890 Drillfield Drive
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 24060
We study risk and protective factors that are related to children's and adolescents' physical and mental health using multiple levels of analysis from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual perspective. We examine biological, social, and personality processes as risk and resilience factors for developmental psychopathology and heath risk behaviors. Our projects focus on self-regulation, self-system, and religiousness/spirituality as protective factors for health risk behaviors among normative samples of adolescents and for mental health problems among high-risk children with child maltreatment. Our most recent research project investigates adolescent brain development related to risk taking decision making and health risk behaviors (substance use and risky sexual behaviors). Here is the list of our ongoing projects:
- Behavioral, psychological, and neurobiological predictors of risk decision-making and health risk behaviors
- Youths' healthy development study: Longitudinal study of religiousness as a protective mechanism for adolescent health risk behaviors
- Risk and protective processes in child maltreatment
- Personality development and psychopathology using the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development data
Current Research Projects
From the JK Lifespan Development Lab director, Dr. Jungmeen Kim-Spoon:
Within a developmental psychopathology perspective (Cicchetti, 1993), the development of psychopathology is viewed as unfolding along different developmental pathways among different individuals. Thus, it is expected that relevant causal processes vary among individuals who show the same pattern of disorders (i.e., equifinality), and that there is heterogeneity in the expression of disorders (i.e., multifinality). Therefore, it is important that different psychopathological outcomes are investigated simultaneously.
From the developmental psychopathology framework, my research program focuses on developmental processes that mediate and/or moderate the long-term effects of stressful life experiences (such as child maltreatment) on the trajectories of psychopathology and resilient functioning. The research thereby makes important theoretical contributions to the understanding of the heterogeneity (e.g., multifinality) in the developmental outcomes resulting from earlier traumatic experiences and provides implications for prevention and intervention efforts.
Methodologically, my research program incorporates multiple levels of analysis, from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual perspective, including behavioral, cognitive, emotional, neurobiological, and spiritual aspects of developmental processes. Statistically, my approach has stressed applying structural equation modeling (SEM) to study developmental changes and stability. My work is based on the premise that studying interindividual differences (differences among different individuals) in intraindividual variability (within-individual changes over time) is critical to obtaining a fuller understanding of human development. Accordingly, most of my research has utilized advanced statistical techniques for longitudinal analysis including SEM, latent growth modeling, growth mixture modeling, latent interaction modeling, and latent difference score modeling.
Our Research Projects:
Neurobehavioral determinants of health risk behaviors: From adolescence to young adulthood
This study is a continuation of the Neurobehavioral Determinants of Adolescent Risk Decision Making and Health Risk Behaviors in collaboration with Dr. Brooks Kings-Casas's lab (http://research.vtc.vt.edu/employees/brooks-king-casas/) and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The purpose of the study is to examine dynamic interactions between developmental trajectories of neural mechanisms that predict health risk behaviors in young adulthood and contextual influences on these mechanisms.
Neurobehavioral determinants of adolescent risk decision making and health risk behaviors
Recent research in developmental neuroscience suggests that risk-taking in adolescence may be derived from differing developmental trajectories of two distinct neural systems that regulate risky decisions: (i) early maturation of a reward system that biases decisions toward high-reward options, combined with (ii) late maturation of a cognitive control system that biases decisions away from options with potential negative consequences. Yet, we know very little about how reward and control neural systems develop and jointly contribute to differential vulnerability to poor decision-making that leads to adverse health outcomes. In collaboration with Dr. Brooks Kings-Casas's lab (http://research.vtc.vt.edu/employees/brooks-king-casas/) and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we are conducting a longitudinal study to examine how individual differences in developmental trajectories of reward/risk sensitivity and cognitive control are related to the development of adolescent health risk behaviors.
Youths' healthy development study: Longitudinal study of religiousness as a protective mechanism for adolescent health risk behaviors
This is a 3-wave longitudinal study of adolescents that was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the department of psychology. The goal of this study is to identify personality and social relationship factors that may prevent adolescents from developing psychopathology and unhealthy behaviors, thus eventually promoting adolescents' healthy physical and psychological development. In collaboration with Dr. Michael McCullough at University of Miami, we have studied how adolescent religiousness and spirituality influence self-regulation development, psychological maladjustment (such as depressive symptoms and anxiety), and health-risk behaviors (such as smoking, drinking, and other substance use).
Risk and protective processes in child maltreatment
This is a longitudinal study of maltreated school-age children that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) when Dr. Kim-Spoon was working with identifying emotional processes (e.g., reactivity and emotion regulation), personality processes (e.g., ego-control and ego-resilience), and self-system processes (e.g., self-efficacy, perceived competence, and self-esteem) that may ameliorate the negative effects of child maltreatment on the development of psychopathology.
Are you an undergraduate interested in assisting with our research?
Email Dr. Kim-Spoon (email@example.com) attach 1) a curriculum vitae that includes your GPA, relevant courses, and any research or work experience you have, 2) unofficial transcript, and 3) two names of references and their contact information (those who know you through academic work such as research or classes are preferred).