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Modeling Developmental Systems (MODS) icon-olus-circle

We design methods and models for studying how people change across the lifespan

Welcome to the MODS (Modeling Developmental Systems) Lab. Developmental systems processes in the social and behavioral sciences often unfold over multiple time scales and are manifested in multiple subsystems (within individuals, across individuals, in networks of individuals involving peers, family members, teachers, colleagues, etc.). As a lab, we are interested in developing and improving methods for studying these change processes.

University Life Study icon-olus-circle

Dr. Jennifer L. Maggs

The University Life Study is designed to examine links between motivations, daily activities, college experiences, and risk behaviors (including alcohol use, sexual behavior, other substance use, and gambling) among university students.

This National Institute on Alcohol Abuse funded study uses a longitudinal + measurement burst design to examine developmental changes and situational fluctuations in links between risk behaviors across contexts. Our web-based data collection was launched in Fall 2007 with over 725 African American, Asian American, European American, and Hispanic/Latino American first-year students.

Each semester from the fall of freshman to senior year, participants complete a longer developmental web-survey and a series of 14 consecutive daily web-surveys. Using multi-level daily and longitudinal models, we are testing hypotheses about the extent to which associations between risk behaviors (e.g., drinking and sex) vary as a function of intrapersonal (e.g., motivations) interpersonal (e.g., relationship status) and environmental (e.g., Spring Break) predictors.

Study of Healthy Aging and Applied Research Programs (SHAARP) icon-olus-circle

The SHAARP Lab studies factors that keep older adults independent and mobile. We focus primarily on cognitive and functional abilities that may be modifiable through targeted interventions. Members of this lab have diverse backgrounds and interests (such as gerontology, human factors, neuropsychological assessment, neuroscience), and this is reflected in the variety of approaches we take to study the aging process. Currently we are conducting a randomized controlled trial looking at the effects of various cognitive and exercise intervention programs on cognitive, physical, and health outcomes in older adults. We are also particularly interested in the real-world implications of our findings. For example, how does the intervention translate into improvements in older adults' ability to carry out the activities of their daily lives? We hope that you will visit our page often for updates and find the provided information and links useful.

Child Brain Development Lab icon-olus-circle

The Child Brain Development Lab is focused on the study of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology, particularly in the service of understanding how to optimize preventive intervention programs to promote positive development.  Projects span various developmental stages (early childhood through adolescence) and aim to understand how individual differences in vulnerability interact with environmental risk factors within the family, schools, and communities. 

PA Twin Registry icon-olus-circle

Pennsylvania Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and Pennsylvania Twin Registry

Multiple-birth families are an important resource for researchers interested in investigating how social and genetic influences work together to influence health-related behaviors.

The Pennsylvania Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (PALSPAC) study examine the lives of twins and their families.

All the information in the study is confidential. Many families find that participating in research is interesting, gives insight into their children's development, and provides an opportunity to contribute to what we know about social and health behaviors.

PALSPAC is approved by the Penn State University Institutional Review Board and provides financial compensation to participants.

Interested in Participating?

If you are interested in registering your family to take part in the PALSPAC study, please visit the Consent and Enrollment page. The Consent and Enrollment link will take you to the forms that further describe the study and allow you to enroll. When joining the PALSPAC study you will also have to option to indicate that you are OK being contacted to potentially take part in other research projects (all of which will be approved by a university Institutional Review Board).

Questions about the PALSPAC study as well as the PATwins Registry generally should be directed to General questions about research at Penn State should be directed to the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Family, Sexual Orientation, Gender and Development Lab icon-olus-circle

Research in the family, sexual orientation, gender, and development lab focuses on an array of issues related to sexual orientation, gender, human development, and family lives. How does sexual and gender identity influence family formation and individual development? How do variations (e.g., pathways to parenthood or division of unpaid labor) and changes (e.g., divorce) in family composition relate to family members’ development and functioning? What are the experiences of sexual and gender minority individuals compared to their cisgender heterosexual peers? What are the unique challenges, strengths, and issues among this population? How can we harvest the resiliency and minimize the risk impacting sexual and gender minority individuals and their lives?

     Dr. Tornello welcomes the involvement of motivated, organized, efficient and friendly undergraduate and graduate students as part of our research team. Undergraduate research assistants will work closely with Dr. Tornello, and their duties may include reading original research studies, preparing materials for new studies, transcribing and coding data, and assisting in data analysis. There are also opportunities for advanced RAs to develop their own projects.

Current Studies

Gender Diverse Parents Study

The purpose of this worldwide longitudinal internet based study was to gain insight into the diversity of non-cisgender parents and their families.  The goal of the study was to examine the many ways families headed by non-cisgender parents have been created, explore their children's development, and learn more about family functioning.

Intended Parent Study

The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of young adults’ intention of becoming parents in the future and follow these future families overtime. This study has completed the first two waves of data collection with the third wave occurring in the summer of 2018/Fall 2018!

Gay and Bisexual Fathers Study

The purpose of this worldwide longitudinal internet based study was to gain insight into the diversity of gay/bisexual fathers and their families.  The goal of the study was to examine the many ways families headed by gay/bisexual fathers have been created, explore how families function, and learn about the relationship between partners.

Stigma/Discrimination & Social Support Study

The purpose of this pilot study, framed by minority stress theory, will use semi-structured interviews and surveys to capture and understand how stigma/discrimination and social support experiences influence the well-being and functioning of same-sex female couples during the transition to parenthood and early childhood.