents the skills necessary to manage their children's behavior problems. This research is examining the effect of PCIT on child disruptive behavior, psychological symptoms, parent stress, and parenting behaviors in children with and without autism spectrum disorders.

Communicative Outcomes of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Following a Parent-Implemented Therapy Program: The purpose of this collaborative research with faculty/students in the Speech-Language Pathology department is to determine whether participation in the child directed phase of Parent Child Interaction Therapy will result in measurable increases in language performance for children with ASDs.

Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System-III: The Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System-III, also known as DPICS-III, assesses the quality of parent-child interaction. This coding system is commonly used in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT. This project will allow us to look at the reliability and validity of the DPICS-III with children with autism symptomology compared to typically developing children.

Psychosocial Stress and Resiliency: This project examines the validity of a psychosocial screening tool in assessing risk factors and modeling the relation between risk factors (i.e., family context, resources, perceived severity and uncertainty), protective factors (i.e., optimism, mastery and control beliefs, hardiness), and family adaptation (i.e. quality of life, treatment engagement, child behaviors) in families with a child at-risk for developmental delays or diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Disability.

Parenting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Due to the unique challenges of parenting a child with ASD, this project aims to better understand child and parent characteristics in treatment-seeking families. More specifically, this study will investigate the relationship between disruptive behaviors, autism severity, and parenting stress.

Developmental & Behavioral Health Literacy in Pediatric Health Care Providers and Trainees: In order to ensure that children and families are referred for evaluation and care appropriately, it is important that pediatric providers be informed on current diagnostic criteria and treatment options available. This project is a large survey we are conducting to assess levels of knowledge of common childhood disorders among a range of health care providers and trainees. Eventually, we hope that this information will inform curriculum and training to prepare professionals to provide quality integrated health care.