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Projects

The RCCWB is currently conducting these research projects.

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Girl placing beanbag in bin

PROJECT PI: BRIDGET ARMSTRONG

Excessive screen-device use is linked to both physical health (i.e. obesity and cardiovascular risk) and mental health outcomes (i.e. depression and substance abuse) ostensibly through either obesogenic health behaviors (i.e. poor sleep and sedentary behavior), social/emotional risk factors (i.e. behavior problems), or both. Advances in mobile technology have increased the availability of screens for young children (under 6), and screen time habits established in early childhood can persist through school age and into adulthood. This project seeks to overcome methodological and conceptual limitations to better understand the family processes and context pertaining to screen time, child behavior, and parenting stress in young children. Specifically, the study tests the feasibility/acceptability and utility of passively collecting objective mobile screen time data in conjunction with accelerometry and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) among low income dyads of caregivers and their 3-5-year-old children over a 30-day span. The population of interest includes families experiencing economic disadvantage and varying degrees of parenting stress.

Quantitative and qualitative assessments will provide insight into how children’s screen time, behavior problems, and sedentary behavior interact with contextual factors related to parenting and family milieu. Ultimately the results will inform the development of intervention strategies aimed at preventing both health-related and social-emotional behaviors in young children.

PROJECT PI: ALI BRIAN

Young children who exhibit difficulties with social-emotional, behavioral, and gross motor development in the early years face elevated risk for emotional and physical health problems in later childhood and adolescence. This project applies a prevention perspective and addresses the need for integrative interventions to address multiple critical developmental processes (e.g., gross motor development and social-emotional adjustment) in early childhood as these established precursors for physical, behavioral, and emotional health. The randomized and controlled prevention study is testing an integrated intervention that combines a classroom program, focused on promoting positive behavior and social interactions, and a gross motor skills training program. The specific aims are to: 1) examine the immediate post-intervention effect of the integrative intervention, compared with the control condition, on social-emotional, behavioral, and gross motor outcomes in preschool-age children; 2) evaluate six-month follow-up impact of the intervention (compared with controls) on the same outcomes, controlling for baseline levels; and 3) explore the moderating effects of baseline social-cognitive skills (e.g., executive function, working memory, self-regulation) on post-intervention effects. The results of this study will lay the foundation for a more comprehensive test of an early childhood integrative intervention aimed at bolstering children’s overall healthy development for social-emotional, behavioral, and gross motor functioning.

PROJECT PI: KRISTEN SEAY

At school entry, many children encounter difficulties because of social, emotional, and behavioral problems, which can co-occur with, and be complicated by, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as low physical activity, excessive screen time, and inadequate sleep. This project is evaluating the feasibility and initial viability of a parenting-based intervention that integrates the goals of increasing children’s social-emotional as well as healthy-lifestyle behaviors. The home-delivered prevention intervention includes content on strengthening positive behaviors in children, managing misbehavior, and fostering healthy lifestyle-behavior choices, and engages families in practical skill building and feedback. The population of interest utilizes referrals from community-based organizations serving elevated-risk families. The sample includes families who have at least one preschool-age child and who have been referred for services through a community-based agency. The design involves randomization of 60 families to either the home-delivered integrated intervention or a wait-list control. The study evaluates: (1) participant recruitment, retention during intervention, and intervention dosage; (2) changes in child (e.g., behavioral problems, physical activity, sleep) and parent (e.g., stress, parental confidence) outcomes as a function of intervention; and (3) the assessment protocol with respect to acceptability and barriers encountered by participants. Ultimately, this project will provide a solid foundation for concurrently addressing the two domains of social-emotional-behavioral functioning and healthy lifestyle behaviors in 3- to 4-year-old children, which will set the stage for a comprehensive prevention trial.

PROJECT PI: GLENN WEAVER

For children (5-10 years) from low-income households, summer represents a “window of vulnerability” in which weight gain and fitness loss occur at an accelerated rate compared to the school year. This project examines the proposition that children’s engagement in greater amounts of obesogenic behaviors (i.e., diet, sleep, physical activity, sedentary behaviors) during the summer serves to accelerate unhealthy weight gain and fitness loss. A key premise is that the components within structured days associated with school months exert a positive influence on the target behaviors and provide the basis for summer implementation of the same . There is also evidence that the routines embedded within structured days are related to children’s self-regulation. The vehicle for systematic testing of the proposition is summer day camp as a setting, implemented 10 hrs/day for 2 months, which can provide children with a structured, healthy environment to interrupt the adverse impact of an inactive summer. Given that the vast majority of children from low-income households have limited access to such summer day-camp programs, the project focuses on this population. Using a randomized design, the study compares children who attend the structured summer camp with those who do not, with respect to changes in BMI-z scores and obesogenic behaviors, and to explore potential changes and moderating effects of self-regulation. The results and lessons learned from this project will provide the basis for expanding the integration strategy and associated research in a larger investigation that tests a more comprehensive set of health and behavioral outcomes as well as potential moderators.