Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
CSC Initiative Directors

CSC Initiative Directors

  • Evan Pugh University Professor
  • Past 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 a former Director of the Child Study Center at The Pennsylvania State University. Her 40+ 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). Bierman has received funding for prevention and school readiness promotion from the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Educational Sciences, the National Science Foundation, 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 eight books and contributed to three published intervention manuals, and authored over 240 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.

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

Dr. Cleveland’s research primarily focuses on two areas, recovery from addiction and the intersection of genetic and environmental influences. In the first area, his work in the addiction and recovery area focuses on understanding the daily lives of individuals with substance use dependency who are attempting to build and maintain recovery. His secondary area of research focuses on evocative and active G-E correlations and gene-environment interactions involving preventative interventions to reduce substance use initiation and escalation across adolescence.

Headshot of H Harrington (Bo) Cleveland
  • Liberal Arts Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • 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.

Headshot of Pamela Cole
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Co-Director, Child Study Center
  • Families at Risk Initiative Co-Director

Dr. Eiden’s research focuses on understanding developmental trajectories among children at risk due to multiple adversities associated with parental substance use and problems, as well as early childhood interventions designed to ameliorate these risks and promote competence. Her studies, many of which follow cohorts of children across multiple developmental stages (e.g., prenatal period to adolescence), seek to understand developmental mechanisms that may explain the association between parental risk factors and child outcomes (e.g., infant-parent attachment, parent-child self-regulation, individual differences in children’s autonomic and stress reactivity, and immune/inflammatory mechanisms).  She has a particular interest in prenatal and early childhood interventions for substance using parents, with the goal of promoting family health, including positive developmental cascades for children. Current projects include a randomized clinical trial for first time expectant parents to promote co-parenting and reduce hazardous drinking among father/non-pregnant partners; a translational (human-animal) study of prenatal tobacco and cannabis exposure effects on middle childhood outcomes in a sample recruited in pregnancy; developmental pathways to violence, victimization, and substance use in a sample exposed to cocaine and other substances in utero; a collaboration with Dr. Mary Dozier on a randomized clinical trial for low-income mothers with opioid use disorder using a modification of the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up; and a collaboration with Drs. Jenae Neiderhiser, Danielle Downs, and colleagues in Geisinger on a pilot rural birth cohort study from pregnancy to 3 years of child age.

Headshot of Rina Das Eiden
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Open Data and Developmental Science (ODDS) 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 Director of the Open Data and Developmental Science (ODDS) initiative at the Child Study Center, Dr. Gilmore has organized workshops on data-sharing and reproducible research practices, including Penn State’s first Open Science Bootcamp. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the data library and Co-PI of the Play & Learning Across a Year (PLAY) Project, and co-author of the databraryr R package.

Headshot of Rick Gilmore
  • Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • Co-Director, Child Study Center
  • Gene Environment Research Initiative Co-Director

Dr. Neiderhiser’s research is focused on understanding how genes and environment work together to shape development throughout the lifespan. Much of this research has focused on interpersonal relationships – including parent-child, spouse, sibling and peer relationships. Examining how individuals influence their environments, and what role genetics may play in this (gene-environment correlation), has long been a focus. She has also examined gene x environment interaction (GxE) and the role of early life experiences, including prenatal experiences, in shaping development throughout the lifespan. Her more recent research has included an examination of the roles of neighborhood context and pubertal hormones on child and adolescent development in combination with the other environmental and genetic influences. She has used studies of twins, siblings, adopted children, and other family members to examine these research questions. All of her research has included extensive assessment of the environment within the household, family relationships, peer relationships, adult and child adjustment, temperament and personality and other related measures. Most recently, in an effort to help address rural health disparities, she is collaborating with Drs. Rina Eiden and Danielle Downs to understand risk and protective processes in families living throughout rural Pennsylvania.

Jenae is also a faculty mentor of graduate and postdoctoral fellows as part of: The Prevention and Methodology Training Program (PAMT) and The Center for Healthy Aging.

Headshot of Jenae Neiderhiser
  • Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics
  • Head, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Families at Risk Initiative Co-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 a co-leading faculty member (along with Rina Eiden) 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.

Headshot of Douglas M Teti
  • Professor, Developmental Area
  • Former McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology
  • 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 place, 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 expands her research to other developmental periods using varying research designs and approaches (e.g., EGDS/ECHO – Jenae Neiderhiser). A goal of her research is to elucidate the development of urban and rural adolescents and their families, with particular attention to contextual supports.

Headshot of Dawn P. Witherspoon