Prevention Research Center to study ways to reduce aggression in youth

March 28, 2008

University Park, Pa. - The Penn State Prevention Research Center has received a $3.9 million state grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to study interventions to build resilience and reduce aggression in young children.

The Penn State project continues long-term partnerships with The Harrisburg School District and Hempfield Behavioral Health.

The project will focus on gaining a better understanding of factors related to aggressive behavior and social-emotional competence in children when they first enter school. Researchers will develop and evaluate a multi-component prevention program targeted to help parents and teachers support healthy social and academic development in children who show early signs of aggression. Five areas of development and functioning will be enhanced: parenting in the home; peer relations; child coping and problem-solving skills; classroom atmosphere and curriculum; and home-school relations.

Researchers also will assess various neurobiological factors may be related to aggressive behavior and how they are modified by this preventive program. This information can be used to better assess and support children to improve school readiness and mental health.

The leaders of the Penn State project include Dr. Mark Greenberg, PRC Director; Dr. Karen Bierman, distinguished professor of psychology, College of the Liberal Arts; Drs. Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, assistant professor of human development, Clancy Blair and Emilie Smith, both associate professor of human development and family studies, College of Health and Human Development; and Dr. Tom Farmer, associate professor of special education, College of Education.

The grant is one of five recently awarded by the state with funds from Pennsylvania's share of the national tobacco settlement. The 2007 grant priorities were regenerative medicine and violence prevention. Each research grant is also required to address the reduction of health disparities among underserved segments of the population, and to include research training programs for minority students and faculty in order to diversity the applicant pool for high-level training positions. These grants are awarded as part of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program, which supports clinical, health services and biomedical research.

State Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson says, "This research involves collaborative 'Center of Excellence' efforts integrating research from several disciplines to address diseases and medical conditions, health disparities and health outcomes. These grants reaffirm Governor Rendell's commitment to using the tobacco settlement dollars to improve public health and increase the research infrastructure and capacity in Pennsylvania."

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.