Families and Child Development

How do families lead children to flourish or falter throughout their development?

The vast majority of us are bound to families in one way or another. During childhood, a central role of our families is to provide the nurture and care that we require to develop and grow to our full potential. Research demonstrates the unequivocal importance of a warm, secure parent-child relationship, devoid of controlling and adversarial behaviors, for optimal child development. Yet, families are complex, dynamic systems; thus, focusing exclusively on parent-child relationships, without consideration of the larger family system, limits our understanding of how families ultimately influence child development.

Because, in dual parenting households, the relationship between parents (i.e., interparental relationship) is considered the regulator of the larger family unit, impacting all aspects of the family (e.g., parent-child relationship) in a top-down manner, another primary objective of the Family Development Lab is to explain how the interparental relationship ultimately contributes to healthy psychosocial development in children. We are especially interested in identifying the optimal familial conditions for children who are at heightened risk for emotional difficulties, behavioral problems, and social deficits (i.e., children possessing certain vulnerabilities such as anger proneness or fearfulness).

By gaining a better understanding of the unique roles of interparental, coparenting, mother-child, and father-child relationships in child development, we hope to reveal new treatment targets and priorities (e.g., promoting greater support, intimacy, and respect in the interparental relationship; teaching skills for more effective parenting and co-parenting) for interventions aimed at promoting healthy child development. 

Representative Publications:

Brock, R. L., & Kochanska, G. (in press). Anger in infancy and its implications: History of attachment in mother-child and father-child relationships as a moderator of risk. Development and Psychopathology. doi: 10.1017/S0954579418000780

Brock, R.L., Dindo, L., Clark, L.A., Gamez, W., Aksan, N., & Kochanska, G. (2017). Attachment and effortful control in toddlerhood predict academic achievement over a decade laterPsychological Science, 28, 1786-1795. doi: 10.1177/0956797617721271 

Brock, R.L., Kochanska, G., & Boldt, L. (2017). Interplay between children’s biobehavioral plasticity and interparental relationship in the origins of internalizing problems. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/fam0000335

Brock, R.L., & Kochanska, G. (2016). Interparental conflict, children’s security with parents, and long-term risk of internalizing problems: A longitudinal study from Age 2 to 10. Development and Psychopathology, 28, 45-54. doi:10.1017/S0954579415000279

Brock, R.L.,
& Kochanska, G. (2016). Toward a developmentally-informed approach to parenting interventions: Seeking hidden effects. Development and Psychopathology, 28, 583-593. doi: 10.1017/S0954579415000607

Brock, R.L., Kochanska, G., O’Hara, M.W., & Grekin, R. (2015). Life satisfaction moderates the effectiveness of a play-based parenting intervention in low-income mothers and toddlers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 1283-1294. doi: 10.1007/s10802-015-0014-y

Brock, R.L., & Kochanska, G. (2015). Decline in quality of family relationships predicts escalation in children’s internalizing symptoms from middle to late childhood. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 1295-1308. doi: 10.1007/s10802-015-0008-9