Chad  Shenk 

photo of Chad Shenk

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

310 BBH Building
Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


Research Interests

My research examines the longitudinal pathways from child maltreatment to the onset of psychological disorders in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. This work uses both experimental and observational research to identify the mechanisms of various psychological disorders in the child maltreatment population across multiple levels of analysis (e.g. psychological, biological, familial). A central translational goal of this research then is to develop targeted prevention programs and optimize existing clinical interventions by targeting putative risk and protective mechanisms more directly and effectively. Thus, prevention, clinical trials and dissemination research are key future directions. Current projects include:

The Life Events and Reactions Study (LEARS; Shenk, PI). LEARS is a genetic case control association study examining the structural and gene expression variations associated with the onset of various psychological disorders in the child maltreatment population. Children between the ages of 8 and 15 years of age who have experienced substantiated child maltreatment are being recruited for this study. Participants provide genetic samples and complete a comprehensive psychiatric interview determining the presence and course of various disorders. Results from this study will provide additional insight into the genetic contributions of psychological disorders in the child maltreatment population so that interventions targeting these processes can be developed or applied more effectively. This multi-site project is funded by a KL2 award from Penn State’s Clinical and Translational Research Institute. The research team involves co-investigators from Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The Female Growth and Development Study
(FGDS; Shenk, Co-I). FGDS is a 30-year prospective cohort study of the effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on subsequent female health outcomes. Research from this study has provided some of the most definitive results to date on the adverse developmental effects following CSA, including neuroendocrine disruption, premature cognitive aging, sexual risk behaviors, and pubertal timing. Recent funding (Co-PI’s: Noll & Trickett) will extend this study into middle adulthood where the effects of CSA on some of the leading health risks of this developmental period, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity, will be examined. FGDS will also examine the changes in suspected biobehavioral mechanisms across development that may increase the risk for these adverse outcomes in this population. Such efforts will inform multiple types of clinical intervention as well as identify the optimal point in development to deliver such interventions.


1996--B.A., Psychology, Penn State University
2007--Pre-Doctoral Clinical Internship, University of Rochester Medical Center
2007--Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno
2010--Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Child Maltreatment, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Professional Experience

  • 2013- Present: Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2010-2013: Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology, Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Joint)

Selected Publications

Shenk, C.E., Putnam, F.W, Rausch, J.R., Peugh, J.L. & Noll, J.G. (accepted). A longitudinal study of several potential mediators of the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms. Development and Psychopathology.

Shenk, C.E. & Fruzzetti, A.E. (in press). Parental validating and invalidating responses and adolescent psychological functioning: An observational study. The Family Journal.

Noll, J.G. & Shenk, C.E. (2013). Teenage birthrates in sexually abused and neglected females. Pediatrics, 131, e1181-e1187. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3072.

Shenk, C.E., Dorn, L.D., Kolko, D.J., Susman, E.J., Noll, J.G. & Bukstein, O.G. (2012). Predicting response to treatment for oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder using pre-treatment adrenal and gonadal hormones. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 973-981. doi: 10.1007/s10826-011-9557-x.

Shenk, C.E., Putnam, F.W. & Noll, J.G. (2012). Experiential avoidance and the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms: Preliminary evidence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36, 118-126. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.09.012.

Shenk, C.E. & Fruzzetti, A.E. (2011). The impact of validating and invalidating responses on emotional reactivity. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(2), 163-183. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2011.30.2.163.

Dorn, L.D., Kolko, D.J., Shenk, C.E., Susman, E.J., & Bukstein, O.G. (2011). Influence of treatment for disruptive behavior disorders on adrenal and gonadal hormones in youth. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 40(4), 562-571. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2011.581614.

Shenk, C.E., Noll, J.G., Trickett, P.K., & Putnam, F.W. (2010). A prospective examination of the role of childhood sexual abuse and physiological asymmetry in the development of psychopathology. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(10), 752-761. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.02.010.

De Bellis, M., Woolley, D., Hooper, S., & Shenk, C.E. (2010). Demographic, maltreatment, and neurobiological correlates of PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 35(5), 570-577. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsp116.

Shenk, C.E., Noll, J.G., & Cassarly, J.A. (2010). A multiple mediational test of the relationship between childhood maltreatment and non-suicidal self-injury. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(4), 335-342. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9456-2.

Center Affiliations

  • Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Domains of Health and Behavior