Research

Ongoing Projects:

The Baby Sib Study

Nearly 80% of children experience the birth of a baby sibling and many parents express concerns about how their first child will adjust to the new baby. Yet, few studies address this important developmental transition. The Baby Sibling study is designed to identify early indicators of child behavior before the birth that will provide us with a glimpse into how children might interact with the baby sibling after the birth. To do this, we will have pregnant mothers bring their firstborn child to the UM Child and Family Development lab to interact with a life-size baby doll and videotape how child interacts with mothers and the baby doll. Once the baby is born, we will visit mothers in their home when their baby is around 1 month old and videotape how firstborn child interacts with mother and the new baby. With the information obtained from this research, our goal is to help future parents learn how to identify problem behaviors that might help children adjust better to the birth of a baby sibling.

 Questions Adressed:

  • Will we be able to identify behaviors that are the same?
  • Do children interact with the baby doll and the baby sibling differently or similarly?

Completed Projects:

Family Transitions Study (FTS): Family Transitions Following the Birth of a Sibling

FTS is a longitudinal investigation of 241 families expecting their second child. The main goal of FTS was to examine changes in the firstborn child’s adjustment following the infant sibling’s birth and changes in family relationship functioning including marital relationships, parental well-being, family social supports, and work-family stress. Families had to meet several criteria for participation: (1) mothers had to be expecting their second child; (2) firstborn children had to be between the ages of 1 and 5 years of age; (3) the biological father of the infant had to be residing in the home; and (4) neither the infant nor the firstborn had developmental delays or significant health issues. The study involved five assessment periods starting in the last trimester of the mother’s pregnancy with the second born (Prenatal assessment) and then again when the infant was 1, 4, 8, and 12 months of age. Families were visited predominantly in their homes throughout the course of the study where we conducted parent interviews, videotaped observations of parent, sibling, and marital interaction, and assessments of children’s social understanding.

Questions Addressed:

  • How does the older sibling adjust to the arrival of a baby brother or sister?
  • How do parents cope with the changes occurring during this time?
  • What role do fathers play in the family during this developmental transition?
  • How do changes in family life and the older sibling’s adjustment affect the developing infant?

Hormones, Behavior and Parent-Infant Relationships Study (HBPIRS)

HBPIRS is a subproject of the larger FTS project. The main goal of this research is to examine the associations between select hormones (e.g., testosterone, cortisol, and progesterone) and the quality of parent-infant interaction during the 12- and 13-month lab visits of the Family Transitions Study. We are also interested in whether the brief separation between parents and infants during our social skills assessment may be more stressful for some children and parents than others and hope to capture this by looking at the stress hormone, cortisol.

Family Transitions Study – 18 Months: The Development of Compassionate Behavior in Young Children

This project involves a follow-up to the FTS families when the second born is 18 months of age. The primary purpose of the 18-month follow-up is to examine children’s development of compassionate behavior (e.g., helping, sharing, concern for others) in the early years of toddlerhood. We are also interested in how these emerging abilities develop through the relationships a child has with his or her mother, father, and older sibling. The study includes two visits: (1) a home visit where we conduct observations of family interaction, including parents and siblings, and (2) a lab visit to the university in which we assess children’s self-regulation, effortful control, and social understanding.

Questions Addressed:

  • Do young children engage in prosocial behaviors such as helping, sharing, and showing concern for others in the context of their family relationships with mother, father, and older sibling?
  • What family factors contribute to the young child’s developing sense of morality and conscience?
  • Are there relations between children’s social understanding, effortful control and the development of early morality and conscience?

Family Transitions and Toddler Development (FTTD): A Within-Family Perspective

FTTD is a follow-up investigation of the FTS families when the second born children are 24 and 36 months of age. The overall aims of this research is to examine longitudinal patterns of change in the toddler siblings behavioral and emotional regulation from 18 to 36 months of age and relate these trajectories to changes in the older sibling’s behavioral adjustment, marital relationship change, parent well-being, and familial stressors and supports. Families participate in two visits (home and lab) at the 24- and 36- month longitudinal follow-up time points. Both older and younger siblings are observed during home observations of parent-child and sibling interaction and visit the university laboratory for assessments of effortful control, social understanding, and sibling cooperation.

Questions Addressed:

  • Can we identify different trajectories of young children’s self-regulation and behavioral adjustment from 18 to 36 months?
  • Are these different patterns of toddler’s behavioral regulation related to the adjustment of the older sibling following the second born’s birth?
  • Are changes in behavioral adjustment for older and younger siblings related to marital, parental, and sibling relationship functioning over time?

The Big Sib Study

The Big Sib Study is a longitudinal follow up of the original FTS families expecting their second child. The aim of this follow up is to collect data when the younger siblings are 8-10 years of age on their social skills with peers, relationship with their parents and sibling, and psychopathology. The study involves online data collection for parents and home visits to interview both children. In addition, videos of mother- and father-child interaction when the younger sibling was 12 months of age are recoded for activative parenting qualities: (1) Excitation/Destabilization, (2) Stimulation of Perseverance, (3) Limit Setting/Control.

Questions Addressed:

  • Is early activative parenting unique to fathers?
  • Is early activative parenting associated with children’s self-regulatory abilities?
  • Does early activative parenting predict improved social skills, family relationships, and psychopathology?