American Psychological Foundation

As part of the Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Fellowship program, APF awards six scholars $25,000 grants for promising graduate work in child psychology. Here is what the 2013 Koppitz winners are doing with their funding.

Mindful meditation and ADHD

Nora Bunford, a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, studies how attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects adolescents' social and family relationships. In particular, she is investigating interventions that could teach children and adolescents how to better regulate their emotions and improve their interactions with others.

One possible treatment she is exploring is mindful meditation, which focuses the mind on the present moment. Bunford is using the grant funding to teach 38 adolescents with ADHD to practice the technique over a set time and assess whether using meditation improves their relationships.

Suicide prevention and self-assessment

How can hospital emergency departments improve treatment for adolescents at risk for suicide? Ewa Czyz, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is exploring that question by studying how clinicians screen and assess suicidal behavior in youth who seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

In her research, she is looking at the effect of asking adolescents who come to the emergency department for psychiatric reasons to rate their expectation of how likely it is that they will attempt suicide and how confident they feel in their ability to resist the urge. "I want to know if their own assessment can improve identification of who is at risk and who is not," says Czyz.

Brain development and psychopathologies

Although researchers and physicians know what "normal" physical development looks like in children and adolescents, they know little about what "normal" brain development looks like and whether abnormal development is linked to the emergence of serious mental health problems, such as schizophrenia.

With her Koppitz grant, Dylan Gee, a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is interested in how variations in the development of the prefrontal circuitry may contribute to psychopathologies. She says the Koppitz Fellowship will make it possible for her to gather data on children's and adolescents' brains through functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Organ transplant outcomes

When children need an organ transplant, they undergo a pre-transplant evaluation to help determine whether they are good candidates for the surgery. But little is known about possible psychological risk factors before transplants. For example, does depression or post-traumatic stress disorder in the child or caregiver lower the chances of children adhering to prescription medicines that stave off organ rejection?

Jennifer Lee, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Georgia, Athens, is exploring this question and others. Funding from the Fellowship will cover the costs of the pre-transplant study through six months post-transplant.

Linking obesity to depression

Dominika Swistun, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studies the many links between obesity and depression among children and adolescents. Her Koppitz grant will allow her to explore whether there are multiple links between body image, self-esteem and depression in overweight children and adolescents.

In particular, Swistun wants to find out if teens become depressed because of how they view themselves when they gain weight or are obese, or whether they become depressed because of the physiological changes that accompany weight gain, which may mimic signs of depression, such as lethargy and sleep disturbance.

Investing in children and families

How family income affects children's development and familial interactions is the focus of Sharon Wolf's research. Wolf, a doctoral candidate in New York University's department of applied psychology, is interested in intervention strategies that reduce the economic burdens of low-income families and help them invest in their children's physical and psychological development.

One such strategy is conditional cash transfers — welfare payments made only to families who can meet specific criteria — which can help families pay for food or other necessities, such as pediatric nutritional supplements. The method has been used effectively in South America and Mexico. Wolf says under ordinary circumstances, families must travel a considerable distance to secure such resources, which costs families money in the form of missed workdays or travel expenses. Wolf says the fellowship will allow her to work on adapting the concept of conditional cash transfers to the United States.

In addition to these grants, the following students received $5,000 scholarships:

  • Audun Dahl, University of California, Berkeley, who is studying communicating moral values to children.
  • Julia Englund, University of South Carolina, who is developing an online tool to measure working memory.
  • Nicole Mahrer, Arizona State University, who is studying parenting behavior and its effects on children.
  • Ana Vanessa Wren, Duke University, who is studying pain-related psychosomatic symptoms in children.

For more information about the Koppitz Fellowships and where to apply, please visit APF.