Our Work


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

grant

Early-life adversity and gene expression response to acute psychological stress

 

Research Team

Profile photo for Idan Shalev, Ph.D.
Idan Shalev, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Mark T. Greenberg Early Career Professor for the Study of Children's Health and Development

grant

Temporal Genomics Mechanisms Underlying Disease and Aging

 

Research Team

Profile photo for Idan Shalev, Ph.D.
Idan Shalev, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Mark T. Greenberg Early Career Professor for the Study of Children's Health and Development

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