Under the direction of Glenn I. Roisman, Ph.D., the Relationships Research Laboratory studies the legacy of early interpersonal experiences as an organizing force in social, cognitive, and biological development across the lifespan. As such, our research focuses on the childhood antecedents of adaptation within the developmentally salient contexts of adolescence and adulthood. This work is multi-method and multi-informant, employing web-based questionnaire, interview, observational, and psychophysiological methods with individuals and couples. In spanning multiple levels of a developmental analysis of individual and dyadic trajectories, our goal is to provide insight into the childhood experiences and resources that scaffold healthy adjustment in the years of maturity.
Together with our collaborators, in the last decade we have been pursuing this research agenda through: (a) prospective investigations of the fate of early experience based on the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) and the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA), longitudinal investigations that have tracked participants prospectively from infancy to adulthood (future assessments of both cohorts are now being planned), (b) a programmatic set of observational laboratory analogue studies involving administering in-depth Adult Attachment Interviews to college students, stranger dyads, siblings, parents, and romantically involved couples (dating, engaged, married, gay male, and lesbian) about their childhood experiences, (c) experiments designed to better understand the ways in which interpersonal experiences are embodied in fMRI, electrophysiological, and autonomic activation, and (d) secondary analyses of large datasets that provide opportunities to demonstrate the utility of behavior-genetic, longitudinal, meta-analytic, and taxometric approaches for simultaneously resolving questions at the heart of social developmental theory while improving methodology in the study of the legacy of early experience.
We are currently engaged in a set of collaborative studies examining (a) the role of maternal attachment in parenting and child development in the early life course with Kelly Bost and Nancy McElwain and (b) the predictive significance of early experiences with primary caregivers, meta-analytically with Marinus van IJzendoorn, Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Pasco Fearon, and in the SECCYD and the twin sub-sample of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort with Chris Fraley. Current large-scale data reduction activities in the Relationships Research Laboratory revolve around an NICHD-funded age 18 assessment of the SECCYD cohort, during which approximately 860 Adult Attachment Interviews and over 660 Attachment Script Assessments were administered (principal collaborator, Cathryn Booth-LaForce) and the coding of over 400 Adult Attachment Interviews acquired by Fred Rogosch and Dante Cicchetti in the context of a longitudinal study of maltreated and comparison youth in Rochester, NY. Together with Phil Rodkin, we also recently made available for analysis molecular genetic data acquired from participants in the SECCYD. In addition to these research-related activities, we continue our long-standing work in the laboratory on questions related to the latent structure, taxonicity, origins, predictive significance, and psychophysiology of adult attachment-related variation using both experimental and non-experimental as well as individual and dyadic research designs.