The Early Childhood Research Clinic (ECRC) Research Laboratory was founded on the core principle that we would like to create a space in which we inspire each other as researchers and as humans to conduct meaningful research that will be genuinely useful to our fellow human beings. In particular, we strive to better describe difficult interactions between parents and their young children, and to harness that knowledge to develop better parent training treatments for those who most need it, including families who live in poverty, and parents who experience significant stressors or psychopathology.

We value empiricism, and strive always to be open to what the data tell us. We value creating a community of scientists who help each other, and can have free and open discourse. We are proud and grateful to be one of a growing family of labs that explore acceptance and mindfulness-based processes and treatments in both adults and children.

  • Lisa Coyne, PhD

    Lisa W. Coyne, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor, Psychology Department
    Suffolk University

    A few favorite quotes:

    Live to the point of tears. – Albert Camus

    The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. -Albert Camus

    Certainly everyone experiences both joy and sadness in their lives – it is what binds all of us together as humans.  However, some people – children and moms too – experience debilitating suffering that takes them away from those things that matter most in their lives: the ability to play wholeheartedly, to laugh freely with friends and family, to love, to learn, to celebrate successes and grieve failures. 

    What has been and continues to be a central pursuit in my life and academic work is to learn as much as I can to alleviate this kind of suffering, and to use that knowledge to help children and their families.  I bring those values with me when I work with children and parents in therapy, as well as when I conduct my empirical research, which involves working to better describe and influence what goes on in parent-child relationships when they aren’t working well. 

    Lisa Coyne's Faculty Research Interests Page

    I received my M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi.  I completed my predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Brown Medical School, at the Pediatric Anxiety Research Clinic (PARC).

    I live in Providence with my fabulous family, love dogs, am addicted to television, have both great and terrible taste in film (e.g., loved The Constant Gardner AND Dante’s Peak), and have been known to play flute and whistle at traditional Irish music sessions in the greater Boston area.  No, not telling you where!

    Here’s me with the most important people in my life – John, my husband, Josie, my daughter, and Rory, my son – on the hiking path to the Conor Pass in Co. Kerry, Ireland.

  • Shelby Stephan Hardy, MA

    As a child, growing up in rural New Hampshire, I found both adventure and solace in the outdoors.  After completing high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, I struck out for a new urban landscape, New Orleans.  There I began studying psychology and sociology both in the classroom and working in the richly diverse environments the city offers.  Soon, however, familial ties and the mountainous landscape of New England called me back north.  In 1999, I took six months to hike home from Georgia along the Appalachian Trail. Once again, the outdoors provided me with opportunities for personal, spiritual, and familial growth.  Back home, I transferred to Boston College where I would graduate summa cum laude with a BA in psychology.

    While an undergraduate, I worked with adolescents living with the effects of traumatic histories and neurological challenges.  This work, done individually, in groups, and with families, incorporated aspects of CBT, narrative, and adventure therapy.  Through this experience, I came to appreciate the interactive relationship between our physical, emotional, and conceptual selves.  Since then, through my clinical and empirical work, I have sought to better understand these relationships with the ultimate goal of making clinical interventions more effective.

    Currently, I am beginning my fifth year in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University.  I have worked with individuals, couples, and families in various settings adopting a developmental, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems perspective.  Both my master’s and dissertation research look at the relationship between approach and avoidance conditions and the cognitive correlates of anxiety and therapy.  Currently, my husband and I live in New Hampshire, close to the mountains and the family so important to us both.  In our spare time, we either venture out on a hike or a sail, or stay closer to home to cross-country ski and garden.

    Abstract of Current Research

    Recently, experiential avoidance, defined as the attempt to control internal experiences such as anxious thoughts and feelings, has been targeted in the treatment of anxiety disorders with the use of acceptance-based interventions.  Preliminary evidence suggests that the reduction of experiential avoidance is associated with the reduction of those avoidant behaviors targeted by traditional CBT.  This may be due in part to the effects of acceptance on attention.

    It is possible that clients’ orientation toward their internal experience of anxiety, be it a reflexive drive to control it or a learned willingness to experience it, impacts clinically relevant aspects of attention. Given research regarding the effects of approach and avoidance states on the scope and flexibility of attention, it is hypothesized that by accepting the experience of social anxiety as both symbolic and normative, acceptance-based interventions undermine avoidance tendencies inherent in Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and, in turn, broaden the scope and increase the flexibility of attention.  In so doing, acceptance-based techniques would theoretically support exposure-based therapy by freeing up attention to more effectively attend to, process, and in turn enable habituation to threat-relevant information. 

    Given this hypothesis, there is limited data regarding the impact of acceptance on the attentional processes which are a hallmark of SAD.  This project seeks to address this gap in the literature in the following ways.  First, it will explore the potential roles of state anxiety and experiential avoidance in the attentional processes linked with social anxiety symptoms.  It is expected that higher levels of experienced anxiety and experiential avoidance will be associated with a relatively narrow scope of attention and attentional rigidity.  Second, this project will examine if and how a brief acceptance-based intervention might impact these attentional processes.  It is expected that participants in an acceptance condition will demonstrate a broader scope and increased flexibility of attention in comparison to participants in a control condition.  

    These predictions will be assessed by inducing speech anxiety in socially anxious and non-socially anxious participants, exposing them to either a brief acceptance-based intervention or an attention control condition, and having them complete four tests measuring the scope and flexibility of attention.

    Presentations and Publications

    Hardy, S.S. (February, 2007).  Arm flexion, extension, and relaxation: How bodily feedback can impact cognitive tuning.  Poster presentation at the Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Portland, OR.

    LoCicero A, Allgair A, Dangelo S, Hardy S, Iguchi L, Miller A, Mizock L, Roth K, Samberg S, Sinclair SJ, & Smith J.  Counseling court-involved youth: Development of a best practice model through a university community partnership.  Paper symposium presented at Suffolk University’s “Discovery: Boundaries & Connections” Academic Conference, 30 March 2006, Boston, MA.

    Hardy, S.S. & Iguchi, L. (2005, November).  Clinicians and court involved youth: Bridging moral transitions together.  In S.S. Hardy (Chair), When worlds collide: Counseling court involved youth through moral transitions.  Symposium conducted at the Association for Moral Education’s 31st Annual Conference, 3-5 November 2005, Cambridge, MA.  

    Hardy, P.M., Chapman, P., & Hardy, S.S. (2005, October).  Aripiprazole (Abilify) in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Toronto, Canada.

  • Angela M. Burke

    In 2005, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island with a B.A. in Psychology. While there, my research interests were two-fold. My Honors Thesis research examined emotion understanding in preschool age children. We aimed to fill a gap in the current research by including the understanding of fathers’ emotions as well as those of mothers and peers. My other area of interest concerned the influence of siblings on preferred characteristics in short and long term partner selection in college students.

    After leaving RWU, I moved back to my home town of Derry, New Hampshire in order to commute to Suffolk. I am currently completing my second year in the Clinical Psychology program. As a member of the child track, my research interests revolve around the application of Acceptance and Mindfulness techniques to both clinical and non-clinical child populations and their parents. My Master’s research is part of a collaborative project with Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital in which we are examining a family-based cognitive-behavioral treatment for pediatric OCD. We are using an observational coding system to analyze the effects of experiential avoidance and willingness on long term treatment outcomes.

    In my spare time, I enjoy going to the gym, dancing, shopping, reading, and spending time with my friends and family.

    Abstract of Current Research

    Until recently, research on treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has largely involved adults, adolescents, and older children. While the disorder has an estimated prevalence of 1-2% for pediatric populations (Piacentini & Langley, 2004), research has ignored treatment for children under the age of 8. In order to address this problem, the Pediatric Anxiety Research Clinic (PARC) at Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) has devised a family-based cognitive behavioral treatment for OCD in children ages 5 through 8. The efficacy of this treatment was assessed in a small randomized controlled trial in which it was compared to an active control relaxation treatment condition (PI: Henrietta Leonard; R21 MH60669), with favorable results. Although this work has advanced the literature in terms of determining whether a family-based cognitive behavioral treatment model would work for young children with OCD, it did not address the questions of why or how that treatment worked. The purpose of the current project is to assess factors present in parent-child interaction during in-session exposure exercises and planning to determine whether and how they might impact treatment outcome. To this end, the authors have developed a coding system based on acceptance and mindfulness based approaches to assess parent and child factors that may impact the effectiveness of exposure sessions. Our coding system will assess parent-child interactions, modeling of emotion acceptance vs. emotion avoidance, experiential avoidance, and accommodation of compulsive behaviors. It is hypothesized that high levels of child willingness to participate in exposure and homework planning will be predictive of greater improvements in symptom severity at post-treatment and three month follow up. It is also expected that high parent willingness will be predictive of better outcome. This study extends current literature in important ways because it strives to identify specific mechanisms that influence cognitive-behavioral treatment outcome. Implications of this work and future directions will be discussed.

    Research Presentations

    Burke, A. M., Coyne, L., & Davis, E. (2007,March). Assessing Experiential Avoidance in the Context of Family-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Pediatric OCD. Poster presentation accepted for presentation at the 2007 Suffolk University Academic Conference, Boston, MA.

    Butkovsky Turner, L., Burke, A. M., & Turner, G. F. W. (2006, April). “My dad is happy when ..." Emotional understanding in children’s relationships. Poster presentation at the 2006 Conference on Human Development, Louisville, KY.  

    Trimbach, C., Burke, A. Lavoie, L., Skowyra, A., & Toto, L. (2005, October). Effect of Younger Siblings on Preferred Characteristics in Mate Selection in College Males and Females. Poster presentation at the 45th Annual New England Psychological Association Conference, New Haven, CT.

    Trimbach, C., Burke, A., Lavoie, L., Sullivan, S., & Toto, L. (2005, March). Family Structural Influences on Long-term and Short-term Mating Preferences. Poster presentation at 76th Annual Eastern Psychological Association Conference, Boston, MA.

    Trimbach, C., Burke, A., Lavoie, L., & Toto, L. (2005, May). Older Brothers’ Influence on Preferred Characteristics in Short-term Partner Selection. Poster presentation at 17th Annual American Psychological Society Conference, Los Angeles, CA.

    Publications

    Coyne, L.W., Burke, A.M., & Freeman, J. (In Press). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment: Innovative Uses with Children. In M. Hersen & A. Gross (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Psychology. New York: John Wiley.

  • Kerry Silvia

    I am currently a third year graduate student at Suffolk.  I grew up on Long Island and came up to New England to attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.  During high school and college, I worked as a camp counselor for three- to six-year-olds at a summer camp on Long Island.  I was amazed by both the difficult situations that some of the kids there had already faced at such a young age and by their resiliency.  My experiences there led me to gradually change my career goals from medicine to psychology.  My hope is that I will be able to learn how to help kids have the best childhood that they can, in spite of whatever obstacles they may face. 

    After graduating from Holy Cross, I moved to Boston and worked as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital.  I am currently living in Plymouth, MA with my husband, Justin.  My favorite activities are going to the beach, running, and skiing.

    Abstract of Current Research

    Recent work has linked experiential avoidance with parents’ negative emotional experiences and ineffective parenting.  Specifically, parental experiential avoidance has been linked with poor monitoring, low parental involvement and inconsistent discipline among parents of adolescents (Berlin et al., 2006) and with stress and adjustment difficulties in mothers of preterm infants (Greco et al., 2005).  In addition, more mindful mothers were found to be more sensitive towards their young children (Coyne et al., 2006).  Moreover, preliminary data have shown that mindfulness techniques reduced parent distress and depression (Blackledge & Hayes, 2006) and reduced child behavior problems (Singh et al., 2006) in parents of autistic children.

    Taken together, these findings suggest that experiential avoidance plays a role in parenting difficulties, and as such, mindfulness-based approaches may be potentially useful augmenting behavioral parent training interventions.  The goals of our study were: (1) to investigate whether experiential avoidance is related to behaviorally observed parenting behaviors during a parent-child interaction task, (2) to explore the relationship between parental risk status and experiential avoidance and (3) to compare parenting behaviors of mothers who have participated in a brief mindfulness exercise to those in an attentional control condition. 

    Participants included 30 mothers and their children aged 3 to 6 recruited from Head Start centers or other early childhood educational programs serving urban families as part of a larger ongoing study.  Mothers completed self-report questionnaires assessing depression, anxiety, experiential avoidance, parenting stress, and child behavior problems. Demographic characteristics such as socioeconomic and marital status were also obtained.  Mothers were randomly assigned to watch videotapes of either a brief mindfulness exercise or an attentional control.  Each mother-child pair then participated in a 20 minute videotaped parent-child interaction task (Eyberg & Matarazzo, 1980) adapted to be increasingly frustrating.  Videotapes were coded by graduate- and undergraduate-level raters blind to the experimental condition, and adequate interrater reliability was obtained on all codes.

    We expected that mothers who had higher levels of risk would also have higher levels of experiential avoidance.  We also predicted that there would be a positive relationship between mothers’ experiential avoidance and ineffective parenting strategies.  Finally, we predicted that mothers in the mindfulness group will respond to their children more appropriately during the parent-child interaction task than those in the attentional control group.   

    Presentations and Publications

    Silvia, K.A., Ozanne, E.M., & Sepucha, K.R. (in press). Implementing breast cancer decision aids in  community sites: barriers and resources. Health Expectations.

    Strand P., Coyne L. W., & Silvia K. (in press). Behavioral conceptualization. In M. Hersen & D. Reitman (Eds.) Handbook of Assessment, Conceptualization & Treatment, Vol. II, Children and Adolescents. New York: Wiley & Sons.

    Silvia, K.A., Coyne, L.W., Conti, K., Sommerville, S., (November 2007) “Mindfulness in parenting: preliminary data from an experimental study,” Poster accepted for presentation at the 2007 Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Philadelphia, PA. 

    Silvia, K.A., Conti, K., Sommerville, S., Coyne, L.W., (November 2007) “The role of experiential avoidance in perceived parenting stress & child externalizing behavior problems: a preliminary study,” Poster accepted for presentation at the 2007 Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Philadelphia, PA. 

    Silvia, K.A., Coyne, L.W., Conti, K., (March 2007) “Does mindfulness influence parenting  behaviors? Preliminary data from an experimental study,” Suffolk University Academic  Conference, Boston, MA.

    Sepucha, K., Ozanne, E., Silvia, K., Partridge, A., & Mulley, A.G. Jr. (2007).  An approach to  measuring the quality of breast cancer decisions.  Patient Education and Education, 65,  261-269. 

    Silvia, K.A. & Sepucha, K.R. (2006). Decision aids in routine practice: lessons from the Breast  Cancer Initiative.  Health Expectations, 9, 255-264.

    Sepucha, K.R., Ozanne, E.M., Hughes, K.S., Farrelly, K.A., Partridge, A.H., Mulley, A.G.,
    (October 2005) “New instruments to measure decision quality for breast cancer,” 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making, San Francisco, CA.

    Farrelly, K.A., Hughes, K.S., Mulley, A.G., Partridge, A.H., Sepucha, K.R., (June 2005)
    “Shared decision making and posttraumatic growth in early-stage breast cancer survivors,” Presented at the 3rd International Shared Decision Making Conference, Ottawa, Canada.

    Sepucha, K.R., Farrelly, K.A., Hughes, K.S., Partridge, A.H., Mulley, A.G., (June 2005)  “Measuring decision quality:  lessons from pilot testing,” 3rd International Shared  Decision Making Conference, Ottawa, Canada.

  • Sarah Shea

    I am a second year graduate student at Suffolk. I grew up in San Francisco, California, and attended Tufts University before coming to Suffolk. I was a Developmental Psychology major at Tufts, and researched emotion cognition and person perception in young children and infants. At Suffolk, I study the effects of experiential avoidance and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies on parenting practices and mother-child psychological adjustment.

    Abstract of Current Research

    The Role of Experiential Avoidance in Perceived Parenting Stress, Maternal Psychological Adjustment, and Child Behaviors

    Research has shown that parents who experience high levels of life stress – such as financial hardship, divorce or single parenthood, young maternal age, or mental illness – are at greater risk for developing ineffective parenting repertoires. Stressed parents may rely on harsh and overactive discipline strategies, which have been linked to a number of negative outcomes for children. Further troubling, perceptions of extreme or chronic stress, powerlessness, and inadequacy as a parent are often reported in instances of child maltreatment. Although a number of empirically based behavioral parent training programs have been developed, gains of such programs tend to be attenuated in families with multiple risk factors, suggesting that those most in need of treatment are the least likely to benefit from it.

    Thus, this study explores the potential role of mothers’ psychological experience of parenting in explaining maladaptive parenting behaviors. We examine whether experiential avoidance or deliberate attempts to manage negative internal experiences through suppression or avoidance, influences parenting stress, parenting strategies, and child behaviors.  We expect that mothers who rely on experiential avoidance to regulate their emotions are more likely to experience parenting as highly stressful, and are more likely to use of maladaptive parenting strategies.  Mothers of young children (aged 2-6) are recruited from Head Starts and similar early childhood education programs in Boston and are asked to complete a number of questionnaires that assess maternal psychological functioning, experiential avoidance, emotion regulation strategies, self-reported parenting style, and child emotional and behavioral functioning.