The Social Cognition & Parenting Lab at Penn State is interested in understanding individual differences in social information processing (SIP), particularly as they pertain to parenting risk. SIP includes a series of cognitive mechanisms that underlie individuals' interpretation of and responses to social situations. A SIP model of parenting risk posits that deficits in social cognitive capacities, including having unrealistic expectations, poor executive functioning, and hostile attributions, may contribute to maladaptive parenting behaviors and child maltreatment. Our lab’s approach to researching SIP considers how a broad array of contextual factors (e.g., life stress, social support, neighborhood context) influence both adaptive and maladaptive responding in a variety of domains (e.g., parenting behaviors, intimate partner aggression) and populations (e.g., at-risk parents, foster care youth). Our lab also considers important implications for how service providers, including mental health professionals, social workers, and legal professionals, respond to families and how the field can develop more effective interventions.

Recent research topics:

  •     SIP and parenting; predicting child abuse and neglect in at-risk parents
  •     Contextual influences on parenting: poverty, life stress, residential and neighborhood context 
  •     Biological and physiological correlates of SIP, including sleep, stress reactivity, and health  
  •     Parenting readiness and risk in adolescence and emerging adulthood
  •     Youth aging out of foster care
  •     Use of serious gaming technology for parenting interventions
  •     SIP and intimate partner violence in emerging adults 
  •     Intergenerational transmission of SIP between parents and children 
  •     Bias in clinical and legal decision-making; child welfare services