You are here: Home / People

People

  1. Director
  2. Penn State University Park Affiliations and Support

Director

Kristin Buss, Ph.D.

Kristin Buss, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Psychology
  • Director of HCHCD and PACT
More about Kristin Buss, Ph.D....

Dr. Kristin Buss is the Director of the Harrisburg Center for Healthy Child Development and Parents and Children Together (PACT). Dr. Buss’ work is focused on the development of risk for adjustment problems, with particular focus on the development of anxiety symptoms for children with fearful temperaments. This work has implications for identifying which fearful children are at risk for developing anxiety problems. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the processes and situations that influence adaptive and maladaptive outcomes for fearful and anxious children. With this goal she has developed a community-based participatory research project designed to work toward the development of a preventive intervention for children at risk for anxiety problems as they transition to school.

Mark Greenberg, Ph.D.

Mark Greenberg, Ph.D.

  • Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research
  • Professor of Human Development and Family Studies,and Psychology
  • Founding Director, HCHCD
More about Mark Greenberg, Ph.D....

I am the Founding Director of The Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development, and served as its Director from 1998 till 2013. (http://www.prevention.psu.edu ). My research interests include intervening in the developmental processes in risk and non-risk populations with a specific emphasis on aggression, violence, and externalizing disorders; promoting healthy social and emotional development through school-based prevention; the study of community partnerships and the diffusion of evidence-based programs; the study of contemplative practices and mindfulness interventions; the interface of neuroscience, molecular genetics and prevention.

Penn State University Park Affiliations and Support

Karen Bierman, Ph.D.

Karen Bierman, Ph.D.

  • Evan Pugh University Professor
  • Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • Director, Child Study Center
More about Karen Bierman, Ph.D....

Dr. Bierman's research program focuses on social-emotional development and children at risk, with an emphasis on the design and evaluation of school- and community-based programs that promote social competence, school readiness and positive intergroup relations while reducing aggression and violence.  She is particularly interested in designing and adapting early school-based and family-focused preventive interventions to meet the needs of diverse families and schools, and has worked in collaboration with school-community teams throughout PA, and in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Washington State, as well as internationally, in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa.  She directs the Child Study Center at the Penn State University Park campus and oversees the School Readiness research initiative, and has served as an educational advisor to a number of organizations devoted to improving early education for disadvantaged children, including Head Start and Sesame Street.

Linda Caldwell, Ph.D.

Linda Caldwell, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management
Celine Domitrovich, Ph.D.

Celine Domitrovich, Ph.D.

  • Senior Research Scientist, CASEL
Lisa Gaztke-Kopp, Ph.D.

Lisa Gaztke-Kopp, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Professor-in-Charge of the Graduate Program
More about Lisa Gaztke-Kopp, Ph.D....

At the graduate level I teach a course in developmental biopsychology that examines neuroscience as one level of analysis from which to study human development and behavior. I also teach a graduate course on prenatal and infant development that stems from my interests in early how early environmental factors influence brain development. At the undergraduate level I primarily teach a course in developmental psychopathology.

Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Ph.D.

Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
More about Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Ph.D....

Cynthia Huang-Pollock is interested in understanding the cognitive and neuropsychological mechanisms that contribute to the development of severe attention, learning, and disruptive behavior problems in children, namely Childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD often have weaknesses in executive functions including attention, inhibitory control and working memory, weaknesses that put children at risk for academic difficulties. There is also strong evidence that when speeded responses are required, children with ADHD respond more slowly and more variably. Funded in part by the National Institutes of Mental Health, her recent work has found that this slower global speed may be driving deficits in executive functions as well as academic difficulties. Because it's not clear whether slow processing speed can be improved in a way that would lead to downstream improvements in executive processes or academic achievement, her current work is to find out what causes slow processing speed, which in turn will tell us how we might improve it.

Susan McHale, Ph.D.

Susan McHale, Ph.D.

  • Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • and Professor of Demography
  • Director, Social Science Research Institute
  • Associate Director, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute
More about Susan McHale, Ph.D....

I am interested in children's and adolescents' family relationships, roles, and everyday activities. Highlighted in my work are sibling relationship dynamics and the family experiences that foster similarities and differences in the interests, attributes, and developmental trajectories of sisters and brothers. My earlier research on children's and adolescents' family experiences pointed to the significance of gender dynamics in everyday family life and served as a basis for my current interest in the family as a context for gender socialization. The extent to which sisters versus brothers assume different family roles, experience different kinds of relationships with their parents, and have access to different kinds of resources and opportunities are important ways in which families differ. I am interested in the ways in which such family dynamics are linked to girls' and boys' well-being and development. A body of research has uncovered sex differences in a range of adjustment problems in childhood and adolescence, with problems such as depression and weight concerns more common in girls and risky behaviors and conduct problems more common in boys. Findings such as these suggest that the study of gender socialization in the family may be central to an understanding of child and adolescent mental health and adjustment. I am also interested in how gender dynamics in families are connected to the choices girls and boys make later in adolescence in the areas of education, career, and family formation, choices that play a defining role in adult life.

Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D.

Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
More about Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D....

Koraly Pérez-Edgar is interested in the relations between temperament and psychopathology. Children with the extreme temperamental trait of behavioral inhibition show increased risk for social anxiety. However, individual differences in attention mechanisms may play an important role in shaping this risk. In conducting her work, Dr. Pérez-Edgar uses multiple methods including behavior observation, psychophysiology (EEG & ERP), and neuroimaging (fMRI).  One important study will examine how the relation between attention and emotion emerges in the first two years of life.  The study will recruit families and infants from the main Penn State campus and from PACT facilities at Harrisburg.

Esther Prins, Ph.D.

Esther Prins, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Education
  • Co-Director, Goodling Institute For Research in Family Literacy and the Institute
  • for the Study of Adult Literacy
More about Esther Prins, Ph.D....

Esther's research interests include critical and sociocultural perspectives of adult and family literacy; gender; rural adult education; and participatory approaches to education, community development, and research. In particular, her scholarship examines the social and cultural dimensions of education, especially concerning how adult education reproduces or mitigates gender, racial, class, and cultural inequalities.

Douglas Teti, Ph.D.

Douglas Teti, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Department Head
  • Professor Psychology and Pediatrics
More about Douglas Teti, Ph.D....

Dr. Douglas Teti is a developmental scientist whose research is focused on family processes as they relate to infant and early child development. He has had a long-standing interest in socio-emotional development in early childhood (e.g., quality of attachment to parents), parenting competence and parenting at risk, how parenting is affected by parental mental health and contextual factors, and how parenting affects infant and child functioning. All of his current projects examine the joint, interactive effects of biological/medical and environmental/parenting factors on child development and parenting during the early years of life. They are all interdisciplinary and involve graduate and undergraduate students, and his students draw from the project they work on in developing their own areas of expertise. In addition, Dr. Teti serves as Lead Faculty of the Families at Risk (FAR) research initiative of the Child Study Center.  FAR brings together a working group of faculty across Penn State interested in factors that influence family processes (parenting, marital relations and coparenting, sibling relations) and family well-being, and in turn how these processes affect and are affected by children’s development.

Laureen Teti, Ph.D.

Laureen Teti, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Director, Child Study Center
  • Associate Director, PACT
More about Laureen Teti, Ph.D....


Dr. Laureen Teti is one of several Penn State faculty working to promote relations between the minority communities in Harrisburg and child researchers at the Child Study Center. These efforts resulted in the 2007 establishment of Parents and Children Together (PACT), a community-university partnership which includes representatives from early childhood agencies, parents, and other key leaders from minority communities in Harrisburg, PA. As a member of PACT’s Steering Committee, Dr. Teti chairs PACT’s Dissemination subcommittee. Dr. Teti is a co-investigator on the community-engaged BRAVE project, Dr. Kristin Buss, PI, which is developing an intervention in Harrisburg to reduce anxiety in urban African-American children. Since Fall 2012, Dr. Teti has served on Penn State’s Presidential Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED), now serves on CORED’s Executive Leadership Team, and is spearheading efforts to increase the hiring and retention of diverse faculty at Penn State.

Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D.

Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
More about Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D....

Martha Wadsworth’s research interests include: child stress and coping, the role of chronic stress in health disparities, and development and evaluation of family strengthening and coping-based programs to counteract chronic stress. In her work, Martha focuses on children at elevated risk for physical and mental health problems resulting from chronic adversity, especially poverty. Her research involves multiple levels of analysis and multiple methods, including physiologic, experimental, observational, and multi-informant methods to measure coping in lab studies and intervention trials.

Jennifer Savage Williams, Ph.D.

Jennifer Savage Williams, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor, Health and Human Development
  • Interim Director, Center for Childhood Obesity Research
More about Jennifer Savage Williams, Ph.D....

Dr. Jennifer Savage Williams is the Interim Director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. Her most recent work has focused on developing innovative interventions that target parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers, designed to encourage responsive parenting to influence child eating behavior and growth. Dr. Savage’s work has also focused on how individual maternal and child characteristics impact associations between maternal feeding practices and child behavior. She has partnered with key stakeholders including the Geisinger Health Systems, Hershey Medical Center, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pennsylvania Women, Infants, and Children Program to develop effective and efficient interventions that can be translated, disseminated, and implemented within the community.

Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D.

Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Associate Director, PACT
More about Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D....

Dawn Witherspoon is interested in how context shapes adolescent development. Her work focuses on neighborhood, school, and family factors that affect adolescents’ socioemotional and academic adjustment. In addition, she examines how race, ethnicity, and other cultural attributes interact with contextual characteristics to influence adolescent outcomes. Her current work examines adolescent development from middle to high school to understand how aspects of the residential neighborhood, school, and family contexts are related to adolescents’ academic adjustment and beliefs as well as their deviant behaviors, racial identity, and discrimination experiences. She also examines how the neighborhood context is associated with parenting behaviors and strategies. A goal of her research is to elucidate the development of urban and rural adolescents and their families, with particular attention to contextual supports.

Return to Top