The American Psychological Foundation's Koppitz Fellowship Program gave five graduate students a $25,000 funding boost this year for their research in child psychology. The program--made possible thanks to a more than $4 million bequest by Werner J. Koppitz, PhD-is helping graduate students pursue research on such topics as emotional regulation, the ways adults affect children's assumptions, and the relationship between parental attunement to marital conflict and youth behavior.
"We are thrilled with the winners of this year's fellowships," says Camilla Benbow, PhD, American Psychological Foundation (APF) trustee and chair of the Koppitz Committee. "We hope these fellowships will enrich the careers of all of APF's Koppitz Fellows as well as the field of child psychology."
TREATING CHILD PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS
Scientists don't know much about the psychological treatment of childhood or adolescent-onset psychotic disorders, says Abigail Judge, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That's why she will be using her Koppitz funds to help lay the groundwork for the development of treatment standards for childhood psychosis. In collaboration with her program supervisors, David Penn, PhD, and Linmarie Sikich, MD, Judge will analyze a longitudinal database gathered by following children with psychotic disorders for up to five years. With this information, she hopes to zero in on the children who most need psychosocial treatment and identify the variables--such as medication adherence or school enrollment--that might improve their treatment outcomes.
HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP STEREOTYPES
In his research, Andrei Cimpian will investigate how adults' utterances influence the way children generalize information--and the extent to which children stereotype. He suspects that children are more likely to generalize from a particular event, such as meeting a girl who doesn't like sports, when they hear adults make remarks such as "girls don't like sports," versus more restricted claims such as "this girl doesn't like sports." Cimpian, of Stanford University, will also explore whether these assumptions expand. For instance, if children are told that "girls don't like sports," are they more likely to believe that other entire social groups or categories also share this dislike of sports? By demonstrating how children form these generalizations, Cimpian hopes not only to understand an important aspect of cognitive development, but also to identify-and potentially prevent-stereotype formation.
SLEEPING AND MOOD
If you have ever arisen grouchy after a night of tossing and turning, you know sleep can have a major effect on mood. This may be particularly true for adolescents with bipolar disorder, says Benjamin Mullin, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley. Adolescents with bipolar disorder may cycle through extremes of depression, euphoria or irritability within the course of one day, and they often exhibit serious sleep abnormalities at night. With his fellowship, Mullin will track the mood and sleep patterns of a sample of adolescents with bipolar disorder and compare them with matched groups of teens with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as healthy controls. He hopes that learning more about how sleep and mood are related will ultimately provide the foundation for developing targeted sleep interventions.
Past research shows that increasing parental attentiveness to children's emotional and physical needs reduces aggressive behavior in children. However, little is known about the role of parental attunement in the behavior of children who are not in treatment for behavioral problems, notes Sarah Duman Serrano, a graduate student at the University of Southern California. With her funding, Duman Serrano will explore how parental attunement changes when there is marital conflict between parents and how it affects children's behavior.
Duman Serrano's research will follow a group of children from early to late adolescence. Through a series of interviews with the adolescents and their families, she will explore whether parental attunement can make parental conflict less hard on kids, reducing the likelihood of behavioral problems. By demonstrating such a link, her research may lay the groundwork for interventions that teach parents how to stay focused on their children's needs during times of marital strife.
THINKING IN NUMBERS
How do children form the abstract numerical concepts that underlie complex mathematical thinking? Through behavioral tests and brain imaging, Duke University doctoral student Jessica F. Cantlon hopes to find out, by identifying the neural systems responsible for symbolic numerical knowledge. Ultimately, she wants to examine the link between nonverbal and symbolic numerical processes in the developing brain. Her study participants will be children 4 to 7-the period in which children start to acquire and then rapidly increase their knowledge of Arabic numerals. Using fMRI while children view numbers and letters, Cantlon aims to identify the brain regions that respond specifically to numbers, not just to symbolic characters.
This line of research may contribute to psychologists' understanding of normal development of mathematical brain functions, which could shed light on the causes of impaired math skills.
For information on applying for an APF Koppitz fellowship, visit APA Award/Koppitz.