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Relationship Dynamics Lab (Dishion)

Paper cutout of a man and woman holding hands

Keywords:  Dual acquisition EEG; direct observations; social interaction patterns; social neuroscience; psychophysiological neurocognitive assessments; relationship dynamics; romantic relationships; peer relationships; parent-child relationships

Lab Research Area:

The relationship dynamics lab group focuses understanding and promoting positive development and preventing psychopathology from early childhood through young adulthood.There are two sets of research activities, one involving NIH prevention trials that involve hundreds of children and families, where researchers and students study existing data sets.

The second set of activities involves the study of the impact of close relationships on adjustment and wellbeing in adolescents and young adults. The Relationship Dynamics Lab studies romantic relationships, parent-child relationships and friendships. The lab focuses on how the brain processes information from relationship partners and how the way the brain reads information affects healthy and risking relationship dynamics in adults and youth. Lifestyle patterns that enhance or disrupt relationship dynamics are studied in the lab including alcohol and drug use.

The lab examines these questions from a social neuroscience framework by collecting high-density array EEG data from two individuals simultaneously. We also collect direct observations of social interactions within relationships know to promote health and wellbeing. Additionally, the individuals within relationships complete questionnaires that provide details about their relationship maintenance strategies and daily behavior. We use these methods to develop an understanding of how relationships impact individuals, and in turn, how individuals impact relationship dynamics over time.

Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Thomas Dishion, PhD, Professor and Director, ASU REACH Institute

Dr. Dishion received his PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Oregon and completed his clinical training in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington. He conducts translational research on child and adolescent mental health and substance use. He has led scientific teams that developed and tested the Family Check-Up model for prevention and treatment with children and families. He is currently director of the ASU REACH Institute focused on supporting communities in adopting evidence based family interventions.

His developmental research has focused on peer and family dynamics that account for adjustment problems in children and adolescents. For example, coercion in families and deviancy training among friends are known to disrupt social and emotional development but also serve as targets for interventions shown to improve child and adolescent outcomes. Currently he collaborates with scientists to study the impact of romantic relationships on emotional adjustment and substance use in late adolescence and early adulthood. Dr. Dishion is currently extending his focus from basic research to understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie positive relationship interaction patterns using dual acquisition EEG (imaging two individuals at the same time). Curriculum Vitae.

Affiliated Research Faculty

Thao Ha, PhD, Assistant Professor
Using a developmental psychopathology framework, Dr. Ha investigates how partner choices, relationship dynamics, and break-ups relate to adolescents’ well-being over time. The goal of this research is to better understand why some adolescents are highly vulnerable to their relationship experiences. Dr. Ha incorporates a variety of methods in this research, such as observations of adolescent couples’ interactions, dual EEG measurements, twice-weekly diaries, and physical and hormonal stress methodologies. She received her PhD from Radboud University, the Netherlands. Dr. Ha is the lab director and principal investigator in the Healthy Experiences Across Relationships and Transitions (@HEART) lab.

Lab Staff

Jasmine Sutton, Laboratory Coordinator
Jasmine SuttonJasmine received her BS in Psychological Sciences from Arizona State University in May 2016. As a former research assistant, Jasmine continues to contribute to the lab’s research as laboratory coordinator. Jasmine is interested in how relationship dynamics within the workplace contribute to psychological functioning and wellbeing.

Current Graduate Students

Charlie Champion, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Charlie has studied risk taking in young adult romantic relationships as well as the impact of friendships on adjustment in adult romantic relationships. She is also interested in how relationship dynamics influence individual psychopathology and vice versa. Overall, she hopes to work towards the development of new and innovative therapies and interventions for romantic partners to promote long-term adjustment. 

Chung Jung Mun (Moon), Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Chung Jung (Moon) received his B.A. from Waseda University in Japan and his M.A. from Arizona State University. He is a methodologist in the lab involved in scientific publications in development and psychopathology and intervention science Moon is particularly interested in examining the impact of substance use/abuse on various health-related outcomes. He is also interested in advanced statistical models such as SEM, multi-level modeling, growth mixture modeling, and CACE modeling.

Kaitlyn Panza, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Kaitlyn is interested in the underlying relationship dynamics (family, peer, and romantic relationships) that contribute to the development and maintenance of psychopathology and problem behavior in early adulthood. Ultimately, her goal is to help better understand the nuances of relationship dynamics as a way to develop and inform prevention and intervention programs. Prior to joining the REACH institute she completed her undergraduate career at Wellesley College and did intervention research with children and families at the Yale Child Study Center.

William Pelham, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Will is interested in the research on children’s development, and testing, and optimization of interventions for children and families, particularly for problem behavior. His current research focuses on predicting which families most benefited from the Family Check-up intervention in early childhood. Will graduated from Dartmouth University in 2014 with a B.A. in psychology.

Jenna Rudo-Stern, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology
Jenna conducts implementation research at the Arizona State University REACH Institute, where she assists with scale-up, dissemination, and implementation of the Family Check-Up. She graduated in 2004 from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Russian and minor in economics. Jenna received her M.A. in Psychology from ASU in 2015. Before coming to ASU, she worked as a puppeteer, teacher, psychometrist, and study coordinator, steadily developing her skills and interest in interventions for children and families. Her current work focuses on measures of implementation fidelity and on the relationship between the family environment, child health behaviors, and child health status.


Current Undergrad Research Assistants

Durna Alakbarova

Adam Bennett

William Conlin

Jesse Evers

Kelly Fitzsimmons

Where are they Now?

Amanda Chiapa, PhD, Pediatric Psychology Fellow, Yale University Child Study Center.

Zorash Montano, PhD, Postdoctoral Psychology Fellow, University of Southern California UCEDD of the Division of General Pediatrics at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. 


Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Dishion's research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Dishion's curriculum vitae or by visiting ResearchGate.



Dishion, T. J., Mun, C. J., Tein, J. Y., Kim, H., Shaw, D. S., Gardner, F., ... & Peterson, J. (2017). The Validation of Macro and Micro Observations of Parent–Child Dynamics Using the Relationship Affect Coding System in Early Childhood. Prevention Science18(3), 268-280.


Kuo, C. C., Ha, T., Ebbert, A. M., Tucker, D. M., & Dishion, T. J. (2017). Dynamic Responses in Brain Networks to Social Feedback: A Dual EEG Acquisition Study in Adolescent Couples. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience11. Abstract or Full Text


McIntyre, L. L., Pelham, W. E., Kim, M. H., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., & Wilson, M. N. (2017). A Brief Measure of Language Skills at 3 Years of Age and Special Education Use in Middle Childhood. The Journal of pediatrics181, 189-194. Abstract or Full Text


Otten, R., Mun, C. J., & Dishion, T. J. (2017). The social exigencies of the gateway progression to the use of illicit drugs from adolescence into adulthood. Addictive Behaviors73, 144-150. Abstract or Full Text


Pelham, W. E., & Dishion, T. J. (2017). Prospective prediction of arrests for driving under the influence from relationship patterns with family and friends in adolescence. Addictive Behaviors. Abstract or Full Text


Pelham, W. E., Dishion, T. J., Tein, J. Y., Shaw, D. S., & Wilson, M. N. (2017). What Doesn’t Work for Whom? Exploring Heterogeneity in Responsiveness to the Family Check-Up in Early Childhood Using a Mixture Model Approach. Prevention Science, 1-12.



Dishion, T., Forgatch, M., Chamberlain, P., & Pelham, W. (2016). The Oregon model of behavior family therapy: From intervention design to promoting large-scale system change. Behavior Therapy.


Dishion, T. J., Mun, C. J., Tein, J. Y., Kim, H., Shaw, D. S., Gardner, F., ... & Peterson, J. (2016). The validation of macro and micro observations of parent–child dynamics using the relationship affect coding system in early childhood. Prevention Science, 1-13. Abstract or Full Text


Ha, T., Kim, H., Christopher, C., Caruthers, A., & Dishion, T. J. (2016). Predicting sexual coercion in early adulthood: the transaction among maltreatment, gang affiliation, and adolescent socialization of coercive relationship norms. Development and psychopathology, 28(3), 707-720. Abstract or Full Text


Smith, J., Dishion, T., Brown, K., Ramos, K., Knoble, N., Shaw, D., & ... Wilson, M. N. (2016). An experimental study of procedures to enhance ratings of fidelity to an evidence-based family intervention. Prevention Science, 17(1), 62-70. doi:10.1007/s11121-015-0589-0. Abstract or Full Text


Waller, R., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., Gardner, F., Wilson, M. N., & Hyde, L. W. (2016). Does early childhood callous-unemotional behavior uniquely predict behavior problems or callous-unemotional behavior in late childhood? Developmental Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000165



Brennan, L. M., Shaw, D. S., Dishion, T. J., & Wilson, M. N. (2015). The predictive utility of early childhood disruptive behaviors for school-age social functioning. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Abstract or Full Text


Chiapa, A., Smith, J. D., Kim, H., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., & Wilson, M. N. (2015). The trajectory of fidelity in a multiyear trial of the family check-up predicts change in child problem behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology83(5), 1006.


Dishion, T. J., Mun, C. J., Drake, E. C., Tein, J.-Y., Shaw, D. S., & Wilson, M. (2015). A transactional approach to preventing early childhood neglect: The Family Check-Up as a public health strategy. Development & Psychopathology, 27, 1647-1660. doi: 10.1017/S0954579415001005. Abstract or Full Text


Mun, C.J. (2015). Affect, work-goal schemas, and work-goal striving among adults with chronic pain: A multilevel structural equation analysis. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.


Nelson, S. E., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Dishion, T. J. (2015). Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use trajectories from age 12 to 24 years: Demographic correlates and young adult substance use problems. Development and Psychopathology, 27, 253–277.

News & more!

After 33 years of studying antisocial behavior, Psychology Professor and REACH director Dr. Thomas Dishion has come to believe that violence can be prevented. Read more in the story by Cheyenne Howard on Getting a grasp on violence (posted 25 Sep 2016).


Recently published in March 2016, The Oxford Handbook of Coercive Relationship Dynamics by Dishion and Snyder features the most recent, innovative applications of coercion theory to understanding psychopathology, developmental theory, and intervention science. The volume provides a multidisciplinary perspective on coercive processes, origins, and social functions to anchor coercion theory from multiple perspectives and to lay a theoretical and empirical foundation for innovative expansion of the coercion model to new areas of research. Read more.


Current Projects

Relationship Dynamics and Young Adult Drug Use and Abuse
Funding Agency: National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Current Status: Active; not recruiting participants
About: This study entails longitudinal modeling of dynamic changes in relationships, alcohol and other drug use, and lifestyle over 2–3 years in early adulthood. This longitudinal research builds on existing data that involves a multiethnic sample of 999 youth and families assessed at youth age 11-12, 12-13, 13-14, 14-15, 16-17, 18-19, 22-23, and 23-24 years. The current study includes collecting DNA to examine genetically informed ecological models of adaptation and maladaptation in the areas of work, education, family, psychological adjustment, alcohol/drug use/ abuse, antisocial and criminal behavior, and high risk sexual behavior. Investigators are including participants' romantic partners to examine early adult intimate relationship dynamics at ages 27-29 to see how these relationships affect risky behaviors, substance use, and emotional health. This is a subaward from Arizona State University from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Early Family Prevention of Adolescent Alcohol, Drug Use, and Psychopathology
Funding Agency: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Current Status: Active and Not Recruiting Participants
About: The study of antisocial behavior and substance use among adolescents is important because of the direct cost of such behavior to society not only in terms of damaged property and disruption of normal patterns of living, but also because of the difficulty of treating delinquent youth, and the potential emergence of later adult criminality and other serious disorders such as substance abuse. This longitudinal study follows children and families into adolescence. Researchers are examining the degree to which periodic, tailored, and adaptive interventions delivered to caregivers of children from toddlerhood to school entry impact alcohol and drug use, high-risk sexual behavior, and other types of problem behavior. Knowledge gained from this program of research will inform policy guidelines regarding the wisdom of linking early childhood interventions with outcomes into adolescence. This is a subaward with Arizona State University from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).