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Associate Professor of Psychology

Associate Director: Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

Dr. Lunkenheimer is an Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology and an Associate Director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network. Her research program revolves around risk and protective processes in the parent-child relationship, with the dual goals of (1) understanding how mother-child and father-child interactions and regulatory processes contribute to developmental psychopathology and (2) uncovering malleable relationship processes that aid in the tailoring and improvement of preventive intervention programs for families at risk, particularly risk for child maltreatment. This work is grounded in dynamic systems theory and dyadic and time series analytic methods, and has provided an understanding of parent-child biobehavioral coregulation in early childhood and its association with family risk.
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2006 Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, University of Michigan

1999 M.S., Marriage and Family Therapy, Northwestern University

1996 B.A., Psychology, Northwestern University


parenting, parent-child interaction, self-regulation, child behavior problems, observational methods, dynamic systems theory and methods, developmental psychopathology

Research Interests

parent-child coregulation, parent and child self-regulation, parent mental health, stress physiology, autonomy support, harsh parenting, child maltreatment risk, maltreatment severity






Fundamentals of Social Development

CMAS 493

Child Maltreatment Minor Capstone Course


Maltreatment and Child Development


Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.
The Parenting Young Children Project

The Parenting Young Children Project is an NICHD-funded K01 award of 150 families designed to understand how parents and preschoolers regulate their behaviors, emotions, and physiology with one another while tackling challenges, like solving a difficult problem or puzzle together. We examine how moment-to-moment patterns and coregulation of heart rate, expression of positive and negative emotions, and behaviors such as discipline and compliance act as risk and protective factors for child maltreatment and associated problems. This research is designed to identify malleable relationship targets for prevention and intervention for families at risk for child maltreatment.

Erika Lunkenheimer, Ph.D.
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.

Selected Grants

2012 – 2017

Parent-Child Biobehavioral Coregulation and Child Maltreatment Risk

2018 – 2019

Dynamic Coupling of Parental Biobehavioral Regulation and Discipline

Selected Publications

  • Lunkenheimer, E., Busuito, A., Brown, K. M., & Skowron, E. A. (2018). Mother-child coregulation of parasympathetic processes differs by child maltreatment severity and subtype. Child Maltreatment, 23(3), 211-220. doi: 10.1177/1077559517751672

  • Lunkenheimer, E., Tiberio, S. S., Buss, K. A., Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Boker, S. M., & Timpe, Z. C. (2015). Coregulation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia between parents and preschoolers: Differences by children’s externalizing problems. Developmental Psychobiology, 57(8), 994-1003. doi: 10.1002/dev.21323

  • Lunkenheimer, E., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Hollenstein, T., Kemp, C. J., & Granic, I. (2016). Breaking down the coercive cycle: How parent and child risk factors influence real-time variability in parental responses to child misbehavior. Parenting: Science and Practice, 16(4), 237-256. doi: 10.1080/15295192.2016.1184925 

  • Lunkenheimer, E., Kemp, C. J., Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Cole, P. M., & Albrecht, E. C. (2017). Assessing biobehavioural self-regulation and coregulation in early childhood: The Parent-Child Challenge Task. Infant and Child Development, 26(1). doi: 10.1002/icd.1965

  • Lunkenheimer, E., Ram, N., Skowron, E., & Yin, P. (2017). Harsh parenting, child behavior problems, and the dynamic coupling of parents’ and children’s positive behaviors. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(6), 689-698. doi: 10.1037/fam0000310