You are here: Home / People / CSC Initiative Directors

CSC Initiative Directors

Karen L. Bierman

Karen L. Bierman

  • Evan Pugh University Professor
  • Director, Child Study Center
  • 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 35+ 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 is a fellow of the American Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Prevention Research. She has published four books and contributed to three published intervention manuals, and authored over 200 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.

H Harrington (Bo) Cleveland

H Harrington (Bo) Cleveland

  • Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Gene Environment Research Initiative Co-Director

Dr. Cleveland’s research primarily focuses on the intersection of genetic and environmental influences. His early work demonstrated evocative and active G-E correlations involving received parenting and exposure to peer substance use. His most recent project, gPROSPER, is a collaboration with other Penn State faculty (David Vandenbergh and Mark Feinberg) that adds DNA to the PROSPER prevention study. Analyses of project data have demonstrated how genes moderate the effects of interventions on substance use initiation and escalation across adolescence.

Pamela Cole

Pamela Cole

  • Liberal Arts Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • Associate 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.

Rick Gilmore

Rick Gilmore

  • Professor of Psychology
  • Open Data and Developmental Science (ODDS) Initiative Director
  • Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • Gene Environment Research Initiative Co-Director

Dr. Neiderhiser’s research is focused on understanding how interpersonal relationships, especially those within the family, are influenced by genetic factors via gene-environment correlation and interaction and the subsequent links to later adjustment in children and adults. More recently her work has included the examination of prenatal and early life risks in relation to child and adult adjustment. Dr. Neiderhiser is interested in understanding how interpersonal relationships shape and are shaped by children throughout the lifespan. One of the more novel findings emerging from her current work is that prenatal and early life risks appear to be mechanisms by which genetic factors influence child adjustment. Dr. Neiderhiser has used a variety of genetically informed research designs to examine gene-environment interplay including a longitudinal adolescent twin/sibling design, a study of twin parents of an adolescent and their family, a prospective longitudinal parent-offspring adoption study, a study of preadolescent twin children oversampled for residing in high risk neighborhoods, and a large international data harmonization study including multiple adult twin samples. These studies include extensive assessment of the environment within the household, interpersonal relationships, adult and child adjustment, temperament and personality and other related measures and together span the lifespan. 

Jenae is also a faculty mentor of graduate students for graduate student fellowships: TIESPAMT, and Healthy Aging. 

Douglas M Teti

Douglas M Teti

  • 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. During the past ten years he has received continuous funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to examine the role of parenting in promoting/impeding child sleep in infancy and early childhood, and how parenting and sleep intersect in predicting child development and family functioning.  All of his current projects are interdisciplinary and involve graduate and undergraduate students.  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.

Dawn Witherspoon

Dawn Witherspoon

  • McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology
  • Associate Professor, Developmental Area
  • Department of Psychology
  • Director of PACT (Parents and Children Together)

Dr. Witherspoon’s research focuses on how multiple contexts impact development, primarily among adolescents and families of color. Her work focuses on neighborhood, school, and family factors that affect adolescents’ socioemotional and academic adjustment. She also examines how race, ethnicity, and other cultural attributes interact with contextual characteristics to influence adolescent outcomes. Her current work examines adolescent development from middle to high school to understand how aspects of place (e.g., neighborhood and other places youth spend their time) and family contexts are related to adolescents’ academic adjustment and beliefs as well as their deviant behaviors, racial identity, and discrimination experiences. She also examines how the neighborhood context is associated with parenting behaviors and strategies. Dr. Witherspoon’s lab, The Context and Development Lab, explores these processes across adolescence and young adulthood. Through her collaborations at PSU and other universities she examines similar developmental processes among diverse school children (e.g., BRAVE – Kristin Buss (PI) and LEGACY – Emilie Smith (PI) Projects). A goal of her research is to elucidate the development of urban and rural adolescents and their families, with particular attention to contextual supports.