Dynamical Systems Tools: Modeling Multi-Level Processes in Parent-Child Relations

This investigation is designed to utilize insights gained from interdisciplinary collaboration to develop and integrate two complementary methodological tools aimed at assessing and modeling multiple levels of individual functioning within a dynamical systems framework. Through integrating unique contributions from the diverse disciplines of Engineering, Developmental Psychopathology, and Quantitative Psychology in service of a shared vision of furthering assessment and analysis capabilities and methodologies. It is our intent that the tools arising from this interdisciplinary partnership will further understanding of dynamic, coupled processes occurring at multiple levels of functioning in parents and children and associated implications for physical and mental health outcomes.

The specific aims of the research are: 1) to develop protocols, algorithms and sensors for unobtrusive mote-based wireless sensing systems that will reduce energy usage and memory requirements by capturing only relevant data during real-time, co-occurring physiological and behavioral processes among mothers and children during live interactions in a stress-inducing paradigm; 2) to utilize these data to develop and refine new dynamical systems methods utilizing latent differential equations for modeling; and 3) to examine the influence of socioeconomic status and child maltreatment on variation in dynamic co-regulating physiological and behavioral processes, in order to advance understanding of the implications of differences in regulation of these processes for physical and mental health.

To achieve these aims, the research team utilizes observational paradigms of mother-child interaction from families who differ in levels of stress in order to develop a mote-based wireless sensing system for extracting behavioral and physiological data. The data obtained from these assessments will then be used to develop the dynamic modeling techniques. Finally, the team will collaborate on building an integrated assessment and modeling tool for dissemination for future research endeavors. The tools developed here will have many applications for assessing physiological and behavioral processes across the age span and in other ecological contexts. The modeling of processes between mothers and children will yield new insights into developmental, physical and mental health outcomes.

Wendi Heinzelman, Zeljko Ignjatovic, Joseph Rausch, Fred Rogosch,
Melissa Sturge-Apple

Funded by
National Institute of Nursing Research

Banner Photo Credits: Left & Right Photo © 2005 Anissa Thompson - http://webdesign.anissat.com/photos.php, Center Photo by Rodrigo Gutierrez