Connecticut Children’s Center for Behavioral Health is located at 12 Charter Oak Place in Hartford, Connecticut.

Center for Behavioral Health Research

Connecticut Children’s Center for Behavioral Health Research focuses on developmental and clinical psychology research, especially as it relates to child and adolescent health and pediatric care. The research is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and emphasizes the psychological and physical health of children, adolescents, and their families. Research conducted by the Center primarily takes place in settings such as Connecticut Children’s medical clinics, schools, and community organizations.

Dr. Christine McCauley Ohannessian is the Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She also is a Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry in the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Dr. Ohannessian graduated from the University of Massachusetts with an undergraduate degree in psychology and received both her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. In addition, Dr. Ohannessian completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry’s Alcohol Research Center at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Dr. Ohannessian’s research interests focus on the relationship between contexts such as the family and adolescent psychological health and development. She is especially interested in adolescent substance use, internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety and depression), and technology use. Dr. Ohannessian currently is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Early Adolescence and an Assistant Field Editor for the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. She also serves on the Editorial Boards for Developmental Psychology, Journal of Adolescence, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and Journal of Marriage and Family. Previously, she served on the faculty at the University of Delaware and the University of Texas at Austin. Download CV


Katie NewkirkDr. Katie Newkirk
is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2018 from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where she researched working parents’ mental health and relationships across the transition to parenthood, with attention to how employment factors and family processes during this life stage are related to parents’ mental health and children’s developmental outcomes. Her dissertation addressed how postpartum depression and comorbid anxiety are related to father involvement in childcare. Her research interests include parents’ mental health in the context of work and family life, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, family behavioral health integration with medical care, and trajectories of depression and anxiety at different points across the lifespan. Her current research focuses on parents’ work and adolescent mental health, and predictors of trajectories of depression and anxiety during adolescence and early adulthood. Katie is interested in longitudinal research methodology and statistics, including multilevel models, growth curve modeling, multilevel SEM, and conditional process analyses. She taught research methods to graduate students at the Smith School for Social work from 2013 – 2015, and worked as a statistical consultant for the Quality of Worklife Project at UMass and the University of Maryland College Park, and as a consultant and research assistant for the Psychotherapy Research Lab at UMass. She was awarded a Research Fellowship and Travel Award from the Center for Research on Families at UMass.
T. FagleTessa Fagle graduated with a B.A. in both Psychology and Human Development from the University of Connecticut. She currently works as a research assistant in the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, engaged in work involving both adolescent adjustment and pediatric chronic pain. Tessa’s research interests involve examining the influence of technology and social media on adolescent psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in studying the interaction of social influences, social media, and the development of anxiety disorders in adolescence.
Sonia GagnonSonja Gagnon graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Eastern Connecticut State University. She currently works as an administrative assistant for the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Her research interests include eating disorders, anxiety in adolescents, and mindfulness.
Cal SalafiaCali Salafia graduated with a B.A in Psychology from the University at Albany, SUNY and is currently pursuing a Masters in Health Psychology from Central Connecticut State University. She is a graduate student intern for the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Cali’s research interests include health promotion, disease prevention, and how biopsychosocial processes impact health and illness. Cali is also interested in how social media use relates to psychological well-being in adolescents.
Rachel Taylor is a graduate research assistant with the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She is currently pursuing her Masters at the University of Connecticut, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, and previously earned a B.S. in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University. Her research involves peer relationships and the development of character strengths. She is also strongly interested in quantitative methodology, specifically in meta-analysis and the analysis of longitudinal data.
Nicole WatkinsNicole Watkins is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Behavioral Health Research. She earned her M.S. in Learning and Developmental Sciences from Indiana University, her B.S. in Psychology from Wright State University, and is currently a doctoral student at Indiana University. Her research interests focus on adolescence, emerging adulthood, and family structure. A consistent theme in her research has been predictors of health and well-being of adolescents and emerging adults, specifically focusing on three related areas of study, including studies of: (a) differences in the associations between parental divorce and parental death on educational outcomes and risk behaviors, (b) timing of family transitions and associations with child and emerging adult health, and (c) romantic relationships during adolescence and emerging adulthood.

The Adolescent Adjustment Project (AAP)

The Adolescent Adjustment Project (AAP) is a longitudinal NIH-funded (grant # K01-AA015059) research project directed by Dr. Christine McCauley Ohannessian at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

The primary goal of the AAP is to uncover factors that protect young people from developing psychological and substance use problems. The project includes a diverse sample of over 1,347 adolescents and a subset of their parents. Adolescents completed surveys during each year in high school. In 2014, follow-up data were collected from AAP participants as they entered emerging adulthood, a risk period for psychological disorders and substance abuse.

The AAP data have been analyzed and reported in 27 research publications and have been summarized and presented at numerous national conferences. Many undergraduate, graduate, and medical students have been involved in the AAP.

For information on the AAP, please visit the project website at www.adolescentadjustmentproject.org.

Principal Investigator:

Christine McCauley Ohannessian, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Predictors of Anxiety and Depression during Adolescence (PANDA)

The Predictors of Anxiety and Depression during Adolescence project (PANDA) is a longitudinal research study directed by Dr. Christine Ohannessian and funded by the Alvord Foundation and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

The primary goal of the PANDA project is to examine individual vulnerability factors (cognitive, emotional, and behavioral) and contextual factors (family, peer, school, and technology) associated with gender differences in adolescent depressive and anxiety symptoms.

The PANDA project currently includes 1,344 CT and MA middle school students who were administered surveys in the Fall of 2016 and the Spring of 2017. Data collection is planned for the Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018 as well.

For additional information on PANDA, please visit www.pandaresearchproject.org.

Principal Investigator:

Christine McCauley Ohannessian, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Project Coordinator:

Anna Vannucci, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

The BALANCE Project

The NSF-funded BALANCE project includes 3 sites – the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the University of Maryland, and Georgia State University.

The BALANCE project consists of two components that collectively take a mixed-method, longitudinal approach toward examining relations between work-family conflict and family functioning and key domains of adolescent development.

The first component (conducted at Connecticut Children’s) is a longitudinal field study designed to examine the bidirectional links between work-family conflict (assessed using ecological momentary assessment [EMA]) and adolescent, parent, and family functioning.

The second component (conducted at the University of Maryland) is a laboratory study. It includes both families who evidence relatively high levels of work-family conflict and families who evidence relatively low levels of such conflict.

Following an experimental work-family conflict induction (i.e., families are randomly assigned to discuss among themselves either a recent work-family conflict situation or supportive situation), a series of performance-based tasks of family functioning and adolescent adjustment are administered to examine the impact of work-family conflict on these domains.

Principal Investigators:

  • Christine McCauley Ohannessian, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
  • Andres De Los Reyes, Psychology, University of Maryland
  • Songqi Liu, Business, Georgia State University

Risks in Emerging Adulthood Challenging Health (REACH)

The Risks in Emerging Adulthood Challenging Health (REACH) project is a Connecticut Children’s-funded research project directed by Dr. Christine McCauley Ohannessian at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

The primary goal of REACH is to find individual and contextual factors that may protect youth from developing problems during emerging adulthood, a critical period for substance use and psychological disorders.

The REACH sample is a national, diverse sample of 600 18-22 year-old emerging adults. Online survey data were collected from REACH participants in the fall of 2014.

Please visit www.reachresearchproject.org for additional information on the REACH project.

Principal Investigator:

Christine McCauley Ohannessian, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Aggressive Social Media in Youth Project

Given that homicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents, identifying the role of social media in violence is a critical public health issue, yet little work has examined the role of social media in online aggression among youth living in areas with high rates of violence.

This UConn InCHIP and Research Excellence Program-funded research project will fill a key gap through the development of a measure that captures the experience of aggressive stressful online behavior, based on data collected from focus groups, and piloted with a sample of adolescents from urban areas.

Specific aims of the project are to:

  1. Develop a measure that accurately reflects and assesses aggressive online interactions that youth identify as most likely to lead to offline violence
  2. Identify strategies youth use to de-escalate aggressive online interactions and therefore avoid violence
  3. Examine the psychometric properties of the preliminary measure

Conduct a preliminary assessment of the utility of the measure through identifying the prevalence and correlates of aggressive stressful online interactions.

Principal Investigators:

  • Caitlin Elsaesser, School of Social Work, University of Connecticut
  • Christine McCauley Ohannessian, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
  • Desmond Patton, School of Social Work, Columbia University

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