At-Risk Children

McFarlin Associate Professor of Psychology Elana Newman received more than $850,000 from the National Institute of Health to study at-risk children in a study titled “Infant Development Environment and Lifestyle” (IDEAL). The entire research project spans the United States — Iowa, Hawaii, California and more — and other parts of the world. Newman is responsible for the studies being conducted in Oklahoma.

Her team follows identified at-risk children from the time they are born until they turn seven-and-a-half-years old, as well as a comparison of sample children not identified as at risk at birth. In Oklahoma alone, 60 children are being assessed, with 400 children being evaluated across the entire research site. (Children were identified by early health indicators at birth and parental interview.)

The research team — made up of Newman, three graduate students, a full-time staff member and a part-time graduate student — studies the children to discover what factors affect child development and to what degree. The team studies all that influences the children including poverty, family conflict, the mother’s psychiatric status, out-of-home placements, abuse potential, violence in the home, substance abuse, growth and smoke in the environment.

“We’re really looking more at the parenting in the samples than anything else,” Newman said.

The families come in from every six months to a year for testing and re-evaluation at the Mary K. Chapman Center for Communicative Disorders.

“I love that we get to see the families over time, so we get to watch them develop and watch their parents develop as well,” Newman said. “It’s a different kind of study than any I’ve done before because we keep in constant contact with the subjects. We are part of their extended network.”