Research Week participants spotlight the developmental playground, disability and pioneer history

Two graduate students who are presenting during research week have a connection to the CPD's developmental playground. Both are mentored by CPD Faculty Fellow Keith Christensen.

Research has established that play is important for social development, and social development is important to children with disabilities. But does it matter where children play?

Rebecca Buckley, a graduate student  from the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department at Utah State University, is investigating the effects of a play environment on social development.  Her research included evaluating the CPD’s developmental playground.

Justin Wilson, another LAEPD graduate student, is investigating gardening, recreation and their effects on depression in people with disabilities. “Both outdoor recreation and gardening have been shown to reduce feelings of depression,” he wrote in an abstract describing his work. “However, the effects of these activities on the depression levels of individuals with disabilities have not yet been studied.” He studied them for his Master’s thesis and concluded that current and lifetime gardeners had lower overall depression than non-gardeners.

Though the research was connected to his thesis, Wilson said his work at the CPD impacted his work. His research assistantship involved designing the CPD’s developmental playground. Both Wilson and Buckley are mentored by Dr. Keith Christensen, a CPD faculty fellow and an assistant professor in the LAEPD department. 

Wilson and Buckley will present their work at the Intermountain Graduate Research Symposium later this week as part of the events at USU’s Research Week. The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, April 1 in the Taggart Student Center Colony Rooms and International  Lounge.

Jennifer Swift, a student in Family, Consumer and Human Devleopment, presents during the Undergraduate Student Showcase at USU.

Undergraduate student Jennifer Swift presented her disability and history research during a poster session on Undergraduate Research Day, March 29, in the Taggart Student Center. She combed through historical records of Utah pioneers, looking for references to disability, or the euphemisms used to describe it (words like “lame” or “fragile child.”) “In the coming months more research will go into finding out  the accommodations made for, and views others had on these pioneers,” she wrote in her abstract. Her mentor is CPD Director Bryce Fifield.

CPD by the numbers

The College of Education received $33.1 million in external funding in fiscal year 2010. Of that, the CPD generated roughly $13.7 million, or 41 percent of the total.

Research looks at dads, development and play

Photo of parents and a giggling toddler

PICCOLO, a tool that measures parent-child interactions, began in the Research and Evaluation Division of the CPD and literally moved on to the world. Now, the research tool is taking on a whole new frontier: Dads.

Dr. Lori Roggman, a professor in Utah State University’s Family Consumer and Human Development department and a CPD Faculty Fellow, led a research team on the original PICCOLO (Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations) project. From over 4,500 video clips of mothers with their young children, the team identified good things parents do to contribute to learning and healthy development. Eventually researchers developed a checklist to measure affection, responsiveness, encouragement and teaching.

Now thoroughly road-tested, that checklist has been used by numerous programs all over the United States and even internationally. (It has been distributed in response to 118 requests for permission to use it at last count, and researchers from five countries have sought permission to translate it.)  The uses for the tool vary, but they all have something in common: they seek to measure—and encourage—good parenting.

But the tool was primarily used to gauge a mother’s behavior. What about fathers, and that activity that dads do so well: play?

“The same parenting behaviors that we established in PICCOLO are important for dads as well,” Roggman said. But research shows that dads spend a higher percentage of their parent-child time playing than moms do. (Moms spend more of their parent-child time taking care of the child.) Roggman wanted to understand how those play behaviors correlated to a child’s development.

 Read more on the CPD website.

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