Media Coverage for Dr. Raver’s Paper, “Poverty, Household Chaos, and Interparental Aggression Predict Children’s Ability to Recognize and Modulate Negative Emotions”

by Megan Zhang

Cybele Raver’s paper, “Poverty, Household Chaos, and Interparental Aggression
Predict Children’s Ability to Recognize and Modulate Negative Emotions” has officially been published in the psychology journal Development and Psychopathology. See the press release here.

The paper has garnered much interest in the international psychology community, with citations and mentions in such widely read publications as PsychCentral and University Herald. Dr. Raver has also been interviewed by various media outlets, including ThinkProgress and Southern California’s KCSN Radio.

For some of the other coverage that Dr. Raver’s paper has garnered, see below.



Lab Member Highlight: Meet Paula Daneri!

by Megan Zhang

Paula Daneri is a doctoral student whose research focuses on cognitive and language development in early childhood. Keep reading for our interview with Paula!

What does your research focus on?

Broadly speaking I’m interested in the relation between language and executive function. Specifically, I’m interested in the development of executive function in dual language learners, children who learn a second language in early childhood. Dual language learners are a growing part of the population in the United States, but we don’t know much about their development. They are an interesting group because even though they have a salient common feature – speaking two languages – they come from many diverse backgrounds.

In your research, what have you found about dual language learners’ early executive function development?

Past research shows that dual language learners from middle-income homes develop certain executive function skills faster than their monolingual peers. We also know that growing up in poverty is associated with lower executive function skills. What we don’t yet know is how executive function develops in children who might get a boost in executive function development from bilingual experience, but are also vulnerable to developing lower executive function skills in a less advantaged environment. Currently, Clancy is a principal investigator on a project that explores executive function development in dual language learners from disadvantaged homes, so we are aiming to answer some of these questions once data collection is complete.

Prior to coming to NYU, I worked at a lab at my undergraduate institution where we examined related questions about the development of dual language learners. There, we were interested in examining how much exposure to the second language was necessary for bilingualism to yield benefits in executive function. At that lab, I participated in a project exploring executive function development in children of diverse socio-economic backgrounds attending either a dual immersion program, where they received half of their instruction in Spanish and half in English, or English-only education. We found that children in the dual immersion program outperformed children in the English-only program in executive function tasks, revealing that learning a second language during the elementary school years might yield benefits in executive function development.

What further questions regarding children’s language development do you hope to answer?

Under Clancy’s guidance, I have become very interested in how the relation between language and executive function develops in the first five years, both in dual language learners and monolingual children. This is a really exciting time period to study these two skills because they change very rapidly. We know that throughout this early time period dual language learners develop executive function skills faster than monolinguals, but we don’t yet know how this occurs. So in my research I would like to focus on the relation between language and executive function in early years to understand why speaking a second language is associated with a different rate of executive function development.

What is your ultimate career goal?

I’m still at the beginning of my graduate career, so my career goals are still developing. Right now I would say that ultimately I hope to become a professor and continue to elaborate on a research program that explores the cognitive and language development of dual language learners and provides policy makers, educators, and parents answers about how to best support the development of children who speak more than one language. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about how the lab works so that if I ever get to lead one, it can be as amazing as NEL!

Michael Wald Visits NEL

by Megan Zhang

The Neuroscience and Education Lab was honored to host Stanford Law School’s Michael Wald, a distinguished national authority on children’s rights and welfare. As an academic researcher, Wald has led a career deeply devoted to integrating research and policy for at-risk children. He served as deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, and he is the current chair of the San Francisco Youth Council.

Wald led a seminar at the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at NYU Steinhardt last Wednesday, September 17. The talk, “Beyond Child Maltreatment: The Role of the State in Influencing Parenting,” focused on how policy changes can improve parenting and buffer children from the negative effects of poverty.

During his visit at NEL, Wald discussed his research and involvement in the Early Head Start program, and provided feedback regarding NEL’s ongoing research. Wald tells a compelling, policy-driven story about the most at-risk children, who struggle on a day-to-day basis. Children living in poverty tend to have a much higher rate of missed school days, self-regulation difficulties, and problems with paying attention. Wald has been championing the fact that more funding should be provided for programs like Early Head Start, which organizes parenting interventions to promote children’s academic success. While lots of funding has been provided for non-family institutions that promote other aspects of children’s development, the parenting side of things often goes ignored.

NEL is honored to work together with Michael Wald and look forward to hosting him again in the future.

For more information about Michael Wald’s career, visit his Stanford faculty page here:

For more information about NEL’s studies, visit our Steinhardt page here:

Lab Member Highlights: Meet Alicia Wang!

by Megan Zhang

Alicia Wang is an NYU graduate student and research intern at the Neuroscience and Education Lab. We sat down to chat about her experiences at NEL.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I’m a second-year master student from the Human Development
and Social Intervention program under the Department of Applied Psychology
in NYU Steinhardt. I graduated from the China University of Political Science
and Law in 2013. Although I majored in law in college, I have always been
attracted to psychology for its practical uses, so I choose this program.

As a research intern at NEL, what do your responsibilities include?

I help with different projects in NEL. I do micro-analytical coding of
visual attention, extracting data from videos, and cleaning data from the
Chicago School Readiness Project. Since last October, I have been working on the team led by Dr. Michael Sulik, and editing heart rate data. I also work with Dr. Regula
Neuenschwander, doing on-site data collection. For the Chicago School
Readiness Project, I ‘m doing geographical information coding.  Aside from all this, I’m writing my master thesis, on Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia.

What has been the most rewarding or educational aspect of interning at NEL?

There are so many great people and rewarding projects in this lab, and my experiences have taught me more about what science and research really mean. My mentor Dr. Sulik has a rigorous and passionate attitude towards science and is great at explaining
complicated theories; my supervisor Jessica is super efficient and
careful with work. I’ve never seen an unread email in her inbox!

What do you think is a pressing question in developmental psychology today?

It’s well known that poverty has a profound impact on the development
of children. So I think it’s important to know the mechanisms of this
impact and to work out effective interventions to buffer this
negative effect.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to work as a research assistant in research-related fields for
a few years to gain more experience.

Lab Member Highlights: Meet Rachel McKinnon!

by Megan Zhang

Rachel McKinnon is a doctoral student at the Neuroscience and Education Lab.

You’re currently a doctoral student. What projects are you involved in at NEL?

I’m currently working on three projects. I work with Dr. Blair on the Family Life Project looking at executive function as it relates to children’s relationships with teachers and school readiness skills in preschool and kindergarten. Second, I work with Dr. Raver on the CSRP project looking at children’s stress reactivity as it relates to the quality of their friendships in elementary school. Lastly, I work with Dr. Blair and a collaborator, Dr. Michael Willoughby, on a project validating the use of touch screen computers to measure children’s levels of executive function among 3 to 5 year olds.

In your research, what have you found about the extent to which the
social relationships in the classroom are related to children’s

We have seen that children’s executive function is interrelated with the relationships they have with the people around them. Most recently, we looked at executive function at age 4 as a predictor of closeness and conflict between teachers and students from preschool to second grade. We hypothesized that the skills associated with executive function would translate to social relationships.  In other words, just like when children take in multiple pieces of information to solve a math problem, reorganize those pieces of information, and make a plan with that information to solve the problem, we expected that children who are better at taking-in and thinking about pieces of information about social interactions (e.g., the teacher is making a strange expression, she must be frustrated, it might be a good idea for me to follow her directions) might have better quality relationships with teachers. We saw that there was a significant association between executive function and both closeness and conflict between teachers and children. The relation between executive function and conflict held even when we took into account children’s verbal intelligence, academic performance in the classroom, and behavior problems.

How do economic disadvantages impact children’s school readiness?

Prior research has shown us that children from low-income families are not starting kindergarten with the same levels of skills important to school success than children from higher-income families. These differences continue to persist through to high school, with few opportunities for children from low-income families to catch up to their peers.

What do you think is the ultimate goal of developmental research on
children’s self-regulation?

I understand the ultimate goal of developmental research on children’s self-regulation to lead to a better understanding of the ways in which we can provide opportunities for children from low-income families to succeed in school at the same rates as their higher-income peers. We know that self-regulation is related to success in the classroom, but we need to know more about how so we can either capitalize on the existing self-regulation abilities children bring into the classroom or implement interventions that improve children’s self-regulation abilities, in the anticipation of long-term academic success.