Development and Prevention of Children’s Conduct Problems and Promotion of School Readiness

Supervising Faculty:

Daniel Shaw, Ph.D.



Daniel Shaw, Ph.D.


Area of Research:  

Studies of developmental antecedents and prevention of young children's and adolescents' problem behaviors (e.g., conduct problems) and other problem behavior (e.g., depression, substance use, high-risk sexual behavior), as well as promotion of school readiness in early childhood.


Description of Research:

These are three NIH-funded, longitudinal investigations of child and family factors associated with the development and prevention of children's and adolescents’ conduct problems, depression, and high-risk problem behaviors, as well as the promotion of school readiness from birth to age 3.  One study is aimed at preventing the onset of serious conduct problems and risk for substance use among high-risk toddlers, for which undergraduates will assist in the assessment of adolescents (now age 16) in their homes, with the aim of seeing whether random assignment to a family-focused intervention administered to families when children were ages 2 to 10 was effective in reducing youth problem behavior. The second study is an ongoing intervention trial, using the same family-focused intervention (the Family Check-Up) in local pediatric settings with a sample of 400 children ages 10-13, with the aim of also preventing high-risk problem behavior. The third study focuses on promoting school readiness among infants at risk for early problem behavior. Families with newborn infants were recruited from the delivery room at Magee Hospital in Pittsburgh and Bellevue Hospital in NYC, and then randomly assigned to a control condition or a combined intervention using Video Interaction Project (VIP) from 1-6 months and the Family Check-Up at 6 and/or 18 months. VIP takes place during previously scheduled well-child check-ups at pediatric offices and is aimed at improving parenting skills. Those families in the VIP treatment condition with parenting, family, or life-skills (e.g., literacy) risk at 6 months will also receive the Family Check-Up. Students will be trained to conduct home- and lab-based assessments with senior staff in this project and attend home-based intervention sessions with staff interventionists.


Duties of Students:

Responsibilities will include conducting assessments of parents and their 6-18 month, 10-14, and 16 year-old participants at families’ homes. In addition, students will learn about the theoretical bases of these three and other ongoing studies in the lab through an ongoing lecture series and are eligible to become undergraduate employees during and following their directed research experience.


Additional Requirements: To qualify, students should have at least a 3.5 GPA in Psychology and meet other Departmental Guidelines for Directed Research.


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: This varies by term, but generally 6-7 students are accepted into the Program.  For this summer, we are looking to accept 4-5 new students.

Additional Information: For more information about Dr. Shaw's Directed Research opportunity, check out the following link: