Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Department / Division:
/ Child & Fam Mental Health & Dev Neuro
Department of Psychology
the University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
My current research interests fall into three primary areas. First, we are engaged in a series of studies examining dysfunctional social-cognitive processes of aggressive children and adolescents. Recently, we have examined the unique and shared social cognition problems of severely violent vs. moderately aggressive boys, and we have explored how certain aspects of social information processing (e.g. attributions are predictive of reactive aggression, while other components (e.g. outcome expectations) are related to proactive aggression. The social goals of aggressive adolescents have also been found to influence their social problem-solving, and boys' social goal pattern of excessively valuing dominance and revenge while under-emphasizing affiliation was associated with conduct problem and substance use outcomes in adolescence. In a series of studies we have also examined how aggressive children develop distorted perceptions of self and others' behavior during dyadic peer interactions, and have recently found that aggressive boys' initial rigid schematic expectations for dyadic behavior heavily influenced their subsequent perceptions of behavior. Second, we have begun examining parent and family factors which potentially influence children's social cognition and behavior. Mother's attributional biases have been found to mirror their aggressive son's attributional biases, and maternal child-rearing style (e.g., less facilitation, more control) has been predictive of their sons' outcome expectations that aggressive behavior will have positive outcomes. In addition, we have found that marital conflict adds to the effect of parent-to-child aggressive behavior in predicting to children's reactive aggression, but not to proactive aggression These results have indicated the etiological role of parental social cognition and marital conflict in producing children's emotionally-disregulated and aggressive behavior. Third, we have been engaged in a programmatic series of research studies over the past two decades examining the effects of preventive interventions and cognitive-behavioral therapy with aggressive children. In two current grant-funded projects, I am evaluating the effectiveness of a Coping Power Program in reducing fourth-to-sixth grade boys' aggressive behavior and their subsequent substance use and delinquency, and I am a co-PI with John Coie in assessing the FAST Track program. FAST Track is a multisite, comprehensive indicated prevention program which intervenes with high risk children, their parents, and their teachers over a six-year span from first through sixth grades to prevent later serious conduct problems. In both of these programs we also examine mediating processes which produce improvements in children's behavior.