The Family Development Lab is directed by Dr. Becca Brock, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at UNL and faculty member in the Clinical Psychology Training Program. Broadly speaking, our research is aimed at understanding how couple and family relationships ameliorate or perpetuate depression, anxiety, and related aspects of health (e.g., alcohol use, sleep dysfunction, poor diet). Our work is largely focused on couple relationships, investigating how multiple relationship processes (e.g., humanization and respect, support, closeness and intimacy, sexual satisfaction, conflict management strategies) impact partners and their children. In addition to the couple relationship, we investigate multiple other aspects of the family system, such as parenting and coparenting dynamics, that contribute to the overall emotional climate of the family and impact the health and well-being of each family member. We conduct research with the translational goal of informing interventions that minimize family dysfunction, build healthy couple dynamics, and promote adult and child health throughout the lifespan.
There are four primary lines of research we are currently pursuing:
1. The role of family relationships in emotion regulation and emotional health: How do family relationships contribute to key regulatory processes that, in turn, play a central role in emotional and physical health? We are investigating how family relationships support (or hinder) the development of adaptive emotion regulation skills in children, how intimate partners promote various forms of emotion regulation (e.g., self-compassion and psychological flexibility) in adults, and how parents socialize their children around emotions and promote emotion regulation (e.g., through mindful parenting).
2. Family adaptation to stress, adversity, and trauma: How do couples and families navigate various forms of stress and adversity (e.g., economic hardship, trauma, discrimination and marginalization stress, major life transitions), and what are sources of risk or resiliency within the family (e.g., partner support, responsive parenting)? We are conducting research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on couples and families with young children, how couples navigate the stress associated with pregnancy and childbirth, the impact of discrimination and harassment on sexual and gender minority couples living in rural Nebraska, and how to support parents with a history of trauma and trauma-related distress to best support the development of child emotional health.
3. Differential susceptibility and sensitivity to family environments: How do adults and children differentially experience and respond to their environments? We are investigating how individuals exhibiting traits indicative of high sensitivity to the environment falter or flourish in the context of different family dynamics - both threatening and nurturing.
4. Innovative measurement of couple and family relationships: We pursue novel and innovative ways of measuring family relationships and systems using multiple methodologies (self-report, interview, behavioral observation). For example, we have published a behavioral observation coding system for measuring mutually responsive orientation in couple relationships (i.e., the degree of synchronicity, cooperation, and positive emotional expression between partners). We recently published the Individuality in Couples Questionnaire (ICQ) which measures the extent to which someone feels respected by their partner for their individuality and experiences personal autonomy in the relationship. Members of the research team have also developed and published measures assessing relationship processes (Support in Intimate Relationships Rating Scale-Revised, Relationship Quality Interview, Objectification Perpetration Scale). We have several scale development projects that are underway and are developing a technology for tracking and measuring family interactions in "real time" in the home.
For brief summaries of recent published articles, please visit the website for the Family Development Project.