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Psychology researchers present in Utah on parent-child relationships

Published on April 04, 2023

Psychology researchers present in Utah on parent-child relationships

From left: T. Caitlin Vasquez-O'Brien, Cailey Fay and Gianna DeSante

Psychology majors Gianna DeSante and Cailey Fay recently presented research at the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting. The event occurred March 23-25 in Salt Lake City, UT. T. Caitlin Vasquez-O’Brien, assistant professor of psychological science, traveled with the students and also presented at the meeting.

DeSante, a senior, presented the research she conducted for her Honors Thesis at Eastern. Her project was titled “Associations Between Parental Warmth, Control, and Rejection and Child Depression: Interactions of Child Sex and Sibling Birth Order.”

For her thesis, DeSante coded more than 300 videos of parent-child interactions to analyze parental warmth, control and rejection. She presented in collaboration with Vasquez-O’Brien, who served as her research mentor, and E. Rellinger Zettler, a faculty collaborator from Illinois College.

“The work of completing my Honors Thesis and the actual conference presentation were two totally different kinds of stressful,” said DeSante. Writing her thesis was “a lot of work,” while presenting at the meeting “felt more like stage fright.”

Cailey Fay presents her research at the SRCD Biennial Meeting..

Gianna DeSante presents her research at the SRCD Biennial Meeting..

For DeSante, the meeting was about “learning for the sake of learning.” She also enjoyed Salt Lake City: “I am not really a city girl, but Salt Lake City was not like anywhere I had been before.”

Fay is a sophomore and will complete her Honors Thesis next year. She presented an independent project called “Putting Self-Compassion into Practice: Parental Gate-Opening as a Moderator of Parental Self-Compassion and Sibling Positivity,” which she developed as a research assistant for Vasquez-O’Brien.

Conducting several research projects at once has been a “juggling act,” said Fay. The silver lining is that “each project draws upon the same skill set,” meaning that the research process is “very similar” from project to project.

A photo of Salt Lake City captured by DeSante

Vasquez-O’Brien presented her research alongside Rellinger Zettler in a project titled “Building Resilient Relationships: Parental Gatekeeping Moderates Between Parent Positivity and Child Resilience.” This project is the first draft of a paper that Vasquez-O’Brien is preparing for publication.

DeSante, Fay and Vasquez-O’Brien also encountered Stephanie Madden ’16 at the meeting. Madden graduated from Eastern in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Theatre and is conducting a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Madden presented “Sibling Conflict and Child Recurrent Pain: The Moderating Role of Positive Parent Attributes” alongside Samantha Miadich, Mary Davis, Leah D. Doane and Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant.

Madden also had a submission titled “Youth Depressive Symptoms: Moderate Associations between Family Functioning, Neighborhood Stress, and Lung Function” in collaboration with Samantha Miadich and Robin Everhart.

“This sort of work is very important, as historically, psychological work neglects sibling research, but it is also very difficult to gather a sample, collect the data and then code the data,” said Vasquez-O’Brien.

“Gianna and Cailey have worked diligently for many semesters on the data, and I was very proud to hear them present their work to top scholars in the field!”

Written by Noel Teter