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 an Associate 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

Sonja 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.
Anna Vannucci is a research associate in the Children’s Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She received her M.S. in Medical and Clinical Psychology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Anna’s research interests involve understanding how interactions among biology, behavior, and the environment influence the development of disordered eating and related psychiatric and medical comorbidities across childhood and adolescence. She is also interested in evaluating novel interventions that seek to reduce negative affect, disinhibited eating behaviors, and excessive weight gain. Anna has published empirical papers and chapters in the area of pediatric eating and weight disorders. She has received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Academy of Eating Disorders to support her research and been awarded several travel fellowships to present her research at scientific conferences.
Emily Simpson is a doctoral student in the Human Development and Family Studies program at the University of Connecticut. She graduated with her M.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University in 2014 and with her B.A. in Psychology from Sewanee: the University of the South in 2011. Her research interests are in adolescent risk and resilience within the context of the family, especially as it relates to emotion regulation. She is currently employed as a research assistant collaborating on the Adolescent Adjustment Project and other behavioral health research endeavors.

 

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

Featured Research:

 

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