Prevention of Children's Conduct Problems and Promotion of School Readiness

Supervising Faculty: Daniel Shaw, Ph.D.

Contact: Daniel Shaw, Ph.D., 412-624-1836,

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 two NIH-funded, longitudinal investigations of child and family factors associated with the development and prevention of children's and adolescents’ conduct problems, depression, and substance use disorders, as well as the promotion of school readiness from birth to age 3.  One study is an ongoing intervention trial, using the Family Check-Up, a family-focused intervention at local pediatric settings with a sample of 400 children ages 10-13, with the aim of preventing high-risk problem behavior. The second study focuses on promoting school readiness among infants at risk for 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 at child age 18 and 24 months 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 6-24 month and 11 to16 year-old participants at families’ homes and the lab (24-month assessments). In addition, students will learn about the theoretical bases of these two projects 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.


  • Overall GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • STAT 0200/1000/1100 Statistics
  • PSY 0036 Research Methods Lecture
  • PSY 0037 Research Methods Lab

Terms offered: fall, spring and summer

Number of Students: This varies by term, but generally 6-7 students are accepted into the program.