Texas Tech University

HDFS Research Spotlight

Oak Hee Park, Ph.D.

December 9, 2021

hdfs ttu research

Research in Human Development and Family Sciences

Summarize the overall research and creative activity being done in your department. How would you describe the scope of work in your department to those who don't do research in your area? 

Faculty and students in Human Development and Family Sciences conduct research that examines human development throughout the lifespan in the context of romantic relationships, families, and communities. More specifically, we study psychosocial and emotional development in children; positive youth development; educational attainment and cognitive abilities for typically and atypically developing children and youth; transitions and milestones for adolescents and emerging adults; gender and sexuality; development of and transitions within romantic relationships; parenting and intergenerational patterns; communication and stressors in close relationships and families; the impact of gender, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic inequities and disparities on individuals and families. We utilize diverse approaches and methodologies to do our research including, but not limited to: qualitative methodologies, physiological assessments, neuroimaging, observational research, eye-tracking, secondary data analysis, participatory action research, mixed-methods, and survey research. HDFS is home to several research facilities including the Iva Lea Barton Research Suite, the Child Development and Research Center, and the HDFS Coding Lab.  

What is the impact of the research and creative activity described above? The impact may be to the profession, community, a specific population, a specific problem/issue, etc.  

The underlying goal of our work is to better understand the varied ways that people develop across the lifespan based on individual qualities, family and community contexts, social structures, and culture. Our department is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through our work in research, teaching, service, and community outreach. The three centers housed in HDFS (the Center for Early Head Start, the Child Development and Research Center, and the Center for Adolescent Resiliency) help us to achieve this mission through direct engagement and research with children, youth, and families in our community. HDFS has a number of outreach and engagement projects, such as the Sexism|Cinema Film Series, the Community Advocacy Project for Students, the United Future Leaders program, and the Resiliency and Juvenile Justice in Lubbock Youth and Families program. Many of our faculty participate in engaged research through the STEM Center for Outreach, Research, & Engagement (STEM CORE) and the Women's and Gender Studies program. 

Please share any quotes you have from faculty or students about their research and creative activity, the impact their research has, and what they enjoy about their research. 

“The best part about my program of research is using it as a platform to inspire the next generation of scientists. The interdisciplinary nature of my work allows me to support student training through a plethora of research experiences, including longitudinal multi-informant modeling, observing family interactions, and neuroimaging, to better understand how social influences can impact adolescent development. My heart is in mentorship—nothing brings me greater joy than empowering students to discover how they can use research to help adolescents thrive.” –Christy Rogers, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences 

“Long before the inception of my journey at Texas Tech, I expected that I would gain hands-on experience with cutting edge research in the study of individuals and families across the life span, with an emphasis on the development and application of new methodological approaches. But I had absolutely no idea how much I would grow from receiving this opportunity and how impactful that my work could be. It has been a year and a half since then and I have had the opportunity to use novel statistical approaches (e.g., Latent Class Analysis and Random Intercept Cross Lagged Panel Modeling) to examine how familial, peer and environmental factors influence youth development outcomes. As an illustration, one of my recent projects assessed religiosity and its associations with substance use and delinquency among urban African American adolescents. In short, religiosity was being assessed as a protective factor for delinquent youth using a person-centered approach (LCA). Given that adolescent delinquency is a worldwide problem that impacts individuals, their families, and society, it has become increasingly important to detect and promote protective factors that will lead to better developmental outcomes for youth. I am often delighted at the thought that my research may be instrumental in providing valuable insight into the development and evaluation of prevention and intervention programs implemented locally or through changes in public policy. It is so rewarding to know that my work has the capabilities to positively impact the lives of at-risk youth, especially those from disadvantaged communities.” – Javari Fairclough, Doctoral Student, Human Development and Family Sciences 

“The opportunity to adapt current evidence-based-practice intervention and preventions programs and evaluate treatment efficacy is invaluable as a clinician and an emerging scholar. As an HDFS student, I have had the privilege of developing partnerships with West Texas families and each family teaches me something new about resiliency. “—Jessica Blume, Doctoral Candidate, Human Development and Family Sciences 

“The opportunities within the HDFS department have allowed me to explore and gain the experiences necessary to achieve my career goals of becoming a research associate. The department not only has multiple facilities to conduct research, but I have had the privilege of working with wonderful mentors and supportive staff. They have truly made my research experience enjoyable. Granting me the ability to learn in a lab space while also scaffolding my own research interest and conducting my own studies has made my Ph.D. journey truly life-changing.”—Leslie Hasty, Doctoral Candidate, Human Development and Family Sciences 

"Doing state-of-the-art research on romantic relationships and marriage requires setting up a well-equipped, well-functioning, and vibrant research lab, securing the participation of both partners in a couple, and tracking couples for months or years to discover changes in their relationship functioning and quality. Participants must be compensated financially for their time and that requires research funding. Thanks to funding from the college (and other sources on campus), I had the resources to equip my SMITTEN lab and conduct the kinds of studies I envisioned. These studies have given many generations of undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to become highly skilled in the day-to-day running of all aspects of research studies, from their conception to the publication of the findings. The collected data and funding available to undergraduate students have also permitted many students to travel to present findings at state, national, and international conferences. Moreover, several theses and publications have resulted from these data, most prominently, a multi-university collaboration that included two of my datasets on predictors of changes in relationship satisfaction and commitment, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). My undergraduate and graduate students have served as lead and co-authors of publications, garnered research awards, and used the lab as a springboard to additional research experiences such as from the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates program, the McNair Scholars Program, graduate school, etc., and, in the case of graduate students, to obtain academic jobs. Seed funding has also resulted in pilot data that permitted me to submit federal grant proposals. For these and many more reasons, my students and I are deeply appreciative of all the support (financial and other) we have received over the years from the College of Human Sciences via the Associate Dean for Research. " -Sylvia Niehuis, Associate Professor

Is there anything else you'd like to include in the research and creative activity highlights for your department? 

HDFS faculty and graduate students have a strong record of international research collaboration. We have worked with scholars in multiple countries and continents, including, but not limited to Colombia, Brazil, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Poland. The HDFS department also provides funding opportunities for doctoral students to attend workshops and trainings to hone their methodological skills as well as present their research at professional conferences.