Our Work


Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State
project

PaRenting in Stressful Moments (PRISM)

PRISM is a pilot project involves studying how parents control their emotions, behaviors, and heart rate when disciplining their preschoolers. This project is designed to test methods for the capture of biological data using wearable technology in the home and using a phone app to collect information on discipline and stress. Our interest is in understanding how parents regulate themselves while disciplining their children so that we may learn how to better intervene with parents to reduce stress and prevent harsh discipline and physical abuse of children.

Research Team

Profile photo for Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.
Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

Associate Director: Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State
project

Penn State Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center (Department of Justice/Office for Victims of Crime)

The SAFE-T Center was created in 2016, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime. The mission of the Center is to partner with underserved communities in Pennsylvania to enhance compassionate, high-quality care for sexual assault victims. The Center provides access to expert mentoring, quality assurance, education and live examination consultation for victims of sexual assault in underserved and rural areas. The goals of the project are to enhance access to high-quality care for victims of assault and to demonstrate the effectiveness of a statewide model to support forensic nurses to deliver care in underserved communities.  

Research Team

Profile photo for Sheridan Miyamoto, Ph.D.
Sheridan Miyamoto, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Principal Investigator: DOJ/OVC Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center

project

Prevention of Psychopathology Subsequent to Child Maltreatment Project

Recent research on the etiology of psychiatric disorders suggests that child maltreatment affects a circumscribed set of centralized risk mechanisms, known as transdiagnostic mechanisms, responsible for the increased incidences of multiple psychiatric disorders in this population. This project is testing the feasibility and initial efficacy of delivering individual components to alter unique transdiagnostic mechanisms following an act of child maltreatment to optimize intervention effects and reduce the incidences of multiple psychiatric disorders.

Research Team

Profile photo for Chad Shenk, Ph.D.
Chad Shenk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

project

The Life Events and Reactions Study

LEARS is a genetic case-control association study (N=100) examining the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms associated with the onset of psychiatric disorders in the child maltreatment population. Children between the ages of 8 and 15 years of age who have experienced substantiated child maltreatment participated in this study. Biospecimens (oral fluid, buccal swab) collected in this study are being used to generate estimates of variation in DNA and DNA methylation to predict the course and severity of psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses obtained from a structured psychiatric interview. Results from this study will provide insight into the genetic, epigenetic, and psychological contributions for these disorders in the child maltreatment population so that interventions targeting these processes can be developed or applied more effectively. 

Research Team

Profile photo for Chad Shenk, Ph.D.
Chad Shenk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State
project

Epigenetic Age Acceleration and Mid-life Cognitive Function Project (R01AG059682)

This project is examining epigenetic age acceleration, a cross-tissue index of cellular aging, and its relation to mid-life cognitive function in the Female Growth and Development Study (FGDS), a 30-year prospective cohort study of childhood sexual abuse. The FGDS also provides an unprecedented opportunity to test the mediational properties of glucocorticoid remodeling occurring over the 20 years following exposure to child sexual abuse on epigenetic age acceleration. Once models of epigenetic age acceleration and cognitive outcomes are developed with the FGDS discovery cohort, they will be exported for replication in three independent and international cohorts (N=2700) from the U.S., Canada, and Germany to extend models to more diverse samples, including older ages and alternative cognitive outcomes (e.g. mild cognitive impairment). 

Research Team

Profile photo for Chad Shenk, Ph.D.
Chad Shenk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

project

Identifying Methods for Controlling Contamination in Child Maltreatment Research

Variation in the significance and magnitude of effect size estimates reported across prospective studies has led to replication failures and the weakening of causal inferences about the long-term health effects of child maltreatment. Contamination, or the presence of child maltreatment in comparison conditions, truncates effect size magnitudes and increases Type II errors that lead to replication failures. This project is researching the optimal methods for controlling contamination in child maltreatment research with the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN; N=1354) dataset, a multi-site, multi-wave nationally representative prospective cohort of child maltreatment. Results will help minimize replication failures in future child maltreatment research while generating reproducible effect size estimates across outcomes.

Research Team

Profile photo for Chad Shenk, Ph.D.
Chad Shenk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

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