Individual Projects

Individual Projects

In addition to team projects, members of the lab conduct research for their theses, dissertations, and personal interests. Examples of current and recent projects include:

Psychological Flexibility (Shoplik, in progress)

Psychological flexibility is a dynamic construct that allows people to adapt to situational difficulties, allocate and reconfigure mental resources, change perspective, and balance competing desires, needs, and life domains (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2012).  The current study examines this construct in preschoolers and kindergarteners because of many important and rapid changes that occur in young children as they begin to think and act more flexibly in their everyday lives. The main research question is whether or not psychological flexibility in children is related to how sensitive they are to the external stimuli in the world around them. External stimuli might include anything from an interesting pattern of wallpaper in a room to the change in emotion of another person to receiving criticism from an adult. It is hypothesized that children who are highly sensitive think and act in a highly flexible manner. 

Coping in student teachers (Kim, in progress)

Teacher attrition within the first three years is a growing problem in the US. The current study focuses on teacher stress from a novel perspective by assessing how teachers cope with stresses of the profession at the earliest point in their careers – during their training. Coping is defined as a transaction between a person and their environment, influenced by conscious choices and automatic processes. Research relies on explicit measures (self-report on Likert scales) to assess coping, but critics note this approach is limited and does not assess the whole process. In addition to Likert scales, this study incorporates implicit measures (narratives, the Thematic Apperception Test), to examine the implicit processes of coping. As predicted, significant correlations were identified within, but not across methods of measurement. Implicit but not explicit measures were significantly correlated with external evaluations of teacher effectiveness. Implications for coping theory and measurement are discussed.

Social skill scales in context (Haasbroek, in progress)

Parents and teachers rated kindergarteners’ social skills and children were individually administered mental state understanding (MSU) tasks. The majority of teacher-rated social skills subscales and items correlated with language ability and MSU but relatively fewer parent-rated social skills items correlated with MSU. Despite variations across informants in patterns of social skills and MSU relations, there was support for two types of social skills items with differential relations to two types of MSU measures, structured (clear response expectations; related to understanding and following social scripts) and unstructured (unclear response expectations; related to higher level social cognition and acting on intentions).

Gender differences in young children's emotion identification (Mulder, 2017)

Gender differences in emotion competence, including emotion identification, are held in popular belief but are inconsistently supported in the research. Emotion identification (EID) is defined as one’s understanding of the experience and expression of emotion, as conveyed through the labeling of the emotions oneself or another person is experiencing. This study investigated gender differences in EID using both the traditional method of comparing scores on a structured task of emotion identification and a comparison of girls’ and boys’ patterns of responding. An ANCOVA was used to compare girls’ and boys’ scores on a task of Situational EID across age groups, while children’s response patterns were analyzed using chi-squares. Results found few effects due to gender, but many effects due to age. Results are framed in context of the biological and social factors that impact emotion identification.

Informant discrepancies: Understanding differences in parent and teacher ratings of children's executive functions and social skills (Albrecht, 2015)

Researchers and practitioners in the field of psychology frequently use parent and teacher rating scales in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of young children. However, research has shown that agreement between parents and teachers on rating scales is low to moderate. The present study examined this phenomenon, termed "informant discrepancy", for the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions (BRIEF) and the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS). Parents and teachers completed these scales for the same sample of 73 Kindergarten children. Results indicated that parent-teacher agreement was low at the scale and item levels, within-informant correlations were higher than between-informant correlations, mean differences in parent and teacher ratings may be explained by differences in the home and school contexts, and informants identified different children as having significant problems with executive functions and social skills. Implications of the findings for research and practice are discussed.