Different children respond distinctly to the distress of the same person. One child might be motivated to help; one might react aggressively; and another might avoid the suffering person altogether. Taking a neurodevelopmental approach, I examine the developmental trajectories that lead to these divergent responses with the goal of fostering children's socioemotional and interpersonal skills.
My research investigates the development of the mechanisms that support the experience of empathy and other interpersonal emotions. In the Kids Interaction and Neuro Development Lab, I explore the nature of emotional processes engaged by the distress of others: how these processes mature across development; how individual differences are expressed; and how these emotional processes relate to psychopathologic symptoms. As both genetic and social factors contribute prominently to the development of empathy, another line of inquiry examines the causes of variations in maternal parenting, with the goal of linking these variations with mechanisms of risk for atypical social and emotional functioning in early childhood. Together with my collaborators, I tackle these issues using multiple methodologies that include functional and structural brain imaging, autonomic responses and longitunial behavior observations in typically developing children, as well as in youth with dysregulated emotions, such as children with disruptive behavior problems and those with social anxiety.