Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

Johns Hopkins Professor To Share Results of 3-Year Study on Child Adversity

March 2, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Christina Bethell, Ph.D. and professor of population, family, and reproductive health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, will present her findings from a three-year national research project on child adversity on Wednesday, Mar. 29 from 4-5 p.m. at 132 Hetzel Union Building (HUB).

In her presentation, “We are the Medicine: Human Development and Child Well Being in an Era of Ordinary Magic,” Dr. Bethell will discuss the integration of neurobiology, social sciences and mind-body research to prevent childhood adversity to promote positive health and well-being. With a focus on relevance and implications for children’s health services, Dr. Bethell concludes the cultivation of safe, stable, nurturing relationships, self-awareness and mindfulness as a matter of public health.

Dr. Bethell is the founding Director of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative and National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center. She is also a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course facilitator.

This will be the last seminar in the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC) series before the Compassion Lecture on April 20. For more information, visit the PRC website.


Dr. Nancy Eisenberg to Speak on Prosocial Behavior in Children

Second Compassion Lecture Welcomes Expert on Childhood Sympathy and Empathy

March 2, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of the world’s leading authorities on empathy and child development, Nancy Eisenberg, will present the 2017 Lecture on Compassion. Dr. Eisenberg, who is Regents professor of psychology at Arizona State University, will talk about “Empathy-Related Responding and Prosocial Behavior in Children,” at 4 p.m. on April 20 in Room 22 of the Biobehavioral Health Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

A pioneer in the study of the moral and social-emotional development of children and adolescents, Eisenberg’s research has spanned nearly forty-five years. She has made groundbreaking contributions to understanding the biological (temperament), psychological (self-regulation), and social-contextual (parenting practices) factors that shape prosocial dispositions in the child such as empathy, compassion, and helping behavior.

“I am delighted that Penn State is highlighting this topic and look forward to talking to people about compassion, which is a very timely topic in our world today…something I think we all need to understand better,” Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg will discuss antecedents, correlates, and sequelae of children’s empathy-related and prosocial responding. She will review research linking empathy-related responding to prosocial behavior, moral reasoning, aggression and externalizing problems, and positive social behavior.

“Nancy’s work is particularly important because she conducts longitudinal research that follows individuals over time in order to understand both the antecedents and long-term consequences of moral and social-emotional development on health, wellbeing, and life success,” said Robert W. Roeser, Ph.D. and Bennett Pierce Professor in Caring and Compassion.

The Lectureship on Compassion is an annual event developed and funded by Mark Greenberg, holder of the Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research, and his wife, Christa Turksma, a curriculum developer and teacher of mindfulness skills. The forum is intended to showcase the findings and perspectives of outstanding researchers and practitioners in the areas of awareness, compassion and empathy.

Eisenberg received her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in developmental psychology. She has published hundreds of articles, books, special journals, chapters and reviews, and is the recipient of numerous awards from the National Institutes of Health, Association for Psychological Science, and Society for Research in Child Development.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Eisenberg offer the second lecture on Compassion as her work informs both prevention and health promotion efforts early in development at a time when children’s social-emotional development is more malleable and therefore, can be modified through prevention and enrichment activities.“ Roeser said.

On Wednesday, April 19, Eisenberg will give a presentation on “Self-Regulation in Childhood: Conceptualization and Correlates” at 4:15 in 127 Moore Building. This talk is co-sponsored with the Child Study Center in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The College of Health and Human Development and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center are hosts for the annual event. For more information on the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, visit prevention.psu.edu.


New Tool Helps Value the Impact of Spending on Preventive Interventions

March 2, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Convincing policymakers to make meaningful investments in children and families may become less arduous for researchers with a new framework that considers the value of prevention across multiple public systems that currently offer support.

According to a new study just released in the March issue of Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, a new measurement strategy can aid policymakers and researchers alike in assessing multi-system service utilization, including public education, social services, criminal justice, healthcare, and tax systems.

“We’ve sought to formalize a process for understanding how scaling effective prevention strategies can help children and families and reduce the need for public support downstream, thus saving costs for additional resources,” said Dr. Max Crowley.

Crowley is an Assistant Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and faculty affiliate of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC) who co-authored the article along with colleague Damon Jones, Ph.D, research assistant professor and senior research associate at the PRC.

The article, "A Framework for Valuing Investments in a Nurturing Society: Opportunities for Prevention Research", reviews current public spending on children and families and describes how to quantify and monetize the impact of preventive interventions.

Crowley and Jones introduce the Valuing Multisystem Utilization (VMU) framework, a tool for organizing information about service utilization and monetizing the value of each service by using a simplified formula.

“This work ultimately seeks to accelerate benefit-cost analyses of interventions for children and families by encouraging researchers to think broadly about how children interact with public systems,” said Crowley.

Crowley is also director of the Prevention Economics Planning and Research Program (PEPR) within the PRC and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Prevention Science Coalition.


New parenting book shines light on social and emotional learning

Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center study cited in The Toddler Brain

March 1, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dr. Laura Jana, a recent faculty appointment at the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, is over the moon.

She just released her newest book, The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow. The how-to manual for parents encourages social and emotional skill-building during the first five years—critical years in brain development—in order to prepare children to succeed in the twenty-first century.

In her book, Jana cites the findings from a 20-year-long study led by Damon Jones, D. Max Crowley and Mark Greenberg- researchers in the Prevention Research Center. They found that children who had better social and emotional skills at age 5 were more likely to have earned a high school diploma, attend college and have a full-time job at age 25.

“Everyone should stop and pay attention to this Penn State study,” says Jana. “When it comes to valuable research, I’ve yet to find any better work than what Drs. Mark Greenberg and Karen Bierman are doing.”

Both Greenberg and Bierman are world-renowned researchers in social and emotional development.

Still, Jana has more than a few credentials from which to draw. She is a pediatrician, a former preschool owner, a strategic consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Director of Innovation at the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center, College of Public Health and mother of three.

Although Jana admits that she is not a researcher, the book is steeped in research. Rather, Jana considers herself more of a translator, a strategic storyteller.

The Toddler Brain explains, in simple terms, why parents, business owners, educators and policymakers should care more about early childhood development.

Jana provides insight into those skills children will need to adapt to a rapidly changing world, skills like creativity, critical thinking, character, empathy, adaptability, grit, perseverance, drive and resilience.

She calls these skills “QI” (pronounced “key”). QI skills are what academia call “soft” or “non-cognitive” skills and, over the years, have taken a back seat to “book-learning.”

To help everyone understand the importance of QI skills, Jana creatively translates social, emotional, and executive functioning terms regularly used by scientists into seven easy-to-remember names including ME, WE, WHY, WILL, WIGGLE, WOBBLE and WHAT IF.

Because even businesses today are recognizing the importance of these skills, Jana uses business and economic terms like “the start-up of your baby” and “strategic parenting plan” to demonstrate the interconnection with parenting.

Jana is just as excited about collaborating with the Prevention Research Center. She feels fortunate to have met Meg Small, Director of Social Intervention at the PRC, while working on an early childhood design-thinking project with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I’m eager to work with colleagues who, like me, are committed to taking a holistic approach to early childhood and children’s wellbeing. I can’t see a better place where you have collaboration, design-thinking, funding, research and vision than here at Penn State.”


PRC Program/Administrative Areas

PRC Centers


Spring 2017 Seminar and Brown Bag Schedule

POSTPONED: March 29 PRC Seminar/ 4 p.m., 132 Hetzel Union Building (HUB)

Christina Bethell, Ph.D., Professor of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, "We are the Medicine: Human Development and Child Well Being in an Era of Ordinary Magic"


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