Director, Child Study Center
Evan Pugh University Professor
Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
School Readiness Initiative Director
Karen Bierman is an Evan Pugh University Professor and Director of the Child Study Center at The Pennsylvania State University.
Her 30+ year research career has focused on social-emotional development and children at risk, with an emphasis on the design and evaluation of school-based programs that promote social competence, school readiness, positive peer relations, and that reduce aggression and related behavior problems. She has directed several longitudinal studies evaluating the long-term impact of early school-based and family-focused preventive interventions designed to reduce aggression (Fast Track) and enhance school success (Head Start REDI). She has also developed and evaluated small-group social skill training interventions for peer-rejected children (Friendship Group). She also directs a predoctoral training program in the interdisciplinary educational sciences, funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences. Bierman has received funding for prevention and school readiness promotion from the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Educational Sciences, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.T. Grant Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. She has published three books and over 190 articles and chapters, and has served as an educational advisor to a number of organizations devoted to improving early education for disadvantaged children, including Head Start and Sesame Street.
Assistant Director, Child Study Center
Associate Director, Parents and Children Together (PACT)
Dr. Laureen Teti studies children’s emotion regulation and its relation to parent-child interactions in a variety of high risk families, including children prenatally exposed to cocaine and low-income urban African-American adolescent mothers. She has worked since 2005 with a small group of Penn State faculty to promote relations between the African American community in Harrisburg and child clinical and developmental researchers at the Child Study Center, which resulted in the establishment in 2007 of Parents and Children Together (PACT), a community-university partnership which includes representatives from early childhood agencies, parents, and other key leaders from the African American community in Harrisburg, PA. In her role as the CSC’s Assistant Director, Dr. Teti facilitates initiative activities and events as well as organizes the CSC’s Speaker Series.
CSC Program Manager and Grants Specialist, Child Study Center
Shannon Ranio is a Penn State Alum and joined the Child Study Center as our Program Manager and Grants Specialist in May 2015 after having more than 10 years of experience at Penn State, from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Applied Research Laboratory, College of Engineering, and most recently the Psychology Department. In her role as Program Manager and Grants Specialist, Shannon works with CSC faculty on both pre- and post-award budgets, and helps with the development of grant applications and work plans. She also manages the CSC Training Institute, both its programs and its budget.
Administrative Assistant, Child Study Center
Diane, a Penn State Alum, has been at Penn State for more than 20 years, working at the Child Study Center since August 2002. Her responsibilities range from managing Center procedures and operations to supporting research and education needs for faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students. She provides direct support to the Director and Assistant Director, communicates and collaborates among campus units, and serves as liaison for visitors and guests at the Center.
Child Study Center
Michelle joined the CSC in September of 2015, after spending the previous two and a half years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Children, Youth, and Family at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology with a focus on Development Psychology from DePaul University, and her Masters in General Psychology from Auburn Montgomery. She possesses extensive research knowledge and experience involving children’s, adolescents’ and young adults’ offline and online emotional risks, particularly bullying and cyberbullying. At the CSC, Michelle works with faculty on innovative ways of collecting data and delivering interventions.
Research Data Management Specialist, Child Study Center
Jacqui graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. She has been working at the Child Study Center since 2010. Her primary responsibilities are to manage the FIRSt Families database and to edit the Child Study Center’s website. In addition, she assists in the development of new web pages and websites, provides written content for web pages and reports, and is assisting with the planning and development of a touch-screen monitor.
CSC Graduate Research Assistant
Giorgia Picci is a doctoral student in developmental psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Suzy Scherf and Dr. Jenae Neiderhiser. She received her B.A. (Summa Cum Laude, Honors) from George Mason University in 2012, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Her research interests focus on the unique vulnerability of adolescence as a developmental period for individuals with autism. As the CSC graduate research assistant, Giorgia prepares for and takes notes during CSC faculty meetings, assists with the Speaker Series, maintains CSC-related databases, and writes articles for the CSC website.
CSC Initiative Directors
Liberal Arts Research Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
Assistant Director of Clinical Training
Pathways to Competence Initiative Director
Dr. Cole studies emotional development in early childhood, focusing on how children learn to regulate their emotions, including biological, behavioral, and contextual factors. Her work continues to include conceptual work on the nature and measurement of self-regulation, particularly as a dynamic, unfolding process, and empirical work, particularly the development of young typically developing children and children who are at risk for emotional problems. At present, she is leading several projects with her team of co-investigators, post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students: (a) the Development of Toddlers (DOTS), an NIMH-supported study followed children from age 18 months to age 5 years, tracing changes in children’s anger and ability to regulate anger and examining the role of language in that process, (b) the Proximal Emotional Environment Project (PEEP), an NIMH-supported study that investigates children’s neural processing of emotion in the voice, including both familiar (parental) and unfamiliar voices, and (c) the Development of Self-Regulation Dynamics, an NICHD-supported study that investigates the dynamics of self-regulation in children and parents and how the dynamics change during early childhood . In addition, Dr. Cole leads the Pathways to Competence (P2C) research initiative and participates in the Families at Risk research initiative. Her P2C group meets biweekly throughout the year to provide intellectual support to faculty members developing new projects and applying for external funding. Read an interview with Dr. Cole.
Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology and Pediatrics
Head, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Families at Risk Initiative Director
Dr. Douglas Teti is a developmental scientist whose research is focused on family processes as they relate to infant and early child development. He has had a long-standing interest in socio-emotional development in early childhood (e.g., quality of attachment to parents), parenting competence and parenting at risk, how parenting is affected by parental mental health and contextual factors, and how parenting affects infant and child functioning. All of his current projects examine the joint, interactive effects of biological/medical and environmental/parenting factors on child development and parenting during the early years of life. They are all interdisciplinary and involve graduate and undergraduate students, and his students draw from the project they work on in developing their own areas of expertise. In addition, Dr. Teti serves as Lead Faculty of the Families at Risk (FAR) research initiative of the Child Study Center. FAR brings together a working group of faculty across Penn State interested in factors that influence family processes (parenting, marital relations and coparenting, sibling relations) and family well-being, and in turn how these processes affect and are affected by children’s development.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Human Developmental Neuroscience Initiative Director
Dr. Gilmore studies the neuroscience of perception, action planning, and memory in infants and children—specifically, the development of visual spatial perception. His work involves neuroimaging (both MRI & EEG) as well as behavioral and computational methods. In his role as Lead Faculty of the Human Developmental Neuroscience research initiative at the Child Study Center, Dr. Gilmore has organized workshops on data-sharing and reproducible research practices.
Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
Gene Environment Research Initiative Co-Director
Dr. Neiderhiser is interested in understanding the interplay between genes and environment throughout the lifespan. The environmental influences that she has examined most closely are interpersonal relationships – including parent-child, spouse, sibling and peer relationships. Examining how individuals influence their environments, in part because of their genetically-influenced characteristics (genotype-environment correlation), has long been a focus of her work. The studies that have been used to examine these research questions include the following three sets of studies: The Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development (NEAD) project; the Young Adult Sibling Study (YASS) and the Twin/Offspring Study in Sweden (TOSS). Finally, the Early Growth and Development Study is a prospective, longitudinal study of 559 sets of adopted children, their adoptive families and birth parents. All of these studies include extensive assessment of the environment within the household, interpersonal relationships, adult and child adjustment, temperament and personality and other related measures. DNA has also been collected or will be collected for these samples.
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Gene Environment Research Initiative Co-Director
Dr. Cleveland’s research focuses on the intersection of genetic and environmental influences. He is particularly interested in the contextual moderation of both genetic and shared environmental influences on adolescent risk behaviors. A related interest is using genetically informative designs to examine causal hypotheses and putative mechanisms regarding the links between adolescent experiences and later outcomes, both positive and negative. Before coming to Penn State, Dr. Cleveland published a series of studies that suggest evocative and active G-E correlations involving received parenting and exposure to peer substance use. He has extended this line of research at Penn State by leading the efforts (with David Vandenbergh and Mark Feinberg) to add candidate genes to the PROSPER study (developed by Mark Greenberg). Adding candidate genes (e.g., DRD4, DAT1) to the quasi-experimental design of PROSPER creates a novel opportunity to examine gene-environment transactions involving family and peer contexts from early adolescence to young adulthood.
Director of Graduate Training
Director of PACT and Harrisburg Center for Healthy Child Development
Dr. Kristin Buss is interested in emotional development and temperamental variation from birth through early childhood. Her work spans multiple areas of research within social development, psychobiology, and neuroscience. Her current work is focused on the development of risk for adjustment problems, with particular focus on the development of anxiety symptoms for children with fearful temperaments. This work has implications for identifying which fearful children are at risk for developing anxiety problems. Kristin is also the Director of the Harrisburg Center for Healthy Child Development and Parents and Children Together (PACT). In this capacity she oversees a community-university partnership to encourage communication and trust between university researchers and Harrisburg community members. Kristin is also the PI on a community-based participatory research pilot examining factors that influence children’s anxiety in a high risk underserved communities and Co-PI on two anxiety prevention projects.