Healthy Development in Early Childhood

This core focuses on optimizing children's development and well-being in families, early care and educational settings, and communities.

Core Leadership


Current project summaries from within the core

Developing a Measure of Self-Regulation for Children at Risk for School Difficulty
Megan McClelland, Ph.D.

Funding: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2015-2019

This four-year project will revise an existing measure of self-regulation (the HTKS) for use as a school readiness screening tool for children from at-risk backgrounds. The existing HTKS is a predictor of school achievement for diverse groups of children. However, English language learners (ELLs) and children from low-income background have not performed well on the measure. The research team will develop and validate a revised version of the measure to assess self-regulation skills of preschoolers who are at risk.

Red Light, Purple Light! Developing a Self-Regulation Intervention for Children at Risk for School Difficulty
Megan McClelland, Ph.D.

Funding: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2015-2019

The purpose of this project is to develop and evaluate the promise of a self-regulation intervention designed for use with children from low-income backgrounds with the goal of promoting the development of school readiness skills. Math and literacy content will be embedded into self-regulation based activities to explore the added benefit of academic content on the development of self-regulation skills.

Using Technology to Promote Executive Function in Young Children
Megan McClelland, Ph.D.

Funding: Bezos Family Foundation, 2015-2016

The research team will develop a mobile app to facilitate the delivery of games and activities that have been developed to help children practice how to stop, think and THEN act.  These previously developed games and activities have been shown to be effective in two randomized control trials and were designed to promote self-regulation skills in young children.

Evaluation of a Mind in the Making-based Intervention Targeting 4-year-old Children
Megan McClelland, Ph.D.

Funding: Families and Work Institute; W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2015-2016

The primary aim of this project is to assess the impact of a Mind in the Making (MITM)-based intervention that targets teachers, preschool-age children, and parents. The intervention is designed to promote the healthy development of children’s executive function skills. Participating teachers and parents will receive training in the Seven Essential Skills Modules from MITM and circle time games (Tominey & McClelland, 2011). 

Flame Retardants and Home Environment on Children's School Readiness
Megan McClelland, Ph.D., Megan MacDonald, Ph.D., Shannon Lipscomb, Ph.D., Molly Kile, Sc.D.    

The present study focuses on the effects of flame retardants on children's school readiness. Given concerns that chemical exposures early in life may translate into adverse neurological, motor, cognitive, and social development (e.g. school readiness competencies) we recruited nearly 100 children aged 3 to 5 years of age that will allow us to i) identify factors that contribute to children’s exposures to flame retardants by sampling household dust, ii) examine the effectiveness of a wristband worn by children to measure personal exposure to household chemicals, and iii) investigate relations between children’s exposure to flame retardants and school readiness competencies, including neurodevelopment and social development. By incorporating measures of a child’s early care and social environment, we will examine the effect of these factors in modifying the effect of chemical toxicity. 

Touch Your Toes! Kindergarten Readiness Study
Megan McClelland, Ph.D.     

Funding: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2010-2016           

The Touch Your Toes! Kindergarten Readiness Study is a 4-year, federally-funded study by the US Dept. of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, to adapt a self-regulation measure as a school readiness screening tool.  There are few school readiness measures that are easy to administer and which predict achievement outcomes. There is a particular need in Oregon and across the country to develop such a screening tool because increasing numbers of children are entering kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed. We have developed a short game called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task (HTKS), which is easy to administer and which predicts children’s early achievement in preschool and elementary school in the U.S. and other countries. The goal of this study is to develop the HTKS as a school readiness screening tool that can be easily used by teachers, practitioners, and researchers to identify children who would benefit from additional support in self-regulation and school readiness.  Over 500 preschool children, their parents, and their teachers will be involved in the study over four years.

A New Look at Out-of-Home Child Care for High-Risk Children:
Child Care Use, Quality, and Psychosocial Functioning among Children in Foster Care

Shannon T. Lipscomb, Ph.D.

Collaborators: Dr. Phillip Fischer (University of Oregon & Oregon Social Learning Center), Dr. Jackie Bruce (Oregon Social Learning Center), and the team from the Toddler Development Study.

Funding: General Research Fund, Oregon State University, 2011-2012

This study investigates the early child care experiences of young children in foster care to provide pilot data for a new line of inquiry on the impact of child care experiences on the development of children in foster care. Children involved in foster care tend to be exposed to high levels of risk early in life that present challenges to their development in various areas, including self-regulation and school readiness. Research conducted with children across the United States shows that high quality child care helps young children develop skills for self-regulation and school readiness, while low quality care inhibits development in these same areas. When looking at the nation as a whole, more than 90% of children attend out-of-home child care before they enter school, which points to the importance of child care as a context for young children’s development. Yet almost nothing is known about how child care is utilized by foster families, or about the quality of that care and its impact on the development of children in foster care. Some evidence from prior research suggests that the quality of child care that young children experience has the strongest effects on children from high risk backgrounds.

The current study builds from an existing study of early development among children in foster care: The Toddler Development Study (TDS). The current study adds measures of children’s experiences in early child care and education programs.

  • Objective #1: To document patterns of child care use (types, amounts) among families caring for young children in foster care.
  • Objective #2: To assess the quality of child care used by families caring for young children in foster care, and to compare the quality of that care to national standards for child care quality, and to average levels of child care quality in the families’ surrounding communities.
  • Objective #3: To quantify the associations among child care use (types, quantity), child care quality, and psychosocial functioning among young children in the foster care system.

Patterns of Child Care Subsity Use among Children Involved in Child Welfare Services
Shannon T. Lipscomb, Ph.D.

Collaborators: Dr. Katherine Masyn (Harvard University), Beth Meloy (Georgetown University), Kendra Lewis (Oregon State University); in partnership with the State of Oregon Department of Human Services.

Funding: This project is not funded

This study examines child care subsidy use and stability among children from families involved in child welfare services. Children involved in child welfare include those that are protected by Child Welfare in their biological homes and also those placed in out-of-home care, such as through foster care.  Children and families involved in the child welfare system typically experience a host of risk factors that pose challenges for child and family well-being. Child care subsidies that are designed to help low-income families purchase child care have the potential to impact the development of children and families involved in child welfare services because subsidies have effects on children’s child care experiences and on family income. This project aims to:

  • Identify predictors of child care subsidy use among families involved in child welfare.
  • Examine the stability in child care subsidy use.
  • Quantify the associations between transitions in home placements within the child welfare system and stability in child care subsidy use.

Evaluation Project LAUNCH of Deschutes County
Viktor Bovbjerg, Ph.D., Shannon T. Lipscomb, Ph.D., Denise Rennekamp, M.S.

Funding: Contract with the State of Oregon, with federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA).

In this project researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of Project LAUNCH of Deschutes County in meeting objectives. Project LAUNCH is a grant program of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which seeks to promote the wellness of young children birth to age eight. Using a public health approach, Project LAUNCH focuses on improving the systems that serve young children and address their physical, emotional, social, cognitive and behavioral growth. The goal: for all children to reach physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive milestones. Project LAUNCH aims to have all young children reach their developmental potential, enter school ready to learn, and experience success in the early grades.


News articles on core research

Healthy Development in Early Childhood Core

  • Keeping Kids Safe
    Preventing house fires is important, especially in families with children, but there is growing evidence that flame retardant materials used broadly in furniture, electronics, and even toys, may create a new health threat.
  • Learning in Preschool
    New research out of Oregon State University is challenging how strongly preschools should focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  • Tests for Kindergartners on Their First Days in School
    Students who start kindergarten equipped with certain skills and knowledge are far more likely to be strong readers in grade three and beyond. Key traits include basic counting skills, the ability to follow directions and take turns, and familiarity with letter sounds and simple words.
  • Simon Says Don't Use Flashcards
    Parents who want to stimulate their children’s brain development often focus on things like early reading, flashcards and language tapes. But a growing body of research suggests that playing certain kinds of childhood games may be the best way to increase a child’s ability to do well in school.
  • Simple self-regulation game predicts school readiness
    Early childhood development researchers have discovered that a simple, five-minute self-regulation game not only can predict end-of-year achievement in math, literacy and vocabulary, but also was associated with the equivalent of several months of additional learning in kindergarten.

Stories on core research and programs

  • Giving kids a head start
    OSU researcher Bobbie Weber says the quality of early childhood care can affect the trajectory of an entire life.