About the Projects

 Active Projects

Peer Safety Project

The primary goal of the Peer Safety Project (PSP) is to develop and evaluate interventions for elementary school children who are chronically victimized and at risk for social and emotional problems. The hope is to identify effective interventions that can be used as selective prevention programs before they transition to middle school. Under the PSP we have several continuing projects.

LB Mentoring 

Lunch Buddy (LB) mentoring is a prevention program that utilizes a specific form of school-based mentoring. LB mentoring involves twice weekly visits during the school lunch period. LB mentoring usually spans 2-3 semesters. Mentors are usually college students who mentor for 1 semester before being replaced by a different mentor.

Preliminary studies conducted by my colleagues, students, and myself have shown evidence for benefiting both aggressive and bullied school age children. At present, we are working with 10 elementary schools in the area and typically have in place about 30 college student mentors paired with children identified via self- and teacher-reports of peer victimization. Key questions are a) is LB mentoring effective, and b) what are its mechanisms of change. We posit that LB mentoring works by virtue of positive changes in bullied children’s social reputation among and social interactions with nearby lunch mates.

Click here to download the Peer Safety Project Mentor Manual.

Observational Study

The PSP team is developing and validating an observational coding framework of lunchroom peer interactions. Specifically, we are interested in measuring in real-time children’s positive and negative experiences at lunch. This project aims to (a) enhance our understanding of children’s interactions in a setting known for conferring an increased risk for bullying and victimization experiences, (b) validate another method of evaluating lunchtime peer relations, and (c) evaluate the frameworks capacity for differentiating at-risk children from well-adjusted peers

Teacher Competencies for Supporting Bullied Children

Teachers have the potential to alter the classroom dynamics and peer processes that contribute to and maintain peer victimization. However, in the absence of formal prevention programs, many teachers lack training and do not know how to use their unique position to help chronically bullied children. In fact, evidence would suggest teachers struggle to manage acute cases of bullying and that children sometimes perceive teachers’ efforts to help as making the situation worse. Recently, Gregus and Cavell (2015) developed a research-derived set of competencies to guide teachers’ efforts to help bullied children. These competencies make up the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that teachers can use to help bullied children. The primary aim of the current study is to further develop and evaluate this framework, drawing on the expertise of practicing teachers and scholars who study school bullying. The CRAV team will be gathering focus group data from teachers as well as descriptive survey data from teachers and scholars who study school bullying.

Mentoring for Children of Deployed Soldiers

In May of 2014, Dr. Cavell was awarded a 4-year, $1.3 million grant from The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The grant will focus on the mentoring of military youth.

The project will develop and test a model of service delivery whereby school districts can provide school-based mentoring to military-connected youth.

Dr. Cavell is the project’s Principal Investigator and he is joined by Dr. Renee Spencer (Boston University, co-Principal Investigator) and Dr. Amy Slep (New York University, Co-Investigator). The Project Director is Dr. Janet Heubach (Washington State Mentors), and serving in a consultative role are Drs. Carla Herrera and Michael Karcher, as well as program staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego. Partnering with the research team on this project are North Thurston Public Schools (Lacey, WA) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington (Olympia, WA).

Caregivers Fostering Mentoring Relationships for Positive Youth Development – “The Godparent Project”

The Godparent project aims to understand why, how, and under what conditions do caregivers seek mentors for their children.

This study is in collaboration with Dr. Lindsey Weiler (University of Minnesota – Twin Studies, principal investigator) and Dr. Renee Spencer (Boston University, co-principal investigator). Our partners on this project include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and the Alberta Mentoring Partnership.


Completed Projects

Validation Study

The overarching goals of this study were to examine the utility of an innovative strategy for identifying stably bullied children who warrant selective intervention, and to evaluate potential moderators (e.g., anxiety sensitivity, emotional avoidance) and mediators (e.g., lunchtime interactions, social preference) between peer victimization and psychopathology. To answer these questions, the CRAV team assessed 670 4th grade children across 37 classrooms in 10 schools within the span of an academic year at 3 different time points.

Sibling Conflict

Within the CRAV laboratory, Dr. Cavell and several of his students were interested in sibling conflict, both in terms of how parents should manage it as well as how sibling conflict affects children’s capacity to manage conflict with peers at school. Associated topics include the quality of children’s sibling relationships, relative sibling dominance, and parents’ management of sibling conflict as predictors of peer victimization at school. In this study, we examined parents’ beliefs about children’s emotions (feelings are okay versus feelings are to be suppressed), management of sibling conflict, and children’s approach to coping with victimization by siblings and peers.

PrimeTime

This project was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and was conducted at Texas A&M University (with Dr. Jan Hughes). We examined 2 types of selective interventions for highly aggressive school age children. One (PrimeTime) combined community-based mentoring with parent- and teacher-consultation, and child-focused social problem solving skills training. The other was Lunch Buddy mentoring, a stand alone school-based mentoring program. Based on the theory that mentoring works only when there are long, strong bonds between mentor and mentee, we designed LB mentoring to be a control condition: Mentoring occurred only in the cafeteria, mentors were minimally trained, and children had a different mentor for each of 3 semesters. Unexpectedly, children in both groups showed gains at post-treatment and there was evidence that LB mentoring outperformed PrimeTime at the 1- and 2-year follow-ups. Also, LB mentoring seemed to be more effective in schools that were experiencing more adversity (e.g., more student mobility, more low incomes students, more playground aggression).

BBBS Canada Co-Op Mentoring Project

The CRAV team has partnered with Big Brother’s Big Sister’s of Canada (BBBSC) on two research and consultation projects to examine the potential benefits of school-based mentoring programs that match high school mentors with elementary aged children.  We have hypothesized that participation in well-structured and closely monitored school-based mentoring can be beneficial to both mentored children and to teens serving as mentors. Data gathered from these projects are also being used to examine under what conditions teen mentoring programs can be most successful.  Questions of interest include: Are teens who are required to mentor more or less effective than teens who volunteer to mentor? Do children benefit more from group teen mentoring or mentoring programs in which teens meet with children in a one-on-one setting? and Are programs that impose greater structure and/or support for teen mentors more beneficial than programs with limited structure and support?  Conducting this line of research has provided the opportunity for CRAV lab members the chance to travel to agencies in Canada and attend national BBBSC conventions.  These trips provide graduate students the opportunity to see new and interesting places and learn about how psychologists can provide consultation to agencies like Big Brothers Big Sisters

Verizon Project on the Prevention of Teen Dating Violence

In 2011, Drs. Cavell, Bridges, and Lampinen received a grant from the Verizon Foundation. The grant provided funds to develop a dating violence prevention program for teens in an electronic platform. Dating violence is common among adolescents, with 25% reporting physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse from a romantic partner (CDC, 2010). With the assistance of graduate students, artists, and computer programmers, a video game was developed to teach teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships. The game included content that was empirically supported and developmentally appropriate for adolescents. A pilot study of our video game demonstrated increased knowledge about dating violence and healthy relationships, and decreased violence-supportive attitudes in 9th grade girls. A beta version of the video game is currently available and we hope to collect more data evaluating the efficacy of the prevention program. The primary contact person for more information on this study is Dr. Jim Lampinen (lampinen@uark.edu).

Teen Sexting Project

Sexting is a relatively understudied new phenomena that involves the sending of sexually explicit material (e.g., nude photos or messages) to another person. Recent research has identified a number of correlates associated with sexting, including risky sexual behaviors, impulsive behavior, and an anxious attachment style. Other consequences associated with sexting may include possible exploitation,  bullying, and legal ramifications. The data we have collected involves understanding potential interpersonal risk factors and consequences of sexting behavior. In particular, we have gathered data from high school students on their attitudes toward sexting and from college students on their sexting behaviors, experiences with dating violence, sexual experiences, attachment, body image, objectification, and attitudes toward sex, sexting, and dating violence. Currently, we are in the process of analyzing this data to better understand the phenomena in a college population. This project involves a collaboration with Dr. Ana Bridges, and the primary contact person for more information on this study is Samantha Gregus (sjgregus@gmail.com).