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Research Statement

My research has focused on understanding adolescent behaviors, including challenging problem behavior, impulsivity, and delinquency, within the context of residential treatment facilities. Specifically, my work emphasizes improving conditions of confinement for underserved and marginalized youth groups, including justice-involved adolescents and children in foster care. From a behavior-analytic perspective, and informed by cognitive, neuroscientific, and translational science perspectives, my goal is to advance understanding of the predictors of, and interventions for, these behaviors with the intention of developing prevention strategies and promoting evidence-based treatment for underserved populations.


With this goal in mind, I am constructing my dissertation to evaluate the effect of two interventions for delay discounting among justice-involved youth in a residential treatment facility. Prior research in this area has focused largely on interventions to improve delay sensitivity or magnitude sensitivity among individuals with substance use disorders, as measured by monetary choice questionnaires. By contrast, my dissertation examines the effects of two interventions to target these characteristics separately, with a novel population. To accomplish this, I will implement two group-based interventions across two age groups within the facility. Using advanced quantitative methods, I will evaluate data in a two-by-two design with model fitting analyses and mixed effects modeling. A request for funding for this dissertation project has been submitted to the National Institute of Justice Graduate Research Fellowship Program and is currently under review.


Research Experience

My research is informed by my experiences working with incarcerated and foster youth during my doctoral studies at the Auburn University, where I study under the direction of Dr. John T. Rapp. Through these experiences, I have been fortunate to gain skills and contribute to multidisciplinary clinical teams. In my role as a Graduate Research Assistant, I have worked with facility staff and administrators with the Alabama Department of Youth Services at an award-winning residential treatment facility. I worked with psychologists, educators, administrators, and behavior analysts to develop a tiered contingency management system with a token economy to (a) teach behavior management strategies to facility staff, (b) improve staff and resident relationships, and (c) decrease challenging behavior. As a result of this work, I authored a manuscript currently under review evaluating the conditional probability of challenging behavior among facility residents across days of the week and time of day. In addition, I am authoring a manuscript currently in progress describing development and outcomes associated with this contingency management system. This work was also featured on the Behavioral Observations podcast in April 2023.


Within the facility, I primarily work with the Accountability Based Sex Offense Prevention Program, providing behavioral services to adolescents adjudicated for illegal sexual behavior and court-ordered to receive psychological treatment. My primary responsibility is supervising provision of clinical services for residents who display severe challenging behavior and warrant the highest tier of supports. These services are delivered by graduate clinicians in a master’s program in ABA at Auburn University. In this role, I have focused on developing evidence-based interventions to improve conditions of confinement for this population. To this end, I authored an article evaluating the effect of behavior contracts to decrease challenging behavior among justice-involved and foster youth. I also authored an article that examined correspondence between staff and resident responses to an indirect assessment of challenging behavior, both published in Behavioral Interventions. In addition, I recently received acceptance for my proposal for the Sidney W. & Janet R. Bijou Grant provided by the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis to evaluate sleep disturbance among residents of this program using wrist activity monitors.


In addition to evaluating interventions to decrease challenging behavior, my research has evaluated interventions for skill acquisition. My thesis project evaluated the effect of a nutrition intervention on behavioral demand for healthier alternatives among adolescents at the residential facility. This manuscript is currently being revised for submission. Moreover, I authored an article published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis examining behavioral skills training to improve interview skills among justice-involved youth that has been cited over 20 times. This work was featured on the ABA Wizard podcast in August 2020.


Future Directions

Upon completion of my doctoral studies, I aim to build on the findings of my previous work by developing evidence-based preventative interventions for implementation in juvenile residential treatment facilities, detention centers, inpatient facilities, and other agencies serving marginalized, high-risk populations. In addition, my coursework in advanced research methodology has provided a foundation for further expansion into group design, particularly using behavioral economic approaches in translational research. This work aligns strongly with potential funding opportunities offered by the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and private foundations such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation. My clinical and research experiences, zeal for assisting underserved populations, and commitment to rigorous methodology will continue to support my career goal of producing research to improve outcomes among youth most in need.

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