Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

PROSPER Group

The Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC) and Penn State Extension held the annual statewide meeting of its PROSPER project (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). Guest speakers included Heather Hallman, Senior Advisor in the PA Department of Human Services and Jen Smith, Acting Secretary of the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Program. Over 100 team leaders, prevention coordinators and youth, and Penn State Extension administrators attended the event held in the Ruth Pike Auditorium.

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_Drs. Rob Roeser, Nancy Eisenberg and Mark Greenberg

Dr. Nancy Eisenberg, a leading expert on empathy and child development, was the featured speaker at the 2017 Lecture on Compassion hosted by the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center on Thursday, April 20. She is pictured here with Robert Roeser, Ph.D., Bennett Pierce Professor in Caring and Compassion, and Mark Greenberg, Ph.D., Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research. The event is made possible through funding from Dr. Greenberg and his wife, Christa Turksma, a curriculum developer and teacher of mindfulness skills.


Parent engagement programs increase student readiness for kindergarten

April 4, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kindergarten teachers report that of the 32 million children living in poverty or low-income homes in the United States, nearly half lack strong social-emotional skills and are not “ready to succeed in school,” according to the latest research brief released by the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Because children begin learning at home long before they enter a classroom, parents play a critical role in supporting early childhood learning and school readiness,” said Karen Bierman, Evan Pugh Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies and co-author of the report. “But, parents living in poverty, despite their love and devotion to their children, often don’t have the resources and support systems available to help them adequately prepare preschoolers for the social, emotion and academic demands of school.”

Social-emotional skills include the ability to manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The development of these skills in preschool combines with academic preparation to set the stage for school success.

The second of a 10-part series on social and emotional learning, "Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children" provides strong evidence that parent engagement programs during the preschool years have the potential to close the school readiness gap and promote optimal development for all children.

Parent engagement is the effort made by a parent, caregiver or family member to promote their child’s social-emotional, cognitive and physical development in partnership with schools, child-care programs and communities.

The brief synthesizes a growing base of rigorous intervention studies with low-income parents and outlines the need to intensify strategic efforts to reduce disparities and improve outcomes for all children. It provides evidence of “what works” and support for the implementation of parent engagement programs and practices for educators, policymakers and other community leaders.

Evidence-based parent engagement programs promote positive parenting practices that build strong parent-child relationships, provide parents with home learning activities and effective teaching strategies, encourage strong parent-teacher partnerships, and emphasize the importance of child nutrition and physical health.

“We want all parents to have the opportunity to increase a child’s capacity for learning during the preschool years by building early attention, memory and problem-solving skills,” said Bierman. “When children are ready for kindergarten with strong language, thinking and self-management skills, it sets the stage for success in elementary school and beyond.”

Co-authored with Pamela Morris, vice dean for research and faculty affairs, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, and Rachel Abenavoli, a postdoctoral Fellow at New York University, the research brief and companion video located on the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center’s YouTube channel were funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Courtney Heidle, a Biobehavioral Health undergraduate major and one of the HUDDIL Innovation Lab undergraduates, was awarded first place in the University Libraries Information Literacy poster contest at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Exhibition. There were over 271 exhibitor entries. Courtney’s winning presentation was entitled, “Can an Existing Theory be Adapted to Better Predict Infant Feeding Information Seeking Behavior of Parents?” Courtney was mentored by Allison Doub Hepworth, a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Dr. Robert Roeser and Dr. Brooke Dodson-Lavelle

Our PRC Colleague Robert Roeser, Ph.D. and Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Ph.D. of the Courage of Care Coalition led the first Science- and Practice-Oriented Workshop entitled Sustainable Compassion Training at The Living Center on Wednesday, April 19. Participants explored compassion practices in three areas: 1) receiving care, 2) self-care, and 3) extending care to others. This was one of several compassion activities planned by the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center during Compassion Week.


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