The Babies and Families Laboratory studies infant socio-emotional development and the extent to which factors in the family (maternal and paternal parenting, marital conflict and communication) contribute to infants’ well-being (e.g., regulation, positive affect, parent-child attachment).
The Babies and Families Lab is part of the The Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the The College of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Current Research Projects
DadSpace: Increasing Community Support Resources for Perinatal Fathers
Funding Source: The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI)
Community Organization: The Women’s Clinic of Northern Colorado, Kristin Glenn
Graduate Student Lead Investigator: Stephanie Rayburn
Description: Father involvement in child rearing is beneficial to mothers and children, but fathers are routinely overlooked by available support opportunities at the transition to parenthood. Our pilot project seeks to apply research evidence and best practices to address the disparity in socioemotional community support and education programs serving soon-to-be or new fathers. Fathers are providing increasing levels of care for their infants and experience many of the same stressors that mothers do. Fathers who are underinformed and who lack a supportive network are more likely to experience psychological distress which predicts decreased father engagement Father involvement contributes to a variety of positive outcomes for children, including cognitive, social, and emotional well-being, and couple relationship quality. Addressing information and support disparities at the beginning of fatherhood may serve to help fathers and their families have a healthy beginning and contribute to positive long-term outcomes. Our project includes the development of an 8-week small-group peer mentoring program, a library of educational and interview-based podcasts, monthly “booster” informal dad and baby activity groups as health guidelines allow, and workshop training for community practitioners (obstetric and pediatric providers) on engaging fathers in clinical settings.
Notre Dame Families and Babies Study
This project aims to help mothers and families in their role as parents and as partners. Positive parenting and parent interactions help support the healthy functioning of babies as they develop.
Funded By: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Description: Preventative interventions involving video-feedback programs to promote parenting have been shown to be successful in improving maternal sensitivity and infant-mother attachment security. However, interventions might be substantially more effective if broader elements of family systems were also addressed, including father-child and inter-parental relationships. Infancy is a particularly sensitive and vulnerable period not only for the child but also for the parents who often experience heightened daily stress, parenting demands, work-family role strain, and inter-parental discord associated with changes in the family. Our project is in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame and involves three phases. Phase I involves a lab and home pre-test (infants 6 months of age) and 8-week intervention period; Phase II (12 months) includes an initial post-test, and Phase III (16-18 months) involves a second post-test. Families are randomly assigned to one of four conditions: sensitivity intervention (SI), couples intervention (CI), both (SI + CI) or control. We are evaluating the effectiveness of the SI, CI, and SI+CI interventions at improving parental sensitivity, parental efficacy, parenting stress, inter-parental conflict, infant affective development, attachment security, behavior problems, and socio-emotional competence. We also test whether intervention effectiveness depends on initial characteristics of the families (e.g., parent depressive symptoms, demographic factors, infant temperament).
Parenting in the Pandemic Study
Graduate Student Lead Investigator: Samantha Murray
Description: The repercussions of the COVID-19 Pandemic are diverse and chronic. Job security was drastically weakened; schools were closed or at limited capacity; day-to-day travel and public assemblage was difficult. Each of these challenges changed our way of life, forcing our adjustment to a new reality. Parents across the country have been stretched to an even greater degree as they were not only tasked with adjusting their own daily lives, but also with accommodating the changes in their children’s lives. This project is focused on the impact of the Pandemic on the functioning of the home environment for families of school-aged children (4-12 year-olds). Using survey data, we seek to identify common stressors, protective factors, and attitudes that characterize parenting and family life as we persevere through this unprecedented time. Importantly, we seek to understand whether the Pandemic has exacerbated existing equity gaps in children’s socio-emotional development by examining differences by socio-economic status, race, family structure, and family relationships with schools.