A Sample of Recent Research
Developmental psychology deals with human development throughout the lifespan, and is a vibrant, diverse field. Below is just a sample of the work being done in applied developmental psychology by faculty members who supervise the work of Claremont Graduate University students.
Browse sample research topics:
Dr. Mita Banerjee: Children's Understanding of Emotions
“My research has focused largely on children's early understanding of emotions, ” says Dr. Mita Banerjee, “and it represents an interest in both social and cognitive aspects of this understanding. My most recent studies have examined children's knowledge about emotion regulation, as well as parents’ values and beliefs about emotion. The connection between parents’ ‘metaemotion theories’ and their emotion interactions with children is a focus of present work. Through the use of a natural language dataset, I am also examining the messages about emotions and their regulation that are contained in parents’ spontaneous speech to their children.”
Children’s literature and its meaning for the development of social cognition also plays a role in Dr. Banerjee’s work. “As a way of extending my work on the socialization of emotion understanding, ” she says, “I am examining the depiction of emotion regulation presented in children's storybooks, and the way in which mind and emotion are linked in these portrayals.
“In keeping with my interest in the way in which social cognition and social experiences interact, I am also researching cultural differences in children's understanding of the family. I have supervised a number of graduate students from Claremont Graduate University on research projects, as well as in my own research on children's understanding of emotion regulation and on children's concepts of the family.”
Dr. Tiffany Berry: Evaluating Educational Programs
K-12 education matters. Billions are spent yearly in the United States on programs (both in-class and extracurricular) that aim to improve grade school students’ chances for success. In a climate where every dollar matters, though, the evaluation of educational programs has become crucial. As a member of CGU’s Institute of Organizational and Program Evaluation Research, Dr. Tiffany Berry regularly takes on the task of evaluating educational programs, to let providers, the government, and parents know which programs are successfully meeting their goals. With her highly-trained team of graduate students, Dr. Berry measures multiple developmental outcomes for students across different educational contexts. “Over time, ” she says, “this helps identify the extent to which developmental trajectories are being modified. I’m broadly interested in examining how the developmental trajectory of children at risk for academic failure is or is not modified by participating in the educational interventions being provided, both in school and out of school. I started down this path years ago with an evaluation project for one of the nation’s largest and most well-respected after-school programs, Los Angeles’s Better Educated Students for Tomorrow (LA’s BEST). Since then, I’ve worked on many programs, and have really enjoyed playing a meaningful role in school districts all over the country through the work." Dr. Berry has conducted a range of evaluations, including Randomized Control Trials on educational curricula, afterschool programs, and using evaluation to improve the effectiveness of community-based family literacy programs.
Results from Dr. Berry's educational program evaluation projects have contributed to bridging the gap between developmental theory and knowledge. For example, her work in afterschool programs has increased our understanding of how individual child characteristics interact with participation indices to moderate social developmental outcomes. Her evaluation work has also translated into multiple publications in leading evaluation journals, including American Journal of Evaluation and New Directions for Evaluation. For example, while many have argued the strengths and weaknesses of the No Child Left Behind legislation, Dr. Berry has focused on how evaluators can flourish within its guidelines. Her co-edited volume of New Directions for Evaluation entitled the “Consequences of No Child Left Behind for Educational Evaluation” (prepared alongside CGU’s Dr. Rebecca Eddy) specifically details how this legislation has affected, and continues to affect research and evaluation in the K-12 school system and community programs that are school-linked.
Dr. Jessica Borelli: Emotional Attachment (Parent/Child and Adult Relationships)
Dr. Jessica Borelli believes strongly that social relationships play a vital role in maintaining both our emotional and physical well-being. At her Pomona CARE Laboratory (short for Child Attachment, Relationships, and Emotion), Dr. Borelli and a team of approximately 25 research assistants examine the links between close relationships and emotional experience in both children and adults within an attachment theory framework. One particular area of her research explores how parent-child relationships influence future patterns of emotionality over the course of the life-span. “Attachment theory offers a compelling lens for understanding the links between early experiences, current relationships, and emotion regulation, ” says Dr. Borelli. “Parents set the tone early by providing emotional regulation for their infants, according to attachment theorists. I’m looking at the link between children’s attachment relationships and three indicators of emotions being regulated: psychophysiological measures such as increases in perspiration, activation of the hypothalamus (measured in terms of an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol), and how parents and children self-report their own emotionality. In my work I use the recently-developed Child Attachment Interview as tool—a narrative measure of attachment security adapted from the Adult Attachment Interview. We are currently collecting data examining the association between the classification of a child's attachment and their emotional response to vulnerability.”
In addition to researching how parent-child relationships influence emotional regulation, Dr. Borelli is also pursuing a line of research to see if attachment models can help in understanding relationship transitions in adult couples. “I am collaborating with Dr. David Sbarra (University of Arizona) and Dr. Dana McMakin (Western Psychiatric Institute) on some studies examining how adults adjust to significant changes in romantic relationships, ” Jessica reports. “Using a longitudinal design, we are examining couples' adjustment to military deployment as a function of internal working models of attachment. We want to see if deployment and the separation that results effects one’s internalized, secure base regarding one's spouse, and the quality of a marital relationship.” Another research project she is working on in this area involves testing the impact of an attachment-based savoring intervention designed to enhance relationship security among non-deployed spouses. Specifically, during the savoring task she asks non-deployed spouses to reflect upon a time during which they felt strong feelings of security (e.g., safety, protection, comfort) in their relationship with their spouse. “We hypothesize that by mentally activating feelings of attachment security through this savoring exercise, non-deployed spouses will be better able to maintain feelings of closeness with their spouse during the deployment, ” Dr. Borelli predicts. These studies are supported by grants from the International Psychoanalytic Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association.