Patrick Davies, professor of psychology, has been awarded a James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowship for 2011-2012. Given each year to a handful of psychology researchers, the national award will provide Davies with extended sabbatical leave for research on how children respond to conflict in families from early childhood through adolescence.
The Cattell fellowship will be announced at the Association for Psychological Science annual conference May 26 to 29, in Washington, D.C.
Psychologists theorize that children from violent or conflict filled families develop very specific behaviors for coping with frightening home environments. Researchers assume that these reactions are a double-edged sword: they confer distinct developmental advantages for children but also lead to developmental problems.
To test these assumptions, Davies will examine video recordings of 235 children and their parents over nine years. Using taped discussion of problematic family disagreements involving mothers, fathers, and children from an existing longitudinal study, Davies will carefully observe and document child defense strategies for handling high-conflict environments. He will also trace how such behaviors persist or change as the children mature.
The goal, says Davies, is to better understand the precursors of these defense strategies and how they each have distinct implications for children's profiles of psychological and physical health.
Davies is the principal investigator on several large federally funded grants and is the author or coauthor on more than 80 research papers and literature reviews. He studies marital conflict, family discord, and child psychosocial maladjustment and competence.
The James McKeen Cattell Fund, located at Duke University, has provided support for the science and the application of psychology for more than 50 years.