START has several scientific goals that largely focus on the development and treatment of emotion (dys)regulation. We are interested in environmental factors that shape the development of emotion regulation in early childhood and adolescence, such as poor parenting, low income, and other family risk factors. Furthermore, we are interested in learning about mechanisms that underlie effective treatments designed to treat emotion regulation, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
Increasingly, our lab is honing in on one particular risk factor impacting the development of emotion regulation: parents with psychopathology. Specifically, we study mothers with borderline personality disorder, a disorder that is marked by extreme affective instability, interpersonal chaos, impulsivity, and identity disturbance. By virtue of this disorder, if mothers struggle with their own ability to regulate their emotions, how will they be able to provide the necessary support to foster their own child’s emerging emotion regulation capabilities?
Emotion regulation is a multifaceted construct and there is no single way to measure it. Because of this, our lab uses behavioral, performance-based, and physiological measures to assess children’s emotion regulation development. We are also interested in how emotion regulation interacts with the ability to effectively parent for mothers who struggle with their own mental health problems. We have ongoing clinical work that uses DBT to treat mothers of young children. Almost all clinical trials for treating psychopathology only measure outcomes related to the individual in treatment. Our lab is examining the extent to which changes in offspring development can improve as a result of mother’s improving in evidence based treatments.