Current Research Projects

Currently Funded Intervention Research Studies by Faculty Investigators

Parent Connectors (IES 4-Year, Goal 3 - Families of Children with Disabilities, PI Dr. Duppong Hurley R324A130180): The goal of this randomized clinical trial is to examine the effectiveness of Parent Connectors with middle schools in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Parent Connectors is a program that links parents of middle school youth with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for EBD with veteran parents of similar youth. The parents have weekly phone calls to provide emotional support and offer suggestions on strategies that may help the youth and their families successfully navigate the middle-school years by encouraging youth and families to engage in academics, improve school communication, and participate in community-based mental health supports. We anticipate that approximately 250 families will participate in this study, which includes a 1-year follow-up to see if gains are maintained. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) longitudinal data analyses of a randomized clinical trial; (b) qualitative analyses of quality of implementation of services; (c) dosage and implementation quality analyses related to improvement in student behavior, engagement in school, and academic performance; (d) sharing data results with district teachers and administrators; (e) and disseminating results via presentations and manuscripts.

On the Way Home (IES 4-Year, Goal 3 - Transition Outcomes for Secondary Students with Disabilities, PI Dr. Trout R324A120260): The purpose of this Goal 3 IES project is to evaluate the efficacy of a 3-pronged transition model (i.e., dropout-prevention, parent training, and homework support) to improve the educational and social/emotional outcomes of youth with EBD. We anticipate that approximately 220 families will participate in the 12-month intervention, with a 9 month follow-up evaluation. The study uses a randomized clinical trial design to assess program outcomes. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) collaborating with staff and community school partners on service implementation, (b) supervising and mentoring project staff, research assistants, and direct service providers, (c) identifying barriers and solutions to service implementation, (d) developing strategies to improve participant buy-in and ongoing participation, (e) data analysis and data reports, and (f) dissemination to practitioners and researchers.

Boys Town In-Home (Boys Town 5-Year Research Contract, PI Dr. Duppong Hurley): We are currently conducting a randomized clinical trial of the effectiveness of the Boys Town In-Home Family Services intervention for the families of youth with emotional or behavioral issues. The goal of this intervention is to provide weekly services for about 4 months in the family’s home to address stressful situations such as the child’s behavior problems or family conflict. The in-home family services focus on assisting parents to meet their own goals by teaching families strategies regarding parenting, conflict resolution, and accessing resources and supports within their community. We anticipate approximately 320 families will participate in this study, which includes both a six month and 1-year follow-up. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) longitudinal data analyses of a randomized clinical trial, (b) qualitative analyses of quality of implementation of services, (c) dosage and implementation quality analyses related to improvement in child and family outcomes, (d) sharing data results with practitioners and administrators, (e) collaborating with service agencies to use results to improve program services, and (f) disseminating results via presentations and manuscripts.

A Missing Link to a Better Tomorrow: Developing Health Literacy in Transition-Age Youth with High-Incidence Disabilities (IES 4 Year, Goal 2 - Transition Outcomes for Secondary Students with Disabilities, PI Dr. Trout). This Goal 2 Development study is for the modification, further development, and preliminary evaluation of a theoretically and empirically supported supplementary web-based Health Literacy Transition Curriculum designed to promote positive health, communicative, functional, and occupational transition outcomes in secondary students with EBD and learning disabilities (LD). Potential research opportunities for fellows include (a) participating in curriculum modification and development; (b) participant recruitment; focus groups and preliminary evaluation studies; (c) conference calls with experts in the fields of health education, health administration, and secondary special education transition; (d) and dissemination efforts to practitioners and researchers. 

Ongoing Secondary Data Analyses by Faculty Investigators

Community Mental Health Initiative National Dataset. Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program, which is also known as the Children's Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and provides funding to community organizations for the development and implementation mental health services for infants and youth up to age 21. Data for the national evaluation dataset include a battery of behavioral and family functioning assessments for over 12,000 youth and families from 77 communities across the U.S. Data were collected via structured interviews with parents and youth at intake, 6 months, 12, 18, and 24 months. To date, Drs. Lambert, Trout, and Duppong Hurley have published 3 manuscripts on this rich dataset, with two additional under review, and several others in progress. The basic goals of these secondary analyses are multifaceted: (a) to describe the functioning (and change over time) of students with school-identified disabilities who are receiving mental health services; (b) to evaluate the psychometrics of the assessment scores commonly used in children’s mental health and special education settings (e.g., Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale, Child Behavior Checklist, etc.); and (c) to explore typologies of youth receiving community mental health services using person-centered analyses (e.g., latent class analysis).

High School Longitudinal Survey 2009. This IES-funded longitudinal study includes a national sample of approximately 24,000 9th grade-students includes, student, parent, and school data from 9th and 11th grades as well as graduation with a post-graduation follow-up scheduled. This data set includes information on student grades, transcripts, participation in STEM coursework and activities, preparation for college, and parental involvement in school. The data also include variables that allow researchers to triangulate a sub-set of students at-risk for emotional and behavior needs, which can be used to compare to students in the general population. Drs. Duppong Hurley and Lambert are currently finishing a paper examining the components of parental involvement important for 9th graders at-risk of EBD issues and have submitted a Goal 1 application focused on utilizing this extensive IES data set. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) designing research questions and data analyses plans; (b) conducting longitudinal, SEM, and nested analyses; (c) comparing high school experiences and academic outcomes for at-risk students compared to those in the general population; and (d) disseminating findings through manuscripts and professional presentations.

Role of Childhood Cumulative Risk in Substance Misuse and Co-occurring Problems (NIH, 3-Year, R01, PI Dr. Mason). This project conducts secondary analyses of data on over 9,000 youth from the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort study to examine cumulative contextual risk in early development as a predictor of adolescent substance misuse and co-occurring outcomes, such as externalizing problems and academic difficulties. Guided by theory, social developmental moderators and mediators are being tested, with potential implications for preventive interventions designed to promote resilience among vulnerable youth. Research opportunities include formulating research questions, designing analysis plans, conducting data analyses, and disseminating findings through articles and presentations.

Boys Town Archival Data (ongoing data collection for youth throughout Boys Town sites and system of care, internal data collection supported by Boys Town). Since 1993 Boys Town has been collecting intake, discharge, and after-care follow-up data from youth with EBD issues they have served in their residential program and in-home family services. Data include self-report measures on child behavior, such as the Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scales (Conner, 2008) and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1999), as well as educational and functional outcomes such as returning to care, attendance in school, health, or if arrested. Also collected are data on youth treatment goals and progress, and youth and family demographics. These data are routinely collected as a part of the internal evaluation systems at Boys Town and can be accessed for analyses by authorized researchers. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) pre-post evaluations of Boys Town interventions with unique sub-groups of EBD youth; (b) formulating research questions and designing analysis plans; (c) collaborate with agency professionals to share findings; and (d) disseminate findings via manuscripts and presentations. To date, our research team has published 40 articles from this rich data set.

Implementation Quality and Mental Health Outcomes of Youth (NIMH 3-Year, R-34, PI Drs. Duppong Hurley, data collection completed, available for secondary data analyses): The purpose of this study was to develop and pilot test measures for assessing the implementation of a manualized treatment approach for youth in residential care with EBD diagnoses. The focus was to examine the role of quality of treatment implementation and therapeutic process factors (e.g., client motivation to change, therapeutic alliance) on youth with disruptive behavior disorders. This study used a hierarchical linear modeling approach to examine the influence of individual and nested predictors on youth mental health outcomes as well as longitudinal modeling to examine changes over time. Research opportunities for fellows include: (a) examining the psychometric properties of measures for evaluating intervention implementation and common therapeutic factor processes with EBD youth, (b), developing research questions and data analysis plans, (c) conducting advanced analyses such as growth modeling, SEM, and nested analyses; and (d) participating in dissemination activities.

Skills Training for Parents and Youth to Improve the Transition to High School (NIH, 5-Year, R01, PI Dr. Mason,  data collection completed, available for secondary data analyses): The purpose of this randomized clinical trial is to test the efficacy of a family-focused preventive intervention for improving the transition to high school among students who are at-risk for academic problems and dropout, comparing standard and modified versions of the program with each other as well as a no-intervention group. This study is being conducted in partnership with the Social Development Research Group (SDRG) at the University of Washington. The study uses a randomized clinical trial design to assess program outcomes. Research opportunities include conducting data analyses and disseminating findings through articles and presentations, as well as helping to design and implement follow-up studies.