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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 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.

Kristin Buss

Kristin Buss

  • Professor of Psychology & Human Development and Family Studies
  • Past Director of PACT (2007 - 2019)
  • Social Science Research Institute Faculty
  • Associate Editor, Developmental Psychology

Dr. Kristin Buss is interested in emotional development and temperamental variation from birth through adolescence. Her work in her lab, The Emotion Development Lab, 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 social 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 Past Director of Parents and Children Together (PACT), and all of her projects include community engagement and data collection in the greater Harrisburg area.


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

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Open Data and Developmental Science (ODDS) Initiative Director

Jenae Neiderhiser

Jenae Neiderhiser

  • 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 561 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.

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.