Douglas M. Teti

 Douglas Teti

Department Head, Human Development and Family Studies, and Professor of HDFS, Psychology, and Pediatrics

Contact Information

314 Health & Human Development East
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802



NIMH Post-Doctoral Fellow, 1984 - 1986, Developmental Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
B.S., 1976, Psychology, St. Joseph's College, Philadelphia, PA
M.S., 1980, General Experimental Psychology, Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Ph.D., 1984, General Psychology (Developmental Psychology), University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Research Interests

I am a developmental psychologist and my research is focused on infant and early child development. I have had a long-standing interest in socio-emotional development in early childhood (e.g., quality of attachment to parents), parenting competence and parenting at risk, how parenting is affected by parental mental health and contextual factors, and how parenting affects infant and child functioning. All of my current projects examine the joint, interactive effects of biological/medical and environmental/parenting factors on child development and parenting during the early years of life. All of them are interdisciplinary and involve graduate students, and my students draw from the project they work on in developing their own areas of expertise. It is important to me that students working with me develop into productive scholars in their own fields of expertise, and thus my students are actively involved in all phases of research, from data collection and coding and data analysis, to being co-authors and lead authors on presentations and peer-reviewed papers.

I am principal investigator of several active projects at present:


Project SIESTA (Study of Infants’ Emergent Sleep Trajectories) draws from previous research demonstrating linkages between sleep disruption in childhood and developmental delays in cognitive development and behavior problems in children. Although these linkages are well-established for children in the preschool years and beyond, very few studies have examined these links in infancy, nor are the reasons for these relations well-understood. Project SIESTA is a longitudinal study of (1) linkages between infant sleep quality during the first two years and infant cognitive (e.g., information processing) and socioemotional development (e.g., quality of infant-parent attachments, infant behavior problems and behavioral competencies); (2) how parenting of infants at bedtime and night time (from video-recordings), beginning as early as 1 month of age, affects the development of infant sleep quality over time; and (3) the role of parental adaptation to infant sleep patterns in predicting infant developmental outcomes and infant stress reactivity (diurnal cortisol activity). In addition to the variety of infant socio-emotional and cognitive outcomes assessed in this study, we will be looking at parental emotional availability of parents (both mothers and fathers) at bedtime and night time with their infants, and how parental behavior at bedtime and night time predicts infant functioning during the day. Project SIESTA is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Project SIESTA has several co-investigators from Penn State’s departments of HDFS (Cindy Stifter, Mike Rovine) and Psychology (Pamela Cole), Hershey Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics (Ian Paul), and one investigator from the University of California, David (Thomas Anders).

2) Project Touch

Project Touch is based on prior research demonstrating the benefits of infant massage on the development of premature infants. Project Touch is particularly concerned with identifying underlying mechanisms for these effects, in particular infant stress reactivity, and we are testing whether a program of cue-directed tactile stimulation (CDTS) reduces the stress reactivity of premature infants in response to routine handling. This study is taking place in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Hershey Medical Center and is recruiting very premature infants and their mothers as participants. Infants are randomly assigned to an intervention (CDTS) or control group at recruitment. Infants receiving the intervention get massaged by trained NICU nurses three times a day. In addition, because of a small but growing literature indicating that parents who massage their infants also benefit from doing so, mothers in the intervention group get massage training as well and are encouraged to massage their infants whenever they come to visit them in the NICU. Indeed, this literature shows that mothers who massage their infants show reductions in depression and anxiety, and they also appear to learn about their infants’ ways of communicating. Stress reactivity in infants and mothers in Project Touch is being measured from salivary cortisol. In addition, we are assessing intervention effects on mothers’ perceptions of their infants’ temperaments and of themselves as mothers, on infant heart rates and vagal tone, and on infant weight, head circumference, and weight. We hope to expand this project to follow infants and mothers at home after infant discharge, to look at intervention effects on parenting, and on the infant’s developing immune system. In addition to myself, Project Touch brings together an interdisciplinary team that includes Kimberly Haidet (from Nursing and Pediatrics), Charles Palmer (Division of Newborn Medicine, Hershey Medical School), and Robert Bonneau (from Hershey’s Dept. of Immunology).

3) Minds of Mothers Study

A third project, the Minds of Mothers Study (MOMS), is an ongoing study of emotion regulation in mothers of 5-to-8 month old infants. The MOMS makes use of electroencephalographic (EEG) and event related potential (ERP) recordings from mothers in response to pre-recorded emotional events created by their own infants, and is examining patterns of EEG and ERP responding which we believe index patterns of emotion regulation in mothers in the context of parenting. We believe such patterns will inform us about how well, or poorly, mothers emotionally regulate during parenting events, and can be used to identify parents “at risk” better than more traditional, paper-and-pencil measures or “social address” measures (e.g., social class). We are relating these patterns of EEG/ERP regulation to independent assessments of mothering in the home, and to a host of other measure of maternal mental health, co-parenting, and maternal knowledge and expectations about infant development. Thus, the MOMS employs the tools of affective neuroscience to understanding parenting at risk from a process, rather than static perspective. The MOMS brings together a variety of researchers of varying backgrounds, including Mark Feinberg (Penn State’s Prevention Research Center), Pamela Cole, Sandra Azar, and William Ray (Dept. of Psychology), Joseph Stitt (Materials Research Institute), and Peter Molenaar (HDFS).

I am also affiliated with two interdisciplinary research initiatives sponsored by Penn State’s Child Study Center. I am Lead Faculty of the Parenting at Risk research initiative, which brings together a working group of faculty across Penn State interested in factors that influence parenting competence and parenting at risk in relation to child development up to and including adolescence. I am also a participating member of the Early Pathways to Competence research initiative, which brings faculty together interested in any and all aspects of child development and what influences it. Graduate students are frequently invited to these bi-weekly meetings, and to the series of colloquia and presentations sponsored by these initiatives and the Child Study Center.

Professional Experience

Fall, 2005 - present, Professor-in-Charge, Ph.D. program, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

2003 - present, Professor of Human Development, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

2001 - 2003, Director, Applied Developmental Psychology Ph.D. program, Dept. of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1998 - 2003, Professor of Psychology, Dept. of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1992 - 1998, Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1986-1992, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1993 - 1996, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Utah, Department of Psychology

1987 - 1993, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Utah, Department of Psychology


Socioemotional development in infancy and early childhood, parenting, and intervention strategies designed to promote early development and parent-child relations.  

Selected Publications

Candelaria, M., Teti, D. M.& Black, M. (in press). Infants in double jeopardy: Predicting attachment from socio demographic, psychosocial, and health risk among African American preterm infants. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Killeen, L. A., & Teti, D. M. (in press). Prefrontal cortical asymmetry in mothers to infant emotional states predicts maternal emotional availability with their 6-month-old infants. Development & Psychopathology.

Countermine, M.S., & Teti, D.M. (2010). Parental adaptation and sleep arrangements in infancy. Infant Mental Health Journal, 31(6), 647-663.

Teti, D.M., Mayer, G.E., Kim, B-R., & Countermine, M. (2010). Maternal emotional availability at bedtime predicts infant sleep quality. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 307-315.

Teti, D.M., Black, M., Viscardi, R., Glass, P., O’Connell, M.A., Baker, L., Cusson, R., Hess, C.R. (2009). Intervention with African American, Premature Infants: Four-Month Results of an Early Intervention Program. Journal of Early Intervention, 31(2), 146-166.

Teti, D. M., Killeen, L. A., Candelaria, M., Miller, W., Hess, C. R., & O'Connell, M. (2008). Adult attachment, parental commitment to early intervention, and developmental outcomes in an African American sample. In H. Steele & M. Steele (Eds.), Clinical applications of the Adult Attachment Interview (pp. 126-153). New York, NY: Guilford.

Teti, D. M., & Towe-Goodman, N. (2008). Post-partum depression, effects on child. In M. Haith & J. Benson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of infant & early child development. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Towe-Goodman, N., & Teti, D.M. (2008). Power assertive discipline, maternal emotional involvement, and child adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 648-651.

Candelaria, M. A., O'Connell, M. A., & Teti, D. M. (2006). Cumulative psychosocial and medical risk as predictors of early infant development and parenting stress in an African American preterm sample. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,27, 588-597.

Teti, D. M., & Huang, K.Y. (2005). Developmental perspectives on parenting competence. In D. M Teti (Ed.), Handbook of research methods in developmental science (pp. 161-182). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Contexts and Social Institutions