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

Center for Behavioral Health

Connecticut Children’s Center for Behavioral Health (CBH) focuses on developmental and clinical psychology research, especially as it relates to child and adolescent health and pediatric care. The research conducted by CBH is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and emphasizes the psychological and physical health of children, adolescents, and their families. Research conducted by CBH 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 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

Jessica W. Guite, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University and completed her psychology internship and postdoctoral fellowship training through the Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium. Dr. Guite’s clinical research expertise is focused on psychosocial factors associated with chronic pediatric pain and disabling somatic symptoms, parent and family coping, treatment development, and mechanisms of change within the context of transdisciplinary treatment. Her research program is located within the Center for Behavioral Health and she maintains local affiliations with Divisions of Pain Medicine, Rheumatology, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Center for Motion Analysis at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the UConn Center for Advancement in Managing Pain (CAMP), UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), and the Department of Psychology at Hartford Hospital/The Institute of Living. Dr. Guite has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, chapters, and abstracts, with research support provided through multiple sources including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her most recent funded research projects focus on the development of interventions for youth with chronic pain / symptoms and their parents and examines processes to support effective self-management of these challenging problems.

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 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 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.
Courtney Lincoln holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Worcester State College and a Master of Arts degree in Human Development and Family studies from University of Connecticut. She currently is pursuing her doctoral degree in Human Development and Family Studies at UConn, where her research focuses on self-regulation across the lifespan. Courtney has many years of experience as a research assistant studying pain management, self-regulation, impulsivity, and addiction in adolescence. She currently is a research assistant in the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
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.
Ashley Trinh graduated with a B.S. in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut and is currently working as a research volunteer at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center exploring her research interests in adolescence and mental health. Ashley is also a 2nd year medical student at Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter School of Medicine.
Ainsley Backman graduated from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in 2017 and is currently a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Public Health degree from George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She earned her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College in Cultural and Medical Anthropology. She works as a research volunteer for the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and will be applying for a residency position in General Psychiatry. She intends on pursuing a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Ainsley’s research interests focus on developmental psychopathology and social development in childhood and adolescence.
Kelly Nedorostek graduated with a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and is currently studying at UConn School of Medicine. She works as a research volunteer for the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and is interested in studying pediatric and adolescent populations. Kelly will be doing research on the Adolescent Adjustment Project with a focus on depression and social media use in emerging adults.

 

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

FIT Teens

The NIH-funded Fit Teens project is a multi-site randomized clinical trial for juvenile fibromyalgia (NIAMS U01 AR070474; PI: Kashikar-Zuck). The Connecticut Children’s site, directed by Dr. Jessica Guite, serves as one of seven sites participating in this innovative 5 year project (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is the primary site).

The project examines which of three, 8-week group treatments is most helpful for managing symptoms and improving function in adolescents with juvenile fibromyalgia (JFM), including:

  1. Fibromyalgia Integrative Training (FIT), which combines coping skills training with specialized neuromuscular exercises designed to improve walking form, balance and strength
  2. Coping skills training (also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT)
  3. Graded low-impact aerobic exercises (GAE) to improve fitness, with progress tracked over a 12 month follow-up period

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Guite, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Parents as Coping Coaches (PaCC)

Parents as Coping Coaches (PaCC), directed by Drs. Jessica Guite and Beth Russell, is funded by UConn InCHIP and CCMC. The goal of PaCC is to develop a brief parent-focused group intervention to improve parenting distress tolerance and functional outcomes for adolescents with chronic pain syndromes.

PaCC has provided a foundation from which to further expand the intervention to include both parents and adolescents to strengthen intervention outcomes for both.

Principal Investigators:

  • Jessica Guite, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Pediatrics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
  • Beth Russell, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut

 

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