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Kivilcim Engel

Kivilcim Engel

Graduate Spotlight
Headshot of Kivilcim Engel

My goal is to understand how parent-child dyads mutually influence each other during social interactions, and how behaviors and emotions evoked in these interactions are reflected at physiological levels.

Kıvılcım Engel began her graduate school career at Penn State in 2021 after obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. Initially a business major, Kivilcim realized her passion for psychology during an elective psychology of personality class. She eventually became interested in understanding the development of self-regulation in early childhood and its relation to parenting and parent-related risks, such as emotion dysregulation or harsh discipline. For her master’s project, she investigated associations between toddlers’ noncompliance and emotional reactivity in relation to maternal control and warmth. Over the course of her continued learning about self-regulation and parenting, she found herself frequently citing work from Penn State faculty, which led her to the Developmental Psychology Doctoral Program at Penn State.

Kıvılcım is advised by Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer and also works with Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar as her secondary advisor. She has focused on investigating parent-child interactions and examining how dyadic states, like mutual positive/negative affect or contingent behaviors between parent and child, are related to parent-related risks and child behavioral problems across early childhood. She is currently working on coding parent-child interactions in laboratory settings as a team lead for a NIMH-funded R01 project. Kıvılcım is particularly interested in understanding how these interactions evolve over time alongside changes to physiological functioning in both parents and children. She is working with Dr. Pérez-Edgar to understand how heart rate synchrony between parents and children varies based on the context in which families are interacting, such as during periods of rest, challenge, or social play. She is also interested in how broader contexts shape family and child health and is working on a project assessing how the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated pre-existing risks, such as harsh parenting, on the development of child behavioral problems.

Kıvılcım‘s long-term goal is to understand how parent-child dyads mutually influence each other during social interactions, and how behaviors and emotions evoked in these interactions are reflected at physiological levels. She plans to investigate how different research methods might allow for better understanding of biological and behavioral synchrony between parent and child.