Project STEP

Successful Transitions in Ethological Perspectives

Project STEP focuses on how young children are affected by their parents' relationship with one another. Through following a group of 250 families with pre-school age children over a three year period, the project hopes to better understand how interparental relationship quality is linked to children's mental health and the way the body physically reacts to stress. Using a system of observational coding, clinical interviews, and self-reports, along with cutting-edge advances like eye-tracking procedures and hormone analysis, the Project STEP team plans to:

  • Explore how parents handle disagreements among themselves, how they interact with the child as a couple, and how the parents relate to their son or daughter alone
  • Identify specific and distinct patterns of response reactions and coping behaviors shown by four-year-old children and how these behaviors tend to develop
  • Understand how both the parents and child biologically respond to the stress caused during arguments

Marital conflict of all levels is common in families and there are many ways that young children may choose to respond. From acting out with intense anger to displaying empathy for the situation, learning more about how children learn to cope with conflict is of key interest in our research.

U of R Press Release

Project STEP

Official Title: An Ethological Analysis of Children's Emotional Security

Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Amount Funded:

$3,109,653 for period of 2010-2015

Principal Investigators:

Patrick Davies, Ph.D.
Melissa Sturge-Apple, Ph.D.