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Parent Child Relations Lab (Crnic)

Keywords:  parent-child interaction; family stress; risk processes; emotion regulation; early childhood mental health

Lab Research Area:

Our Research Mission
The Parent-Child Relations Lab (PCRL) focuses on parenting processes and children’s emotional and behavioral attributes that contribute to the emergence of early mental health problems in children. We study these processes in the context of a variety of risk conditions that potentially increase the experience of stress in the family, which in turn may act as a change agent to deflect positive trajectories. Our goal is integrate basic developmental processes and longitudinal methods in the study of parent-child relationships to better understand the complex pathways of influence that characterize the emergence of disorder during early childhood.

A variety of ongoing projects address the research mission described above; and more are in the early planning phases:

Madres Nuevas | The New Mothers. Postpartum Depression Project. In collaboration with Linda Luecken and Nancy Gonzales, Keith Crnic co-directs a 5-year, NIMH funded investigation of Mexican American mothers and their infants that seeks to understand the health disparity in postpartum depression in this population, and explore the coregulatory mechanisms (emotional, behavioral, psychophysiological) in mother-infant interaction that operate over time to influence the course of maternal depression and child early behavioral competencies. Recent additional funding from NIMH has allowed the expansion of this project beyond the early infancy period to include follow-up to child age two years, with a multi-modal data collection spanning observational, report, and physiological methods. In progress are proposals to NIH to expand the focus of this project to include fathers, more systemic family level measurements, and behavior-genetic methods to explore the processes of intergenerational transmission of regulatory mechanisms.
Collaborative Family StudyFor more than 10 years, our lab has explored the contribution of family processes to the emergence of psychopathology in a high risk sample of children who were early identified (before age 3) as having developmental delays, and a matched sample of typically developing children. The goal of this study was to understand the connections between risk, family process, emerging regulatory capacities in children, and development of behavior problems. Data were collected at nine periods across a six year span of children’s lives (age three to nine years), including extensive home-based and lab-based behavioral observations of parent-child interaction as well as detailed parent report data on child and parenting factors. Although data collection is complete, there remains much to be explored within this comprehensive six year investigation, and we are actively pursuing several lines of inquiry.
Family Life Project. The Family Life Project is a large, multi-site, longitudinal study that explores the impact of living in rural poverty on family functioning, parenting, and children’s development. Since the project began in 2002, over 1,200 families living in either North Carolina and Pennsylvania have participated, beginning when the child was 2 months old. Our specific focus is the ways in which poverty affects or disrupts family processes and the subsequent influence on child competencies. In collaboration with colleagues at UNC-Chapel Hill (and Penn State), we have been studying the developmental sequelae of non-urban poverty contexts on family and child psychological well-being, as well as children’s developmental competencies.
Neuroscience of ParentingIn February of 2010 we hosted a working conference on the neuroscience of parenting, bringing together nearly 25 scholars from around the country and from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. A series of papers descriptive of the conference proceedings is underway, but we are also planning collaborative research efforts to address a core underlying premise… that the parent-child relationship may be more salient than any other to child and parent well-being, and may operate on functional affective levels different from other close personal relationships. We hope to bring neuroscientific methods to bear on this question, design studies to address the psychological ramifications of this unique status, and acquire NIH support to explore the questions of public health significance.

Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Keith A. Crnic, Foundation Professor Prior to his current position at ASU, Dr. Crnic has held faculty appointments at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and in the Department of Psychology, Penn State University. His research has focused on the influence of various stresses and coping mechanisms on parent-child relationships and family functioning in both high-risk and normal populations. Crnic has published extensively in major peer reviewed journals and has been the principal investigator on numerous research grants from NICHD, NIMH, and MCH with continuous funding since 1988. He has also served on multiple NIH review panels (HUD-3; PDRP); has chaired NIH review panels for NRSA awards; and for seven years, chaired the U.S. Public Health Service, Maternal and Child Health Bureau Research Grants Program Review Committee. He has served on multiple editorial boards for major journals in child psychology, as well. Curriculum Vitae.


Current Graduate Students

Emily Ross, Doctoral student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology

Emily graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelors in Psychology in 2009. Following a year abroad, she worked as a Research Specialist with the Infant Caregiver Project at the University of Delaware helping collect and study data pertaining to internationally adopted children and children in foster care. Broadly speaking, her interests are to explore early parent-child relationships and their impact on children’s socio-emotional development, especially with those children who face early adversity. She is currently working on Las Madres Nuevas project supervising the Coding Interactive Behavior (CIB) team.

Lauren van Huisstede, Doctoral student, Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Lauren graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 and earned her MS in Psychology at Arizona State University in 2013. Before returning to graduate school to pursue her PhD, she worked with children and families as a client advocate at a domestic violence shelter; as a  family support specialist in a home visiting program for wards of the juvenile court; and as a parent educator in the community. Her research interests focus on understanding the development of self-regulation during early childhood particularly within the context of parent-child relationships. Lauren is currently working on the Las Madres Nuevas project leading the Infant Micro Coding team.

Laura Winstone, Doctoral student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology

Laura graduated from Emory University in 2015 with a double major in Psychology and Spanish. Building off of her research experiences at Emory, she is interested in exploring child socio-emotional development using family based approaches. Due to her background in Spanish and several study abroad experiences, Laura is particularly interested in the role that culture plays in dyadic relationships and socio-emotional development. She is primarily working on the Las Madres Nuevas project as a part of the dysregulation coding team.


Current Undergrad Research Assistants


Join the Lab!

Our lab is always looking for motivated and responsible undergraduates who are interested in research experience in psychology.

What will I be doing?  Students participate as part of a coding team examining a particular aspect of infant behavior or parent-infant interactions. Coding teams consist of six undergraduates and a graduate student, and the duties include watching videotaped lab visits and rating the child or parent on a specific rating scale. Students may also assist in data management as well as basic lab operations.

What are the requirements? Students must be willing to commit to 2 semesters of participation on the project and have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Interest and coursework in psychology and children helpful. There are also exciting opportunities for students who are fluent in Spanish. This is not a requirement to participate in the lab, but let us know if you speak Spanish!

What do I get in exchange? Undergraduates can receive 2 or 3 credits of PGS 399 or PGS 499. In order to receive PGS 499 credit, the student must also write a research paper.Upon successful completion of two semesters of work, Dr. Crnic will write a letter of recommendation for graduate school applications, if requested. It looks great on your resume if you’re interested in a career in psychology!

Contact Laura Winstone to get started.

ASU Lab Alums - Where are they Now?

Shayna Skelley Coburn, PhD (2015), Post-doctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Adherence Research Center,, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine

Lucia Ciciolla, PhD (2014), Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University

Rebecca Newland, PhD (2014)

Matthew Stevenson, PhD (2014), Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Michigan

Emily Gerstein, PhD (2012), Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Missouri, St Louis

Anita Pedersen y Arbona, PhD (2012), Department of Psychology and Child Development, Cal State Stanislaus

Shannon Bekman, Ph.D. (2009), Right Start for Infant Mental Health, Denver Colorado


Select Publications

Below are a sample of select publications from Dr. Crnic's research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Crnic's curriculum vitaeStudent co-authors appear with an asterisk*.

In press
*Gerstein, E.D. & Crnic, K.A (in press). Family interactions and developmental risks associated with early cognitive delay: Influences on children’s behavioral competence. Journal ofClinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

*Newland, R.P. & Crnic, K.A. (in press). Developmental risk and goodness of fit in the mother-child relationship: Links to parenting stress and children’s behavior problems. Infant and Child Development.

Crnic, K.A. & Neece, C.L.  (2015). Socioemotional consequences of illness and disability. M.E. Lamb (Ed.), Volume 3: Social, emotional, and personality development; Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science, 7th Edition. NY: Wiley, pp. 287-323.

*Coburn, S.S., Crnic, K.A., & *Ross, E.K. (2015). Mother-child dyadic state behavior: Dynamic systems in the context of risk. Infant and Child Development, 24, 274-297.

*Ciciolla, L., *Gerstein, E.D., & Crnic, K.A. (2014). Reciprocity between maternal distress, child behavior, and parenting: Transactional processes and early childhood risk. Journal  of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 43, 751-764.

*Lin, B.L., Crnic, K.A., Luecken, L.J., & Gonzales, N.A. (2014). Maternal prenatal stress and  infant regulatory capacity in Mexican Americans. Infant Behavior and development, 37, 571-582.

*Newland, R.P., Crnic, KA, Cox, MJ., & Mills-Koonce, W.R. (2013). Family stress and maternal psychological symptoms: Mediated pathways from economic hardship to parenting. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 96-105.

*Stevenson, M.M. & Crnic, K.A. (2013). Intrusive Fathering, Children's Self-Regulation and Social Skills: A Mediation Analysis. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57, 500-512.

2011 and older
*Baker, J., Fenning, R. & Crnic, K (2011). Emotion Socialization by Mothers and Fathers: Coherence among behaviors and associations with parent attitudes and children’s social competence. Social Development, 20, 412-430.

*Gerstein, E.D., *Pedersen y Arbona, A., Crnic, K.A., Ryu, E., Baker, B.L., & Blacher, J. (2011). Zevelopmental risk and young children’s regulatory strategies: Predicting behavior problems at age five. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 351-364.

*Baker, J.K. & Crnic, K.A. (2009). Thinking about feelings: Emotion focus in the parenting of children with early  developmental risk. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 53, 450-462.

Crnic, K., *Pedersen y Arbona, A. Baker, B. & Blacher, J. (2009). Mothers and Fathers Together: Contrasts in Parenting Across Preschool to Early School Age in Children with Developmental Delay. L. Glidden & M. Seltzer (Eds.), International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, IRRMR, Vol 37, Oxford, Elsevier (pp3-30).

Crnic, K, *Gaze, C., & *Hoffman, C. (2005). Cumulative Parenting Stress Across the Preschool Period: Relations to Maternal Parenting and Child Behavior at Age Five. Infant and Child Development, 14, 117-132.

Crnic, K. *Hoffman, C., *Gaze, C., & Edelbrock, C. (2004). Understanding the Emergence of Behavior Problems in Young Children with Developmental Delays. Infants and Young Children, 17, 223-235.

*Bohnert, A. M., Crnic, K. A., Lim, K. G.  (2003). Emotional competence and aggressive behavior in school-age children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 79-92.

Crnic, K.A. & *Low, C. (2002). Everyday Stresses and parenting. M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting, Vol. 4, (2nd Edition) Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum (pp. 243-268).








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Several Generations of the lab at SRCD 2013