Catherine Tamis LeMonda's PhD advisor and mentor at NYU sparked her interest in parent-infant interactions, and the ways that early relationships shape children's emerging language, play, and readiness for school.
"My current research initiatives build upon the foundational work I began as a doctoral student under the guidance of Dr. Marc Bornstein, my PhD advisor and mentor," says Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, NYU doctoral alumna and associate professor of Applied Psychology. "Dr. Bornstein sparked my interest in parent-infant interactions, and the ways that early relationships shape children's emerging language, play, and readiness for school."
Several research projects, all of which focus on cognitive development during children's pre-school years, currently occupy Tamis-LeMonda. One, funded by The Ford Foundation and The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), examines the role of fathers in young children's development. "The developmental psychology literature has long emphasized the prominent role of mothers in children's early language and cognition. My colleagues and I sought to extend this work to the role of fathers as well. More specifically, we are examining father-child engagements in low income, ethnically diverse populations." One of our goals has been to "overturn the stereotype of the 'deadbeat dad' and to demonstrate that low income fathers are not at all absent figures - but are very involved in the rearing on their infants and young children. The ways fathers engage with their infants has implications for emergent language and literacy."
The second project, also funded by NICHD, looks at how young babies communicate with their care givers about potentially dangerous situations. "We have babies at the brink of a slope, hovering over gaps, and we observe how they summon help from their parents. This tells us what babies know about the usefulness of communication and the intentions of others. This research falls under the broader umbrella of social cognition."
Tamis-LeMonda's third research project, funded by the federal Administration for Children Youth and Family (ACYF), looks at children's school readiness. "Through intensive observation of children from birth through age four, we are trying to gauge how early home environment, together with day care experiences, co-determine aspects of children's being ready for school."
In all of these projects Tamis-LeMonda is assisted by both undergraduate and graduate students. "They are impressively motivated and hard working students," she says. "My research methodology is very rigorous and demands assistants who can be incredibly flexible with their schedules. For example, visits to fathers typically occur in the evenings and on weekends. As a result I work with students who are utterly committed to research." Her students are also prolific. "All of them are co-authoring articles and presenting their research findings at national conferences."
Over a dozen students are also participating in Tamis-LeMonda's overarching project, the Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education, of which she is the new director. The Center, which is funded by a large grant from the National Science Foundation, was established in collaboration with Professors Niobe Way and Joshua Aronson of Steinhardt's Department of Applied Psychology and Professors Hiro Yoshikawa and Diane Hughes of the Faculty of Arts and Science Department of Psychology.
Other faculty of the center are drawn from the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, economics and social policy. "We are collaborators from different disciplines using different methodologies to understand the disparities that exist across ethnic and cultural groups as they relate to children's readiness for school and academic achievement. We seek to understand the factors that promote success in young children and adolescents from diverse cultural backgrounds."
Dr. Tamis-LeMonda believes that cutting-edge research in the field of human development is what will bring international recognition to the Department of Applied Psychology. "The Department is ideally poised to become a top-tier research department in the school, university and nation."
She also envisions the Department working collaboratively with faculty from different colleges across NYU, "Our future rests in building solid collaborative partnerships with multiple disciplines in the social sciences. I also see us excelling as a department that emphasizes the synergy between teaching and research. For me and many of my colleagues, teaching occurs both within and outside the classroom. Some of the most valuable learning experiences our students encounter are those that occur as they engage in research and field placements in the homes, schools, and communities of New York City. Additionally, there is no parallel for the learning that occurs as students are mentored in designing a study, writing a scholarly paper, and sharing their findings and thoughts at professional research conferences."