Director of the Family Involvement Laboratory

Natasha Cabrera
Dr. Natasha Cabrera is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College of Education.  Previously, Dr. Cabrera held an expert appointment in the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch of the National Institute of Child Development (NICHD). At NICHD, she was also an Executive Branch Fellow sponsored by the Society for Research in Child Development. Dr. Cabrera was intimately involved in the planning and implementation of several projects including the Science and Ecology of Early Development (SEED), the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project's father study, and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. Dr. Cabrera currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on social development, parenting, and child development and poverty.  Her research interests include parent-child relationships, children's social and emotional development in different types of families and cultural/ethnic groups, school readiness, fatherhood, predictors of adaptive and maladaptive parenting, and translation of research into practice and policy.
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Graduate Students

Kelsey Garcia

Kelsey McKee is a fourth-year doctoral student in Human Development. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Arizona State University. Her past experience includes conducting in-home intervention programs with the Arizona child welfare system. Her interests lie in how parenting interventions can promote positive parent-child relationships and help parents to support children’s  early social and emotional development, particularly low-income communities.

Avery Hennigar

Avery Hennigar is a fourth-year doctoral student in Human Development. She received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and Master of Public Health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Avery's research interests focus on how structural and social factors influence parent-child relationships and how interventions can be most effective for low income families. Specifically, she is interested in examining the challenges related to juggling low wage work and family life and the impact of parents' mental health on child outcomes.

Tina Chen

Yu (Tina) Chen is a second-year doctoral student in Human Development. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Economics from Grinnell College. Before coming to UMD, Tina worked as a lab manager with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek at Temple University. Her research focuses on how parent-child interactions and home environment shape child outcomes. She is particularly interested in mothers and fathers from at-risk families and their input to and ways of interacting with their children.

Rachel Ghosh

Rachel Ghosh is a first-year doctoral student in the HDQM program. She received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, with a minor in Community Action and Social Change. Her research interests include father-daughter relationships, father absence, and the impacts of father involvement on females’ emotional, intellectual, and social development throughout the lifespan. She is also interested in interventions to promote healthy development and resilience among fatherless females, and Public Policy work pertaining to the improved support of low-income, single-mother families.

Angelica Alonso
Angelica Alonso is a first-year doctoral student in the Human Development program at the University of Maryland. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from New York University and her Master of Arts in Human Development from Teachers College, Columbia University. Through her previous work as a research assistant at NYU's Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education and as a research coordinator at NYU Langone Health, she became interested in the role that culture plays in shaping children’s early experiences. Her research interests include how Latino immigrant parents promote their young children’s development through everyday activities, as well as how parents’ documentation status affects parent-child interactions.

Data Manager

Philip Wilkinson

Philip Wilkinson is a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education. He received his Bachelor of Business Administration, double majoring in International Business and History, from Loyola University (Baltimore), and his Master of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University in Adult and Higher Education. His dissertation focuses on identifying the effects of baccalaureate recipients who graduate with excess credit hours on short term employment and social outcomes using non-parametric methods. He is interested in post-secondary policy and analysis, quasi-experimental design, social network analysis, data mining and machine learning, and identifying causality in the social sciences. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, Mr. Wilkinson worked as a graduate research associate at the American Council on Education’s Center for Policy, Research, and Strategy; as graduate researcher at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia; and as a lecturer and coordinator at Mahidol University – International College (Thailand). Mr. Wilkinson currently works in both the Family Involvement Laboratory and the Learning and Cognition Laboratory at the College of Education.

Lab Managers

Jhoseline Guzman

Jhoseline Guzman earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. During her undergraduate career, Jhoseline worked as a teacher assistant at Bridges Public Charter School, which furthered her interests in working with children. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how different aspects of cultural beliefs and values impact social and emotional development in early childhood. 

Diletta Mittone
Diletta Mittone received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University, along with minors in Biology and Public Health. Broadly, her research interests focus on the impacts of childhood adversity on cognitive and social development in children. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how the family system and early childhood environment shape developmental trajectories, and the implications of these outcomes on larger societal public health issues contributing to childhood risk.
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Valerie Mejia

Valerie Mejia is a full-time Lab Manager at the Family Involvement Laboratory. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Religious Studies from Colby College. During her time at Colby, Valerie had the opportunity to lead research initiatives focused on lifespan development in Latin American communities. She was particularly interested in studying the benefits of religious accompaniment in end-of-life care in Manizales, Colombia, as well as the role of positive mother-child interactions on infant development in Lima, Peru. Through these experiences, she realized that her true passion is working with children and families. 

Research Assistants

Estefany Araniva

Estefany Araniva earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Family Science with a minor in Spanish from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a full-time research assistant at the Family Involvement Lab. Her research interests include analyzing the effects of family constructs based on parent-child interactions, parental stress and co-parenting. Specifically, she is interested in examining how these different constructs affect family synchrony and child development.

Carol Barrios

Carol Barrios is a full-time research assistant at the Family Involvement Lab. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Leadership Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to joining the lab, she was a research assistant in the Emotions, Equity, and Education Lab and participated in an intervention that focused on testing the effects of social identity on mathematical achievement in low income Latino middle school students. Her research interests include bullying intervention among middle and high school adolescents, and examining the effects that adolescent development, home climate, and social identities have on school climate and bullying prevention.

Heidi Fuentes

Heidi Fuentes is a full-time research assistant for the Everyday Learning Project. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Education from Trinity Washington University.  Her interest in educational research started after writing multiple research papers in undergrad focusing on Bilingual Education and Language Production.  Heidi is in the process of applying for graduate school to pursue a Master's in School Psychology.  She hopes to work with students from various backgrounds and, particularly, with students who have learning differences.


Jerry West

Dr. Jerry West’s research interests include school readiness, child care and early education, mothers’ and fathers’ involvement in their children’s education, and kindergarten in the U.S. He received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1979 with a concentration in social psychology. Over his 30+ year career, he has designed and directed national cross-sectional studies of preschool, school-age children, and adults, and national longitudinal surveys of children’s development and learning from birth through middle childhood. He has trained hundreds of graduate students, junior and senior faculty from different disciplines on how to accurately use data from the national child development, early childhood and elementary school studies to answer key questions in child development and education. As a Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research for more than 10 years, Dr. West directed the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) and other large-scale studies. Prior to joining Mathematica, he was the Director of the Early Childhood and Household Studies Program at the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).


Daniela Aldoney

Daniela Aldoney is an alumnus of the Family Involvement Lab. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the Universidad de Chile and received her Master of Arts degree and PhD in Human Development from the University of Maryland. Currently, she is a research faculty at the Centro de Apego y Regulación Emocional (CARE) at the Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago, Chile. Her research interests include the study of parent-child relationships in disadvantaged populations during the preschool years. She has focused in understanding the development of emotional competences, executive functions, and language in children at risk and how mothers and father can promote an optimal development in their children. She teaches courses for psychlogy undergraduate and doctoral students and directs the Familia, Adolescencia e Infancia lab.

Liz Karberg

Liz Karberg is an alumnus of the Family Involvement Lab. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The College of William and Mary, her Master of Arts in Comparitive Human Development from the University of Chicago, and her PhD in Human Development from the University of Maryland. Dr. Karberg is a Research Scientist at Child Trends. She studies parent-child relationships in fragile families (families in which the parents are not married), and how parent involvement affects early development in these families.

Catherine Kuhns
Catherine Kuhns is an alumnus of the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, where she also completed a Certificate in Population Studies from the Maryland Population Research Center. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University and her Masters of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Fordham University. Dr. Kuhns is a research associate in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute. Her research focuses on child welfare and public programs that support the well-being of low-income children and families. She is also interested in using research to inform policy at the local, state, and federal level to enhance child well-being. Catherine is currently a Doris Duke Fellow.
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Jenessa Malin is an alumnus of the Family Involvement Lab. She is a Social Science Research Analyst in the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE). Her portfolio includes research and evaluation projects related to child welfare and early care and education programs (Head Start and CCDF). Dr. Malin began her work at OPRE as a Society for Research in Child Development Executive Branch Policy Fellow. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Duke University. She also holds an M.A. in Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation and a Ph.D. in Human Development, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.