Parenting Across Cultures: Normative Parenting and the Development of Executive Functions in Children
Executive functioning refers to the cognitive functions involved in the control and coordination of attention, behavior, thoughts, and/or emotions to carry out goal-oriented actions. While research has investigated the maturation and development of executive functions in children, few studies have explored the influence of environmental factors, like parenting, that may contribute to individual differences in development. In addition, there is a notable lack of cross-cultural research evaluating whether parenting influences on the development of executive functions are culturally specific or universal. The present study investigates children’s executive functioning and parenting behaviors in 10-year-old children of 1297 families in nine countries (China, Columbia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, United States). In our analyses, we will evaluate unique and interactive effects of parenting and culture on the development of executive functions.
The influence of psychosocial and behavioral factors on self-reported stress in African Americans
A rich literature in health psychology illustrates the detrimental effects of stress on health outcomes, and points to stress as a potential mechanism contributing to health disparities between African American and white individuals. The effects of psychosocial stress can manifest in hypopituitary-adrenal-cortical axis responses, resulting in subclinical dysregulation of diurnal cortisol hormone profiles. Previous literature has established a relationship between negative health outcomes and the experience of chronic stress, which may be particularly prevalent in African Americans due to the added burden of racial discrimination. The Health and Racial Discrimination in Daily Life study in Professor Peterson’s lab collects data on physiological (via salivary cortisol) and self-reported stress, discrimination, and other psychosocial factors, using ambulatory assessment (i.e., sampling over the course of the day outside the lab). My SSR project will involve data collection from participants and examining the relationship between psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g., discrimination, sleep quality) and self-reported stress in emerging adult African Americans. Through this research, it will be possible to explore risk factors that have an influence on the stress experienced by African Americans, providing preliminary data to launch a follow up study on hypopituitary-adrenal-cortical indicators. The identification of these influential factors offers the potential to understand the relationship between traditionally-measured self-report stress and bioindicators of trait stress-response among emerging adult African Americans.
Keywords: Health; Stress; Cortisol; Health disparities; Discrimination
Examining the Relationship between Perceived Discrimination and Substance Use Among African American Young Adults
Research on stress and coping has demonstrated that stress is an important psychosocial factor that is predictive of substance use. African Americans experience disproportionate psychosocial stress due to interpersonal racial discrimination, which is implicated as a major contributor to racial health disparities. One of the ways individuals cope with stress is via substance use; therefore, it is important to research the relationship between racial discrimination and substance use among emerging adult African Americans. The current research will draw on the Health and Racial Discrimination in Daily Life (HRDDL1, Pittsburgh) study and the current HRDDL2 (Philadelphia) study, which examine perceived discrimination and substance use behaviors among African American emerging adults (18-30 years old). Participants complete questionnaires assessing discrimination, psychosocial constructs, as well as substance use behaviors and associated cognitions. Participants also report on these constructs using ecological momentary assessment, specifically, filling out brief questionnaires throughout the day via smartphones. My Summer Science Research project will involve recruitment, screening, and collecting data from participants. I plan to examine the relationship between perceived discrimination and substance use behaviors and associated cognitions. I hypothesize that discrimination will be associated with greater substance use risk cognitions and behaviors among emerging adult African Americans. Additionally, I plan to conduct a review of the literature on potential mediators (e.g., negative affect) or potential buffers (e.g., social support) of the discrimination and substance use relationship. This study will use innovative methodologies to provide insight to how discrimination relates to engagement in substance use behaviors among the emerging adult African Americans.
Keywords: Discrimination; Substance Use; Health; Health Disparities
Marital Satisfaction Trajectories over Life Course
Substantial research indicates that married people stay healthier and live longer. However, about 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S end in divorce and many people in marriage report marital dissatisfaction. The quality of close relationships is important not only to couples but also to children’s mental and physical health. Thus, identifying factors that impact the quality of close relationships deserves attention with the ultimate purpose of educating and preparing families for inevitable strengths in their relationships.
My summer research project aims to construct trajectories of marital satisfaction over the life course by mining a prospective longitudinal dataset collected across a 75-year period on the lives and marriages of 743 men. The original participants, first contacted in the 1930s, were 267 sophomores at Harvard University and 476 adolescents from Boston's poorest neighborhoods between 1939-1944. A self-reported, multi-item questionnaire assessing marital quality along with social history information was collected at 7 points: 1954, 1967, 1972, 1983, 1989,1995 and 1999. We will utilize a newly digitized warehouse of information for each participant and combine major relationship events such as death of parents, birth of children and divorce with quantitative information on marital satisfaction collected across these 7 periods. By contextualizing marital functioning prospectively across 5 decades, we will be able to create a more comprehensive picture of factors that contribute to relationship quality. Comparison within and between the two groups of men with distinct socioeconomic backgrounds will provide additional information. The results will help inform future interventions linked to key points in the marital life cycle to avoid and alleviate relationship distress and dysfunction.
Demir, M. (2007). Sweetheart, you really make me happy: Romantic relationship quality and personality as predictors of happiness among emerging adults. Journal of Happiness Studies J Happiness Stud, 9(2), 257-277. doi:10.1007/s10902-007-9051-8
Kaplan, R. M. (2006). Marital status and longevity in the United States population. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60(9), 760-765. doi:10.1136/jech.2005.037606