by Megan Zhang
The research that Amanda Roy, a postdoctoral research scholar at NEL, has done has taken a neighborhood-centric approach. In other words, Amanda focuses on how different neighborhood characteristics–including poverty, racial composition, and social support–can affect children’s development. Amanda has a PhD in community psychology from NYU, as well as a minor in quantitative methods. I sat down with Amanda, who will sadly be leaving NEL soon for Chicago, to learn a bit more about her contributions to developmental research.
1. As a postdoctoral research scholar, what do you research the most at NEL?
During my time at NEL I have worked primarily on Cybele’s Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP). CSRP started as a socioemotional intervention implemented with 602 preschoolers in Head Start Centers located in high poverty, high crime Chicago neighborhoods. Since the initial intervention implementation and data collection that took place between 2004-2006, the CSRP team has been able to follow up with children and families at three additional time points to collect in-depth information about children’s development and the contexts in which CSRP children are embedded.
Being involved in CSRP has been a great opportunity for me to pursue research in some of the areas most important to me–specifically, how neighborhoods and the experience of poverty shape children’s development.
2. In a nutshell, what have you found about the effects of neighborhoods on children?
Not surprisingly, early exposure to poverty and high-risk neighborhoods (e.g. high poverty, high crime) puts children at risk for developing problems with academic, behavioral, and socioemotional skills. My work has looked at how the co-occurrence of environmental risks can shape children’s functioning.
For example, in a recent paper (forthcoming in Developmental Psychology), colleagues and I examined how the co-occurrence of residential mobility and neighborhood poverty related to children’s self-regulatory skills (e.g. attention, set shifting, memory). We found that moves (experienced anytime between pre-school and 5th grade) that took kids out of high poverty neighborhoods or placed them in low poverty neighborhoods were associated with higher self-regulatory skills in 5th grade relative to kids who didn’t move.
These findings are important in that they demonstrate the role of neighborhood in children’s self-regulation and highlight that neighborhoods can provide contexts of both “insult” and “repair” throughout children’s development.
3. How can parents protect their children from the potentially adverse effects of relocating?
Even under the best conditions, moving is a stressful experience! Moving has the potential to change multiple contexts of children’s development including housing, neighborhoods, and schools. In order to minimize the disruption that a move can bring, parents might work to maintain structure and routine in other areas of the child’s life. For example, enforcing a regular bedtime or having meals at regular times each day. Parents might also help kids integrate into new contexts by linking kids with positive resources/services (e.g. community center, after school programs) in their new neighborhoods and schools.
4. You’re moving away from the city soon for a new job! What legacy do you hope to leave behind at NEL?
Yes, I will be starting as an Assistant Professor in the Community and Prevention Psychology program at the University of Illinois – Chicago in the fall. Leaving NEL, I hope that the team continues to explore new and innovative ways for measuring environmental stressors, particularly in terms of neighborhoods and poverty. There is a lot of great work currently going on in these areas, so I am sure this will be the case.
5. Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
With an active program of research that focuses on neighborhoods (and poverty) as influences on individual health and development. I plan to continue to collaborate with my CSRP colleagues which hopefully will require frequent trips back to New York!
We appreciate all the contributions you’ve made during your time at NEL, Amanda! Best of luck in Chicago and beyond.
Click here to learn more about Amanda, to read some of her papers, or to find out more about NEL’s other staff members!