Sybil L. Hart, PhD
Associate Director, Professor - College of Human Sciences
Sybil L. Hart received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Tufts University in 1995. Following that training, which included an internship in the Department of Behavioral Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she took a position as Research Associate at the University Miami School of Medicine, in the Department of Pediatrics. There she was trained in pediatric psychology under the direction of Dr. Tiffany Field. In 1997 she came to Texas Tech University to join the department of Human Development and Family Studies. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2002, and Full Professor in 2005.
Infants and young children have been at the heart of Dr. Hart’s research. Over the course of her career she has explored risk and protective influences that influence socio-emotional functioning, cognitive development, and child health.
She is best known for her work in the area of socio-emotional development where she has focused on jealousy’ presentation during early infancy. Considered groundbreaking and controversial, this body of work includes studies that were funded by the National Institutes of Health, and has garnered the attention of national and international press and has been widely featured in various media outlets in the USA and abroad. In addition to numerous journal publications in top-ranking peer-reviewed journals, her work in this area includes Handbook of Jealousy, an edited volume which was published by Wiley in 2010. She is also the author of Jealousy in Infants, which is scheduled for publication by Springer in 2015. She has been a recipient of the Chancellor’s Council Award for Distinguished Research and the Presidential Book Award. Currently, her research focuses on the application of findings on jealousy toward developing methodology for helping parents and firstborn children prepare for the arrival of a newborn baby sibling. Her goal is to address the age-old problem of sibling rivalry by promoting a smooth transition, hoping that this will serve as a sound basis for getting sibling relationships off to a good start.
Dr. Hart’s current program of research on cognitive development focuses on language and memory in preschool-age children. This program has also been funded by the National Institutes of Health. Its aim is to establish methods for designing interview techniques that accurately tap preschoolers’ memory and accuracy in reporting stressful events. The overarching goal is to improve methods for conducting forensic and psychiatric interviews with children by promoting accuracy in statements regarding emotion-laden events. Because children living in high-risk environments are at greater risk for experiencing stressful events, this body of work has been designed to target the needs of society’s more vulnerable children. In a further effort to address the needs of vulnerable children, Dr. Hart was a co-author on a grant that led the opening of an Early Start program that continues to serve low-income children in Lubbock.
Dr. Hart’s work in the area of child health has examined a number of maternal health-behaviors that affect infants and young children. Recent multidisciplinary research has explored women’s breast milk composition, breastfeeding behavior, and the quality and duration of breastfeeding experiences as they impact neuro-behavioral development in newborn infants. Variation in these kinds of outcomes are examined in relation to risk factors including, environmental toxins, and maternal nutrition, obesity, and psychopathology. In another line of research, qualitative methods are being used to evaluate the effectiveness of a massage routine that was designed for improving preschoolers’ sleep and social adjustment. Studies in this area have been published in journals in fields of pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, and environmental toxicology.
Finally, Dr. Hart is the author of Preventing Sibling Rivalry, which was published by Simon and Schuster and Lullaby Massage, which was published by Hale Inc. These trade books bring her findings directly to parents, and represent her deep commitment to helping young children and their families.
Office: Human Sciences # 284