Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry
Director of Mental Health Services, Center for the Protection of Children
2002, B.A., Psychology, Hillsdale College
2004, M.S., Clinical Psychology, Eastern Michigan University
2008, Psy.D., Clinical Psychology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
2008, Internship, Clinical Psychology, CAARE Diagnostic and Treatment Center, UC Davis Children's Hospital
2009, Fellowship, National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, UCLA & Duke University
child sexual abuse; child physical abuse; developmental sequelae of sexual and physical abuse; attachment theory; childhood problematic sexual behavior; trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy; parent-child interaction therapy
mediators and moderators of treatment outcome; the role of attachment processes in development and treatment; problematic sexual behavior of preteen children; application of evidence-based treatments to understudied populations; historical context of child abuse
Integrating Animal-Assisted Therapy into TF-CBT for Children Exposed to Maltreatment (AAT+TF-CBT)
The AAT+TF-CBT project (Shenk, Co-I) is an NIH-funded (Allen, PI: R21HD091887) randomized feasibility trial examining the tolerability and acceptability of delivering TF-CBT while a service dog is present throughout the active phase of treatment. TF-CBT is one of the few well-established interventions for children experiencing maltreatment and this clinical trial is examining whether introducing a service dog during standard administration of TF-CBT enhances treatment effects above and beyond TF-CBT alone. The laboratory’s contribution to this project is overseeing the collection, editing, and analysis of electrocardiogram data obtained at pre-treatment as well as at strategic sessions during the active treatment phase. Current work on this project involves generating estimates of the respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of parasympathetic control of cardiac activity, in 30-second epochs and modeling within and between session change in RSA as a potential mechanism of action in TF-CBT when treating child maltreatment-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Potential opportunities for CMT32 Fellows include modeling RSA reactivity to the Trier Social Stress Test administered at pre-treatment to determine whether such reactivity is related to within-session changes in RSA and PTSD symptom severity at post-treatment.
Measuring and Treating Problematic Sexual Behavior of Children
This is a multi-faceted line of research that includes a number of distinct, albeit related, projects. The first is a multi-institutional collaboration to develop and psychometrically test a new measure of sexual behavior among children, including problematic sexual behavior (PSB). Second, data analysis is progressing on a number of data sets to examine etiological factors related to the development of PSB among children. Third, we have developed and pilot tested an intervention for children displaying PSB and grant-funding to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the intervention is currently under review. To date, these projects have been funded by the Children's Miracle Network and the Penn State Social Science Research Institute.
Post-Adoption Development of Maltreated Children
This longitudinal project aims to examine factors related to a maltreated child's adjustment and development following adoption. Specific factors assessed include the child's psychophysiological stress response, attachment representations, self-regulation, and temperament. In addition, various factors of the parent-child relationship and the home environment are being examined. The goal of this project is to identify those factors most predictive of adaptive development post-adoption to better inform treatment and services.
Integrating AAT into TF-CBT for Maltreated Children: A Randomized Feasibility Trial (R21HD091887)
2017 – 2019
Assessing and Updating the Norms of Child Sexual Behavior
Development and pilot testing of a treatment for child sexual behavior problems
2017 – 2022
Penn State’s Translational Center for Child Maltreatment Studies (P50HD089922)
Allen, B., Berliner, L., Shenk, C. E., Bendixsen, B., Zellhoefer, A., Dickmann, C. R., Arnold, B., & Chen, M. J. (in press). Development and pilot testing of a phase-based treatment for preteen children with problematic sexual behavior. Evidence-based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Allen, B., Timmer, S. G., & Urquiza, A. J. (2014). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy as an attachment-based intervention: Theoretical rationale and pilot data with adopted children. Children and Youth Services Review, 47, 334-341.
Allen, B., Timmer, S. G., & Urquiza, A. J. (2016). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for sexual concerns of children with maltreatment histories: A preliminary investigation. Child Abuse & Neglect, 56, 80-88.
Allen, B., & Hoskowitz, N. A. (2017). Structured trauma-focused CBT and unstructured play/experiential techniques in the treatment of sexually abused children: A field study with practicing clinicians. Child Maltreatment, 22, 112-120.
Allen, B., Bendixsen, B., Babcock Fenerci, R., & Green, J. (2018). Assessing disorganized attachment representations: A systematic psychometric review and meta-analysis of the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task. Attachment & Human Development, 20, 553-577.