Ongoing Projects:


The Notre Dame SPARC Project:

Supporting Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Communication

The Notre Dame SPARC Project is a program designed to support effective communication and strengthen relationships in families that include a child with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). In particular, the SPARC project is geared toward supporting parents and typically developing adolescent siblings of individuals with IDD by promoting effective communication and conflict resolution between couples and also between parents and their typically developing children. The goal of the study is to evaluate strategies to support parents and typically developing siblings of individuals with IDD by improving communication and strengthening family relationships. The ND-SPARC Project is actively recruiting new participants, and data collection is ongoing.


The Notre Dame Families and Babies Study (ND-FABS): 

ND-FABS is a large-scale, preventive intervention project that is geared toward parents of infants, with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on learning more about the quality and impact of fathers' relationships with their children. The program includes four conditions designed to evaluate the best ways to support parents of infants by supporting their interparental and parent-child relationships and communication. We hope to collect data from 400 families between our sites in South Bend and Fort Wayne. All families, regardless of condition, participate in assessments and receive regular contact from project personnel. ND-FABS is a collaboration with Dr. Julie Braungart-Rieker and the ND Socioemotional Development Lab. ND-FABS is actively recruiting new participants, and data collection is ongoing.



Past Projects:


Couples and Kids Project (C&K):

The Couples and Kids Project began in January 1999; it was a 3-year longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In this study, we investigated the ways couples handle everyday problems and how their interactions affect their school-aged children (8-18 years). One of the primary outcomes of this study was showing that it is not whether parents fight, but how they fight (constructive vs. destructive) that has implications for children's development. The study utilized innovative methodologies, including parent home reports of conflict, lab observations, and analog procedures among others, with a diverse sample of families. Data collection for C&K was completed in Fall 2003, but we continue to work on some data coding projects, digitizing, and data analysis.


Happy Couples and Happy Kids (HCHK):

Happy Couples and Happy Kids was an education program developed to help participants better understand family relationships. Decades of scientific research conducted by Dr. E. Mark Cummings and colleagues provided the basis for this cutting-edge educational program. Married or cohabiting couples from the Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan areas with a child between the ages of 4-8 participated in the Happy Couples and Happy Kids Program. Analyses of the HCHK dataset continue, and findings from the project informed the development of subsequent preventive intervention programs out of the FSL.


Me and My Family Project (MMFP):

MMFP was a dual site, 6-wave longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. When the project began in 2000, our families had children in kindergarten; the majority of those children are now emerging adults. The primary goal of this project was to explicitly test a comprehensive model in which children’s emotional security serves as a mediator of the effect of marital relations in child adjustment. A variety of innovative procedures were employed to assess children’s adjustment, including a clinical diagnostic interview, family conflict interactions, and computer games to assess family relationships and cognitive functioning. Data collection is complete for MMFP, but there remain many opportunities for transcribing, coding and analyzing data in this extensive dataset.


Northern Ireland Project (NI):

The Northern Ireland project was a longitudinal study which looks at political violence in Belfast, NI. This project, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, used an ecological, process-oriented model to examine the relationship between sectarian violence and ordinary crime, family functioning, and adolescent adjustment. A 6-wave longitudinal study including about 1000 families from socially deprived neighborhoods in Belfast was the main focus. Additional qualitative data collection was supported by a grant from the government of Northern Ireland with the aim of developing the applied implications of the findings.


Family Communication Project (FCP):

The Family Communication Project was a preventive intervention program aimed at reducing destructive family conflict and promoting family security. This project, funded by the W. T. Grant Foundation, built on decades of research on marital and family conflict and targeted community families with children aged 11-16 years, whose communication challenges and adjustment problems had not reached clinical levels. The goal of FCP was to intervene by helping families improve their communication with each other before problems developed. The FCP utilized interactive materials including movie clips, games, and role-playing to teach adolescents and their parents effective ways to communicate with each other. Data collection for FCP is complete, with 225 families having participated in the longitudinal study, but we continue to analyze data and gain insight about program development and efficacy.


The Communication and Family Relations Project:

The Communication and Family Relations (CFR) Project was a pilot study launched in 2014 to develop and evaluate the efficacy of a supportive program for families of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Informed by developmental and clinical research, the CFR program was adapted from material developed for an earlier intervention study for community families with an adolescent child (i.e. FCP), and promoted constructive interparental and parent-child conflict and conflict resolution. This study is no longer recruiting new participants.  However, interested families are encouraged to contact us for more information about other opportunities to get involved in related research studies, including the ND-SPARC Project. Research opportunities still exist in the CFR project, including behavioral coding and data analysis.