Dr. Scaramella's research focuses on social, genetic, and biological mechanisms affecting the parenting quality and the emergence of behavior problems during early childhood. Her works seeks to uncover how social contextual stressors, like economic disadvantage and neighborhood danger, and children’s temperamental characteristics affect parenting quality and children’s behavioral and social adjustment. Towards this end, Dr. Scaramella is actively engaged in several longitudinal research studies.
First, Dr. Scaramella has begun a pilot study designed at investigating the causes of parenting sensitivity during the early infancy period (birth through 6 months of age). This work is designed to evaluate the extent to which the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) mediates the direct association between depressive symptoms and social contextual stressors on change in sensitive caregiving during early infancy.
Second, the Mothers and Preschoolers Study (MAPS) is a federally funded study that involving 167 mothers, their Head Start enrolled child, and a two-year-old target child. Families were interviewed annually at or around target children’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthdays. Families completed a number of activities which were videotaped and later coded by trained coders. The goal of this study is to consider how the quality of target children’s relationships with their mothers and siblings influences their transition into Head Start.
Third, the Family Transitions Project is a longitudinal sample of 550 families that have been followed annually for over 20 years. Recently, funds were awarded by NICHD to collect DNA samples from the entire cohort of over 2400 participants. These 2400 participants make up 550 target families which include the first generation biological parents (mothers and fathers), the target and sibling offspring (originally recruited in adolescence), the targets’ romantic partners and their first born child. As an investigator on this study, Dr. Scaramella examines how experiences within the family of origin (during the target participants’ adolescence) on the intergenerational transmission of parenting and child problem behaviors. That is, this work examines conditions under which intergenerational parenting continuities emerge as well as how experiences within the family of origin influences the next generation of children’s risk for developing problem behaviors.
More recently, Dr. Scaramella has begun working with the Healthy Gulf Coast/Healthy Communities consortia. This group of researchers from across the gulf coast seeks to uncover the impact of the DeepWater Horizon Oil Spill on the lives of families, fisheries, and communities. Dr. Scaramella’s involvement includes developing a study designed to evaluate the impact of the economic hardship on the quality of family relationships and preschool aged children’s social adjustment.