Centers and Institutes

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Unstable Child Care Can Affect Children by Age 4

A new study from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) reveals that disruptions in child care negatively affect children’s social development as early as age 4. However, the study also shows that the effects of child care instability are not unduly large—and some types of instability appear to have no negative impact on children. Read More...

Dr. Cathi Propper awarded two federal grants to study infant sleep

Dr. Cathi Propper, Assistant Director of Training and Research at the Center for Developmental Science, received funding for two new projects on the development of sleep in infants. Her work builds on previous lab-based findings that sleep quantity, quality and problems affect overall health in infants and behavioral problems in young children. Taking this research out of the lab, Propper’s research uses innovative methods and unobtrusive technology to capture infant sleep through naturalistic observation in the home. For example, one of her studies seeks to understand why African American children appear to get less sleep than European American children. Propper and her research team are interested in potential racial/ethnic differences in both physiological functioning and nighttime parenting behavior which may contribute to sleep disparities.

The first study of its kind, infants will wear monitors to record their movement through the night and researchers will set up inconspicuous video recording devices to track infants’ sleep and caregiving behaviors when infants are 3 and 6 months of age. Additionally, Propper’s team will collect data on physiological indicators of infants’ abilities to “self-soothe” - a critical component of infants’ sleep. Through these methods, Propper will determine whether self-regulation during the day is associated with nighttime sleep quality in infants.Propper is also extending this methodology to study the role of sleep, self-regulation, and parenting as related to prenatal cigarette exposure. Despite widely known health risks, recent evidence indicates up to 15% of women smoke during pregnancy. Propper is interested in better understanding how prenatal cigarette exposure affects infant emotion, cognition, and behavior over the first year of life. To do this, her team will follow women through their pregnancies and over the first 9 months of their child's life.

Propper's work has provided rich training opportunities for CDS-affiliated students. Recently, graduate students in UNC-CH's Developmental Psyhology Program, Nick Wagner (CCHD pre-doc) and Marie Camerota, received a grant from the Center of Regulatory Research on Tobacco Control to include a focus on mothers' e-cigarette use during pregnancy within Propper's studies. They will examine, for the first time, e-cigarette use during pregnancy and differences in how much nicotine is delivered to the fetus from e-cigarettes versus traditional cigarettes.

This trio of studies will provide critical information about how prenatal experience, infant's physiology, and parenting behaviors contribue to infants' sleep over the first year of life. In the long term, Propper's work will provide a basis for interventions to improve infant health outcomes.

Researchers Rely on Rural Families for Key Insights on Children

Since 2003, rural North Carolina and Pennsylvania residents have been providing valuable evidence to researchers about how parenting, child care, and many other factors affect young children and their families. Scientists at UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) began following the children at birth for the Family Life Project, and researchers say these families have never been more important to understanding how children grow and learn in rural communities. Read More...

Better Academic Support in High School Crucial for Low Performers with ADHD

New research reveals that high school students with attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are using an unexpectedly high rate of services for their age group, yet many low achievers with ADHD are not getting the academic supports they need. Scientists from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and several other universities published the findings in School Mental Health after examining data for a large national sample of high school students with ADHD. Read More...

President Targets 6 Million Children for High-Quality Preschool by 2020

Research from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and many other institutes and universities has long demonstrated the positive effects of high-quality early care and education. FPG’s Abecedarian Project provided comprehensive high-quality care and education for children birth to age 5, and decades later the economic, social, and health benefits have remained apparent.  Read More...