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Child Emotion Center (Lemery-Chalfant)

Keywords:  behavior genetic; twin; development; risk; resilience; temperament; psychopathology; sleep; pain; health

Lab Research Area:

At the Child Emotion Center, researchers explore early biological and environmental risk and protective factors for later mental and physical health of children. Under the direction of the center's founder Professor Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant, graduate and undergraduate students use twin studies to understand how genes and environments work together to influence development. Our methods include measures from multiple levels of analysis, such as genetic, physiological, and behavioral— in order to better understand mechanisms of development and brain-behavior relationships. The overarching goal of the Child Emotion Center is to identify pathways to resilience, or the ability to bounce back from stress and adversity and thrive in life.


Arizona Twin Project

The Arizona Twin Project is a longitudinal research study focused on understanding the influence of genetic and environmental factors on physical health, emotional development and the development of resilience in a sample of twins. Further, our geographical location makes us especially interested in examining these factors among Hispanic families. Having an ethnically diverse sample allows us to consider the interplay between culture and genetics.  

Within the Arizona Twin Project, Dr. Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant, Dr. Leah Doane, and Dr. Mary Davis, along with many collaborators, are conducting two overarching studies. One focuses on the genetic and environmental influences on sleep and other biological factors, while the second focuses on physical health and the intergenerational transmission of pain. Utilizing a twin sample allows researchers to disentangle the genetic and environmental contributions on a particular trait. Further, having a highly diverse sample affords us the opportunity to consider the impact of acculturation, as well as the interplay between culture and genetics.

Undergraduate research assistants are needed for the two projects by assisting with participant recruitment, interviewing families with twins, data entry, coding, and becoming exposed to data analysis. This experience will be extremely beneficial for students who plan to apply to graduate school.

Wisconsin Twin Project
The goal of the Wisconsin Twin Project is to uncover characteristics of children and their environment that influence the development of childhood disorders. The disorders we focus on include internalizing disorders such as depression, generalized anxiety, and separation anxiety, and externalizing disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). By understanding the development of childhood disorders we hope to reveal ways to prevent these problems and help children develop in healthy ways. The longitudinal study is comprised of young twins born in the state of Wisconsin, and includes numerous environmental, physiological, and biological measures.

Early Steps Multisite Study
Early Steps sample was screened and recruited from Women, Infants, and Children’s nutritional supplement centers when children were 2 years old (N= 731 ethnically-diverse families) and families were selected as at risk on multiple domains. The families were randomly assigned to the Family Check-Up (FCU) preventative intervention, or a control group, and intensively assessed in the homes at ages 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, and 16 (ongoing).  The Principal Investigators of the study are Professors Thomas Dishion, Daniel Shaw, and Melvin Wilson.  Professor Lemery-Chalfant joined the team in 2014 to genotype the participants and study how genes and environments work together to influence risk and resilience for psychopathology and drug use in adolescence.  


Child Emotion Center Team

Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant, PhD, Professor

Dr. Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant is a member of the developmental faculty and also affiliated with the clinical psychology area  Her research focuses on risk and resilience processes that impact children’s mental and physical health. She uses genetically-informative study designs, such as twin studies and studies that include genotyping.  Professor Lemery-Chalfant received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, and her doctoral degree in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She joined the faculty at ASU in 2001. Curriculum Vitae.

Laboratory Coordinator: Becca Myers, M.S.
Becca coordinates the daily operations of the interdisciplinary Arizona Twin Project and supervises all staff. She received her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Family Studies as well as her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Arizona State University. Her research interests involve child temperament and parental influence on the development of intrinsic motivation as well as perseverance.

Data Collection Coordinator: Martyna Sawicka, M.S.
Martyna coordinates the data collection operations of the interdisciplinary Arizona Twin Project including scheduling, tracking, recruitment, and supervision of the home visit team. She received her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology from Arizona State University and her master’s degree in Mental Health Studies from King's College London in England. Her research interests include risk and protective factors for psychopathology and psychosocial interventions for psychosis.

Research Specialist: Amanda Fuller, M.S.
Amanda is a research specialist for the Arizona Twin Project. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu and her Master's degree in Education, with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis, from Arizona State University. Her research interests include drawing connections between the genetic and evolutionary components of learning and behavior in children and adolescents.

Post-doctoral Fellows

Candace Lewis, PhD
Dr. Lewis received her BA in Psychology from the University of Alaska Anchorage (2009), and her doctoral degree in Psychology at Arizona State University (2015). She is currently on a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Zürich characterizing the effects of psilocybin, the active component of magic mushrooms, on neuronal activity with neuroimaging techniques. When she returns to Arizona, Candace will complete a two year post-doctoral Bisgrove fellowship from the Science Foundation Arizona as a joint appointment with the ASU Department of Psychology and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (www.TGen.org). Her research focuses on the relation between early life experiences, epigenetic regulation of health related genes, and behavioral and physiological outcomes in the Arizona Twin Project.

Samantha Miadich, PhD
Dr. Miadich received her BA in Psychology from the University of Dayton, a MA in Clinical Psychology from Ball State University, and her doctoral degree in Health Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research focuses on examining stressors associated with health disparities in children and adolescents with chronic conditions and has previously worked with children with asthma. Additionally, her research interests focus on implementing novel technologies in her work, specifically through ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Dr. Miadich joined the Arizona Twin Project team in fall 2017.

Sierra Clifford, PhD
Sierra's research interests include children’s temperament and mental health, resilience, and behavior genetic methodology, particularly the twin design. Her research is currently focused on the measurement and genetic and environmental etiology of different facets of social withdrawal in childhood. Sierra received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Boise State University and her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from Arizona State University.

Doctoral Students

Reagan Styles Breitenstein, Doctoral Student, Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology
Reagan graduated from Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, in 2013 with a BS in psychology and a minor in sociology. Reagan is interested in how sleep interacts with and influences stress and emotional health, leading to individual differences in adjustment and well-being. Her master’s thesis focused on the association between familial factors, such as parenting and sibling conflict, and childhood sleep behavior, including the genetic and environmental influences on these relations.

Veronica Oro, Doctoral Student, Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology
Veronica is from New Orleans, LA and received her BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her primary research interest is the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology from parents to offspring and the impact of gene-environment interplay on this transmission.  She explores these interests using the twin method and looks forward to further developing her knowledge of the behavior-genetic approach.

Gianna Rea-Sandin, Doctoral Student, Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology
Gianna is a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program. In 2012, she earned a BA in Psychology, with a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, from the University of Colorado Boulder. Her primary research interests include utilizing the twin design to study children's executive functioning and academic achievement. In terms of behavior genetic methodology, Gianna is particularly interested in the moderation of heritability.

Shannon Moore, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Shannon graduated from University of Delaware in 2011 with a BA in psychology and sociology. Her research interests include examining resiliency over the life course, and the impact of socioeconomic factors in the development and management of chronic health conditions. Shannon's master's thesis examined how financial stress, income, and psychosocial resources were related to pain and fatigue in adults with chronic pain. She plans to continue to investigate the intersection between socioeconomic status and physical and mental health well-being.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

Abigail Romero

Hayley Sowards

*Navneet Kaur

*Anaelle Ganase

Justin Lodge

Pauline Lee

Ariana Ruof

Kelly Luong

Peter Lucas

Carlie Mills

Kordell Lacy

Robin Jaquez

Cassandra Leedom

Laura Hemphill

Sanya Virani

*Cindy Le

Lily Ludwig

*Trevor Smith

*Derek Tang

Linda Vela

Winter Roth

*Emily Vakulskas

Madison Mcbeath

Hala Tarin

Natalie Arena

* Indicates Honor's Project


Join the Lab!

NEW!  Research Specialist JOB# 27027BR (posted 10-19-16)

Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Lemery-Chalfant’s research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Lemery-Chalfant’s curriculum vitae.

* denotes student or postdoc author


Elam, K. K., Chassin, L., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Pandika, D., Wang, F. L., Bountress, K., ... Agrawal, A. (2017). Affiliation with substance-using peers: Examining gene-environment correlations among parent monitoring, polygenic risk, and children's impulsivity. Developmental Psychobiology59(5), 561-573. 

van Hulle, C. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Hill Goldsmith, H. (2017). Parent-Offspring Transmission of Internalizing and Sensory over-Responsivity Symptoms in Adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 1-11. 


*Scott, B., Lemery-Chalfant, K., *Clifford, S., Tein, J., *Stoll, R. & Goldsmith, H. H. (2016). A twin factor mixture modeling approach to childhood temperament: Differential heritability. Child Development, 87 (6), 1940-1955.

*Elam, K., *Wang, F. L., *Bountress, K., Chassin, L., *Pandika, D., & Lemery-Chalfant, K. (2016). Predicting substance use in emerging adulthood: A genetically informed study of developmental transactions between impulsivity and family conflict. Development and Psychopathology, 28 (3), 673-688.

*Bountress, K., Chassin, L. & Lemery-Chalfant, K. (2016). Parent and peer influences on emerging adult substance use disorder: A genetically-informed study. Development and Psychopathology, 1-22.

*Swanson, J., Valiente, C., Bradley, B., & Lemery-Chalfant, K. (2016). Teachers’ effortful control and children’s functioning: mediational and moderational processes. Social Development, 25 (3), 623-645.


*Wang, F. L., Chassin, L. Geiser, C. & Lemery-Chalfant, K. (2015). Mechanisms in the relation between GABRA2 and adolescent externalizing problems. European Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, online first 1-14. doi: 10.1007/s00787-015-0703-7

*Li, Y., *Sulik, M., Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Stover, D., & Verrelli, B. C. (2015). Predicting childhood effortful control from the interactions between early parenting quality and children’s dopamine transporter gene haplotypes. Development and Psychopathology, online first 1-14. PMID: 25924976

Van Hulle, C., *Moore, M. N., Shirtcliff, E. A. Lemery-Chalfant, K. & Goldsmith, H. H. (2015). Genetic and environmental contributions to covariation between DHEA and testosterone in adolescent twins. Behavior Genetics, 45, 324-340.  doi:10.1007/s10519-015-9709-7

*Clifford, S., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2015). The unique and shared genetic and environmental contributions to fear, anger, and sadness in childhood. Child Development, 86, 1538-1556. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12394

*Eggum-Wilkens, N., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Aksan, N., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2015). A twin study of toddler self-conscious shyness:  growth over time, strong role of the environment, and lack of prediction from infant fearful shyness. Infancy20, 160-188. doi: 10.1111/infa.12070

*Clifford, S. & Lemery-Chalfant, K. (2015).Molecular genetics of resilience. In M. Pluess’s (Ed.) Genetics of psychological well-being: The role of heritability and genetics in positive psychology, 177.  Oxford University Press.


 *Vendlinski, M. K., Javaras, K. N., Van Hulle, C. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Maier, R., Davidson, R. J. & Goldsmith, H. H. (2014). Relative influence of genetics and shared environment on child mental health symptoms depends on comorbidity. PloS ONE 9(7): e103080. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103080.

*Brooker, R. J., Buss, K. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Aksan, N., Davidson, R. J., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2014). Profiles of observed infant anger predict preschool behavior problems: Moderation by life stress. Developmental Psychology, 50, 2343-2352.  doi: 10.1037/a0037693

Valiente, C., Swanson, J., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Berger, R. H (2014). Children’s effortful control and academic achievement: Do relational peer victimization and classroom participation operate as mediators? Journal of School Psychology, 52, 433-445. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2014.05.005

*Sulik, M. J., Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., Lemery-Chalfant, K., *Swann, G., *Silva, K. M., Reiser, M., *Stover, D. A. & Verrelli, B. C. (2014). Interactions among catechol-O-methyltransferase genotype, parenting, and sex predict children’s internalizing symptoms and inhibitory control: Evidence for differential susceptibility. Development and Psychopathology, 1-15. doi:10.1017/S0954579414000807

*Swanson, J., Valiente, C., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Bradley, R. H., & Eggum-Wilkens, N. D. (2014). Longitudinal relations among parents’ reactions to children’s negative emotions, effortful control, and math achievement in early elementary school. Child Development, 85, 1932-1947. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12260

*Taylor, Z., E., *Sulik, M. J., Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., *Silva, K. M., Lemery-Chalfant, K., *Stover, D. A., & Verrelli, B. C. (2014). Development of ego-resiliency: Relations to observed parenting and polymorphisms in the serotonin transporter gene during early childhood. Social Development, 23, 433-450. doi: 10.1111/sode.12041 


*Brooker, R. J., Buss, K. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Aksan, N., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2013). The development of stranger fear in infancy and toddlerhood: Normative development, individual differences, antecedents, and outcomes. Developmental Science, 16, 864-878. doi: 10.1111/desc.12058

*Meek, S., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Jahromi, L. & Valiente, C. (2013).  A review of gene-environment correlations and their implications for autism: A conceptual model. Psychological Review, 120(3), 497-521. doi: 10.1037/a0033139

*Moore, M. N., *Salk, R. H., Van Hulle, C. A., Abramson, L. Y., Hyde, J. S., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2013). Genetic and environmental influences on rumination, distraction, and depressed mood: A twin study. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 316-322. doi: 10.1177/2167702612472884.

Lemery-Chalfant, K., *Kao, K., *Swann, G., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2013). Childhood temperament: passive gene-environment correlation, gene-environment interaction, and the hidden importance of the family environment. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 51-63. doi:10.1017/S0954579412000892

Schmidt, N. L., Van Hulle, C., *Brooker, R. J., *Meyer, L. R., Lemery-Chalfant, K. & Goldsmith, H. H. (2013). Wisconsin twin research: Early development, childhood psychopathology, autism, and sensory over-responsivity. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 376-384.  PMID: 23200241. NIHMS#425690. doi: 10.1017/thg.2012.105

Lemery-Chalfant, K., *Clifford, S., *McDonald, K., *O’Brien, T. C., & Valiente, C. (2013). Arizona Twin Project: a focus on early resilience. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 404-411. doi: 10.1017/thg.2012.107

Dean’s Medalist from the Department of Psychology for 2013 Outstanding Graduate, Emily Thurston, has also been named by the ASU Alumni Association as the 2013 Outstanding Graduate in the Natural Sciences and received the Best Thesis Award from the Department of Psychology. As a psychology major and Barret Honors College student, Emily also conducted research with department chair Dr. Keith Crnic. Emily’s career goals are to continue her work with children under stress and will be applying to doctoral programs in clinical psychology.  Congratulations Emily!!