Texas Tech University

Human Development and Family Studies

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Research in Human Development and Family Studies

In the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) at Texas Tech several faculty directed research laboratories across the lifespan. In addition to the Barton Research Suite that houses many of these cutting-edge research labs, we have a coding laboratory with 12 stations offering both quantitative and qualitative software available for data management, coding, and transcription - to name a few. In HDFS we have the Child Development Research Center, the Center for Adolescent Resiliency, Center for Early Head Start, and the Institute for Developmental Science.

We also have access to several facilities and Institutes and Centers across campus including the Neuroimaging Institute, the Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis and Policy, as well as the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research. Below is a list of the current research laboratories and the faculty who direct these labs.

BioSocial Interplay in Development Lab, directed by Dr. Zhe Wang: Why are some children good at math while others struggle? This lab studies the development of cognitive abilities and achievement outcomes in children and adolescents, with an emphasis on factors contributing to the diverse growth trajectories observed in children. Their research takes a multi-level multi-method approach that incorporates genetic, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral levels of analyses.

Center for Adolescent Resiliency (CAR) Lab, directed by Dr. Sara Dodd: CAR is committed to research, education, and outreach activities that engage adolescents in grades 5-12 in developing social competencies that foster self-care, health promotion, and peer leadership. Using a Positive Youth Development framework, the Center partners with families, schools, and community organizations to create environments of success for adolescents through direct intervention and guided program replication. CAR's research platform focuses on modeling adolescent developmental processes as well as program evaluation.

Child Development Lab, directed by Dr. Yoojin Chae: This lab is committed to the study of cognitive and social development in childhood. Their research emphasis primarily concerns children's memory, being particularly directed toward several
controversial issues regarding stress, coping, and autobiographical memory. Projects examine children's eyewitness ability and suggestibility, attachment and memory for distressing experiences, parent-child reminiscing, childhood maltreatment and memory, trauma-related psychopathology, and narrative skill and memory accuracy.

Child Development and Relationships Lab, directed by Dr. Wonjung Oh: The lab focuses on investigating developmental change patterns of social behavior, mental health, regulatory functioning, and relationship processes (mother-child;
father-child; spouse; peer) using innovative advanced methodology. Dr. Oh's research group integrates biosocial characteristics of individual children, family and peer in identifying adaptive and maladaptive developmental pathways across various
transitions in the school and family environments.

Cognitive Development in Early Childhood Lab, directed by Dr. Michael McCarty: The current project includes The East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood (ELPN). ELPN is a large and multi-year US Department of Education funded initiative committed to working with residents in a low-income community to support and advocate for children. Research components of this project include assessments of children and adults to determine the child's level of development and the impact of the Family Academy program on parents and children.

Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, directed by Dr. Michael O'Boyle: The Cognitive Neuroscience lab specializes in the use of cutting edge brain imaging technologies (fMRI, DTI) to enhance our understanding of the human brain. Essentially, their research focuses on how cognitive models of higher order mental processes like perception, memory, and language relate to the underlying structures and neural circuitry of the developing as well as the mature human brain.

Early Childhood Development, directed by Dr. Malinda Colwell: The Early Childhood Development Lab is a multidisciplinary lab focused on multiple aspects of young children's social and emotional development, including those relationships most salient to the children (i.e, mothers, fathers, teachers, caregivers). Projects include a food insecurity intervention with children and mothers in Malawi, Africa, early childhood teachers' beliefs about children's social development, first time expectant fathers, and the socio-emotional outcomes associated with PBS show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Economic Hardship, Families, and Development, directed by Dr. Monica Martin: This lab investigates the influence of economic disadvantage and other types of disparities (racial, ethnic, and educational) on the emotional and behavioral health of individuals and families. This research primarily focuses on behavioral health involving problem behaviors that negatively influence health and well-being such as delinquency, antisocial behavior, and substance involvement. This research group is particularly focused on gaining a better understanding of processes that promote resilience and help to prevent and interrupt these detrimental behavior patterns.

Emerging Adulthood, directed by Dr. Alan Reifman: Emerging adulthood (EA) is a transitional stage or process in between adolescence and full-fledged adulthood. Researchers generally consider EA to begin around age 18 and last until 25 or 30. Many young people use their EA years to try different jobs, travel, volunteer, and just generally “find themselves,” whereas others act in ways that some scholars consider unproductive (e.g., heavy drinking, hook-ups). The lab studies emerging adulthood in a variety of ways.

Families and Sexuality, directed by Dr. Dana Weiser: This lab explores how family experiences are associated with adults' later romantic relationships and sexual health. Our work explores how parents communicate and model behaviors which later influence individuals as they enter into their own relationships and become sexually active. We study how and what families teach us about infidelity, sexual health, and sexual violence. We utilize a variety of perspectives, such as social cognitive theory, feminist theories, and personality theories to frame our work.

Gender and Relationships, directed by Dr. Elizabeth Sharp: The Gender SEAMS (Sexuality, Embodiment, Affect, Movement, and Space) research team seeks to critically examine the ways in which bodies and environment are shaped by shared cultural experience. The research team has multiple projects in progress which are woven together by the common thread of examining gender from a critical, intersectional, feminist perspective. Our view of gender is pluralistic, non-binary (i.e. multiple femininities, masculinities, and sexualities exist). 

Positive Youth Development, directed by Dr. Elizabeth Trejos: This lab focuses on the importance of individual characteristics, contextual influences, and risk/protective factors for adolescents' well-being, resiliency, risk-taking behaviors and deviance. They generate knowledge on minority, immigrant, and international understudied youth populations using interdisciplinary research, cross-cultural comparative mixed-methods, and Participatory Action Research approaches. 

Relationships, Social Networks, and Media, directed by Dr. Jacki Fitzpatrick: This lab focuses on individuals' actual social relationships (with romantic partners, family friends, peers), parasocial relationships (individuals' sense of connectedness to celebrities/fictional characters) and media representations of social relationships (such as children's books about international adoptive families).  The research on actual relationships typically focuses on young adults (e.g., undergraduates, individuals 20-30 years of age).

Research in Early Developmental Studies (RED), directed by Dr. Ann Mastergeorge:
The RED Lab is dedicated to studying early development in children with concerns for autism spectrum disorders. By examining the environments surrounding children and how they interact with those environments, steps can be made toward defining trajectories and risk factors in their development. Identifying risk factors earlier in development is the first step in applying earlier therapeutic practices, helping to reduce the total impact of disorders such as autism spectrum disorders on a child's development. The RED Lab utilizes innovative technology like eye-tracking and robotics to assess patterns of social, attentional, and communication behaviors of typical and at-risk children.

Romantic and Marital Relationships, directed by Dr. Sylvia Niehuis: Research in the SMITTEN lab focuses on the development of dating, premarital, and marital relationships within social and cultural contexts. The group's largest longitudinal project focuses on the transition from courtship to marriage and changes in the early years of marriage, in a sample of predominantly Hispanic newlywed couples. Other projects focus on a variety of topics, including attachment, uncertainty, personality, trust, commitment, communication, love, conflict resolution, sexuality, idealization, transgressions, and disillusionment within romantic relationships. SMITTEN researchers use a variety of cutting-edge methodologies, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), couple-interaction experiments, language analysis, physiological assessments, face-to-face interviews, and surveys.