The CSBS Small Grant Program brings together interdisciplinary research teams to develop ambitious research projects showing promise for external funding. Supported through funding from the OVCR, the program provides researchers a foundation to examine unique and unexplored areas in social and behavioral science. Through this program, 12 research projects have been selected over the past two years by a peer-review panel, comprised of 15 faculty members from the CSBS Advisory Committee. The projects were chosen based on innovation, interdisciplinary nature, articulated activity plan, contribution to social and behavioral science research, and paths to external funding.
Current Small Grant Opportunities
Frequently Asked Questions
How are the proposals reviewed?
The proposals are reviewed by a panel of social and behavioral science faculty from units across the University of Illinois campus.
What are the review criteria?
Proposals are reviewed based on five criteria: (1) degree of importance, with importance being defined as the project addressing one of our grand challenges (e.g., solving poverty, adapting to new technology, and social science of health) or other issues that transcend typical intellectual silos, (2) degree of innovation, with innovation being optimally operationalized as advancing our scientific understanding of the topic or proposing a new and promising solution to a problem, (3) having a well-articulated plan of activities (e.g., clear, viable layout of how the research will be conducted), (4) being clearly social and behavioral science research (specifically in the areas of poverty, behavioral health, and digital revolution), and (5) having a clear path to external funding, with priority given to proposals that would result in NIH or NSF funding.
Who is eligible to apply?
Tenure-track Faculty (Assistant, Associate, and Full), Specialized Faculty (Teaching, Research, Clinical), and Academic Professionals such as Research Scientists and Research Associates are all eligible to apply as the PI for the CSBS small grant program. Post-doctoral researchers and graduate students are not eligible to apply as the PI.
Can PIs from other institutions be included on proposals?
The CSBS’s goal is to support interdisciplinary groups on the University of Illinois campus. While that does not preclude collaborations with other universities, it puts applications at a disadvantage if there is only one researcher or unit at the U of I applying for the grant. Such groups will be competing with truly interdisciplinary groups based solely at the U of I, making it more difficult to compete unless the research team is similarly structured. To the extent that PIs can gather an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the U of I, their chances of earning CSBS funding will be enhanced.
What should be included in the one-page pre-proposal?
The one-page pre-proposal should include a description of the goals of the project, the research methods to be used, how the financial support will be used (i.e., the project’s budget), the members of the research team, the nature of the external funding proposal to be written, the funding announcement, and any tables or figures. References can be provided on additional pages that would not count toward the one-page limit. A current CV from each team member should be submitted along with the pre-proposal.
How can the funds be used, i.e., what should we include/not include in our budget?
The CSBS funds can be used to support (all must be specifically required to complete the data collection/analysis on the CSBS-funded project):
- Personnel costs, such as: hourly worker, student RA or student hourly
- Participant support costs
- Supplies and materials
- Data access or data set purchase
- Transcription costs
- Mailing costs
The CSBS funds cannot be used to support:
- Expenditures generally made by departments and colleges (e.g., travel to professional conferences, seed money for an individual project)
- Tuition waivers
- PI/Co-I salary
- Course buyouts
- Delivery of outreach programs or services
- Student projects (master’s or dissertation research)
- Travel (unless specifically required for data collection to complete the research project)
Can a person be included on more than one project?
2020 Small Grant Awardees
| Designing and Testing the Feasibility of a Socio-Ecological Intervention to Promote Physical Activity among Cancer Survivors
Neha Gothe, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Crystal Reinhart, Center for Prevention Research and Development
The purpose of this research project is to enhance physical activity engagement among adult cancer survivors by 1) identifying factors within the socio-ecological framework and 2) designing and testing the feasibility of an exercise program. This study will employ a mixed-methods approach and will be conducted over two phases. In phase 1, two or three focus groups will be conducted with at least a total of 15 participants who have recently completed the 12-week StayFit Trial. The goal of the focus groups is to explore these responses in-depth and identify key individual, social and environmental factors that can be targeted in the feasibility study.
The focus group responses and the current evidence for exercise promotion among cancer survivors will serve as the basis for phase 2: to design and test the feasibility of a 12-week socio-ecological model-based physical activity intervention in a group of 30 participants. The goal of the feasibility study is to identify the most effective targets of the socio-ecological model-based intervention that will result in a significant increase in physical activity participation as assessed by an accelerometer.
|Data Storytelling for Community Organizations
Kate Mcdowell, School of Information Sciences
Rachel Magee, School of Information Sciences
Kirstin Phelps, School of Information Sciences
Matthew Turk, School of Information Sciences
Martin Wolske, School of Information Sciences
Community organizations can make data meaningful, valuable, and powerful through storytelling. Data storytelling is an emerging area; the iSchool has offered a graduate-level data storytelling course for the past three years. This course—both in curricular content and pedagogical strategies—has great potential for helping to transform the impact of community organizations by helping stakeholders to tell more effective stories. Greater data fiction, in e-gov and open data portals, presents challenges and opportunities for storytelling as a powerful way of conveying meaning. This project will put data storytelling tools into the hands of community organizations. The goal of this project is to pilot a toolkit, based on the data storytelling course, to bring storytelling from information science to community organizations. This toolkit will equip individuals in community organizations to tell stories with their data in ways that show meaning, develop value, and help articulate community narratives. The project will leverage pre-existing relationships, established by the former Center for Digital Inclusion, through library practicum, and by the Youth Services Community Engagement course, which has, since 2012, places masters students in community organizations to build bridges between their work and library services.
The methods will be information design-based, incorporating qualitative and quantitative elements. The data storytelling curriculum will be developed iteratively, based on input from participants through workshops, interviews, and focus groups. Social network analysis will be used to make strategic decisions about how to leverage pre-existing relationships with community organizations and how to plan for effective dissemination.
|Fall Risk in Older Adults
Shannon Mejía, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Jacob Sosnoff, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Although falling is one of older adults’ greatest fears and a leading cause of accidental injury and death, an estimated 30% of older adults lack a comprehensive understanding of their actual fall risk. Fall risk embodies both physical and psychological processes—the physical and perceived ability to meet the demands presented by an environment.
Current approaches to fall prevention focus on a combination of strength and balance, demands of the environment and daily activities, and perceptions of self-efficacy and balance confidence, but neglect the psychological processes of accurately understanding risk within the context of daily life. To move fall prevention forward, an intraindividual perspective on fall risk is necessary to identify the extent of day-to-day variability in physical resources, older adults’ awareness of their physical ability, and the implications of this awareness on the magnitude of activity on that day. The project goal is to prevent falls by increasing older adults’ awareness of their fall risk in daily life. The objective of this proposal is to employ a micro longitudinal study of daily objective and subjective fall risk and fall risk behaviors to (aim 1) establish that objective and subjective fall risk vary within individuals over a 30 day time period; (aim 2) characterize who (e.g., those with greater fall risk at baseline) is most likely to vary in fall risk; (aim 3)show that variability in fall risk and awareness of fall risk (i.e. the intraindividual correlation of objective and subjective risk) are independent predictors of risk-taking behaviors.
The results from the proposed research will show that individuals differ in their awareness of their fall risk in daily life and that these differences have implications for fall prevention behaviors. This research will define new fall risk parameters—intraindividual variability in and awareness of risk—which will be used to develop awareness profiles and inform the development of personalized fall prevention strategies.
|Behavioral Metrics of Relationship Quality to Support Care Partner Dyads Adapting to Mild Cognitive Impairment
Brian Ogolsky, Human Development and Family Studies
Shannon Mejia, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Alexandra Chronopolou, Department of Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)–pre-clinical signs of abnormal cognitive decline–becomes more prevalent with age (6% at age 60; 25% by age 80)and often advances to dementia. This subtle cognitive change is initially noticeable only to individuals and their closest social partners. Among married older adults, spouses become partners in care who cope with this change together. The impact of this care partnership on individual and shared health and well-being is conditioned by the quality of the relationship. However, although an essential component of informal care, relationship quality is difficult to quantify in a scalable way that provides actionable insight.
The purpose of this project is to develop behavioral spatial proximity metrics of relationship quality so that the strength and health of the relationship can be quantified, supported, and ultimately incorporated into community health. This project will deploy a validated location monitoring system into the homes of 20 community-residing older adult couples where one partner perceives a change in cognition. Our study aims to (1) develop Spatio-temporal autocorrelation metrics and models to quantify the variability in spatial proximity within the MCI care partner dyad; (2) apply multilevel dyadic analysis to align proximity metrics with a momentary physiological response and daily reports of stress, well-being, and relationship quality; and (3) establish guidelines for an integrated support system that monitors spatial proximity as an informative and actionable marker of relationship quality.
|Exploring potential psychological correlates of “academic undermatch”
Christopher Napolitano, Educational Psychology
Nidia Ruedas-Gracia, Educational Psychology
College graduates attain better jobs, make more money, and experience less unemployment than high school graduates. Graduating from college is also linked with better health, longer life, and higher self-reported happiness (e.g., Hout, 2012). Unfortunately, there are considerable disparities in US college-completion rates, with children from lower-income homes less likely to graduate (Reardon, 2013). One potential source of these disparities is “academic undermatch,” or enrolling at colleges below the standards of a student’s credentials. Students who undermatch are more likely to drop out (Bowen et al., 2009) and undermatch is disproportionately prevalent among first-generation, low-income (FLI) college attendees, especially those of color (Deutschlander, 2017).
While research has linked structural, social, and cultural factors to academic undermatch, we pose there may also be psychological constructs contributing to undermatch. Two such constructs are backup plans and prospective belonging. People develop backup plans to address uncertainties in their goal pursuits (Napolitano & Freund, 2016). Backup plans can act as ‘safety nets’, but they also incur costs that can jeopardize goal performance (Napolitano & Freund, 2017). For example, when students’investments in researching their “safety school” (an undermatched institution) outstrips their investments in researching their “target” (a well-matched institution) or “reach” schools (an “overmatched” institution), they may be more likely to undermatch. Students’ investment in schools may be impacted by their prospective belonging, defined as an individual’s presumption of how much they will feel a sense of belonging to the new cultural context (Ruedas-Gracia, in preparation). In the new cultural context of post-secondary institutions, differing perceptions of school climate (Minor & Benner, 2018), and overall low feelings of belonging in educational contexts among students of color (Ruedas-Gracia et al., under review), may impact perceived belonging. Specifically, FLI students of color may feel lower levels of prospective belonging to their “reach” schools compared to their“match” or“safety” schools. The proposed research seeks to provide initial evidence on backup planning and prospective belonging as psychological factors that may contribute to academic undermatch among ethnic minority FLI students.
|The Social Ecology of Poverty and Bedbugs in Subsidized Housing
Andrew J. Greenlee, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Daniel Schneider, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
We seek to investigate the reciprocal roles of poverty and bed bug infestation. Our previous research on bed bug distribution in Chicago suggests that the strongest correlate of infestation at the neighborhood level is average household income. Bed bug infestations are a problem of poverty in which the public health burden falls disproportionately on poorer neighborhoods. But while poverty represents an increased risk for bed bug infestation, there are suggestions that bed bug infestations may also lead to increased poverty. We suspect that these reciprocal interactions are mediated through housing and landlord-tenant relations. Bed bug control, which can cost $500-1500, places a significant burden on household budgets. Further, we find evidence that bed bug infestations are associated with higher rates of evictions in Chicago neighborhoods. Because evicted residents are more likely to relocate to higher poverty neighborhoods, carrying bed bugs with them, evictions caused by bed bug infestations will concentrate both bed bugs and poverty in the same neighborhoods.
To examine the relationship between poverty, housing stability, and bedbugs we will conduct field research on bedbug incidence and impacts within subsidized low-income housing within the Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC). In 2019, HACC provided voucher-based rental assistance to 1,100 families with an average household income of $10,301.We will examine HACCs annual housing inspection and complaint records for the prior incidence of bedbugs, and will identify additional complaints associated with bedbugs throughout the study period. For units with complaints, we will recruit and conduct interviews with the tenant, their property owner, and their HACC case manager to understand how bedbugs alter the landlord-tenant relationship. We will also interview housing authority staff to understand how bedbugs alter the program’s administrative relationship with participating landlords and tenants. Conversations with HACC administration indicate they are willing to work with us on recruiting and providing access to administrative data for our project.
|Behavioral Health Among Illinois Agricultural Producers
Courtney Cuthbertson, Human Development and Family Studies
Josie Rudolphi, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
The goal of this project is to investigate behavioral health (i.e., mental health and substance use) issues among Illinois farmers as a needs assessment for research purposes as well as for purposes of informing Illinois Extension programming. The suicide rate among farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers is nearly 1.5 times greater than that of the general population (Peterson 2018). Recent trends in commodity pricing, fluctuations in loan interest rates, changing politics around global trade, and disastrous weather events have all served as stressors for farmers in the United States (Freeman, Schwab, and Jiang 2008, Weingarten 2017, Ivanova 2018, Snell 2018).
However, research about farmer mental health and substance use is scant, and there is little research-based information about Illinois farmers in particular. The behavioral health of Illinois farmers is significant given the overall research demonstrating farmers have higher psychological distress than the general population (Roy et al. 2013), in the more specific context of recent USDA projections that soybean production will decrease over the coming years and prices for corn and soybeans are decreasing as well (Schnitkey 2019, USDA 2019, USDA ERS 2019). Addressing behavioral health among farmers is essential. Poor mental health among farmers and producers have been associated with lower rates of adopting new technologies and policies, potentially leading to inefficient farming practices (Hounsome 2006). Depression among farmers is also associated with a higher rate of injury (Xiao et al. 2013), which is of additional concern as farming is already a high-risk occupation (Newman, Leon, and Newman 2015). Nearly 100 agricultural workers every day suffer an injury leading to lost work time (CDC 2019). Additionally, farming is the second most fatal industry; over 400 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury in 2016 (CDC 2019). This project uses multiple methods to assess behavioral health among Illinois farmers.
|Sleep, depression, and modifiable lifestyle factors in menopausal women
Megan Mahoney, Dept. of Comparative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine
Jodi Flaws, Department of Comparative Bioscience
Rebecca Smith, Department of Pathobiology
Sleep disruptions pose a significant health concern for midlife women. Over 40% of women undergoing the menopausal transition report sleep problems, such as insomnia, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and nighttime awakenings. Equally important, perimenopausal women are 2-3 times more likely to experience depressive symptoms than premenopausal women, potentially further impairing their sleep. Indeed, depression is a critical predictor of sleep quality in midlife women. The disruptiveness of these experiences is one of the primary reasons menopausal women seek medical care. Further, these symptoms have a negative impact on the quality of life, they precede adverse health outcomes, and they pose a burden to the health care system. The changing hormonal milieu in midlife is likely one factor influencing the severity and frequency of menopause symptoms. Notably, depression and sleep quality are both significantly associated with reproductive hormone concentrations in midlife women. Additionally, these debilitating menopausal symptoms are also likely to be influenced by modifiable behavioral factors including diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. However, there is a significant gap in our knowledge regarding the complex relationships between these lifestyle factors, hormones, sleep disruptions, and depression in midlife women. This is important as identifying the relationships between these variables could provide targets for interventions aimed at relieving these health concerns.
Therefore, we will address these gaps via the following specific aims: Specific aim 1 will test the hypothesis that depression mediates the association between endogenous reproductive hormones and subjective sleep quality across the menopausal transition. Specific aim 2 will test the hypothesis that modifiable lifestyle factors are significantly related to the severity and frequency of sleep disruptions and depression in midlife women. The funds from the Center for Social and Behavioral Science will be used for subject remuneration, blood draws, hormone assay kits, the purchase of activates for recording sleep in the home, and the purchase of survey instruments.
|The Effect of Mobility-on-Demand Services on the ‘Last Mile Problem’
Peter Christensen, Agriculture and Consumer Economics
Lewis Lehe, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Adam Osman, Department of Economics
Over the past three years, several US local governments have taken an interest in subsidizing Uber and Lyft rides to and from transit stops. For instance, Dallas, TX, and Raleigh, NC have developed pilot programs that reduce the fares of Uber services for linked metro trips. These programs are designed to resolve the "last mile problem": the challenge of increasing public transit access for residents whose trips do not originate and/or end near existing stops. The last mile problem is widely considered to be the key challenge for increasing mass transit ridership in US cities and achieving substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the transportation sector.
This project encompasses a set of studies using an experimental design that examines the behavioral response to subsidies for Uber services on transit-linked trips. Our project asks three main questions: (1) What is the demand response to subsidies that target linkages to metro/rail services (i.e., the effect on transit ridership, car usage, and Uber utilization)? (2) Do reductions in travel costs differentially affect riders who are underserved by existing public transit networks? (3) If the subsidy program were scaled up and implemented at the city-level, would the effects quantified in 1 and 2 significantly reduce congestion and transport-related emissions?
The project’s first phase is a 2-month randomized experiment in Chicago aimed at obtaining preliminary results and proof-testing the experimental apparatus. We will recruit about 300 participants (100 treatment and 200 control). Participants will enable the Google Timeline app on their mobile phones to record their movements and upload the Timeline data to our data portal. Treated participants will receive a subsidy of 25-50% off transit-linked Uber trips. Behavioral impacts will be estimated using an ANCOVA specification, whereby we regress the outcome variable on treatment assignment while controlling for baseline values of the variable. City-level congestion impacts will be estimated using the Cube Voyager transportation modeling software that is used by regional planners for scenario analysis.
|Promoting the Long-Term Academic and Social-Emotional Development of Under-Resourced Boys in Small Urban Communities
Kevin Tan, School of Social Work
Karen Rudolph, Department of Psychology
Sharde Smith, Human Development and Family Studies
Rachel Garthe, School of Social Work
The DREAAM Kindergarten SuccessProgram has served under-resourced boys entering kindergarten in Champaign, Rantoul, and Urbana schools since the summer of 2015. To date, approximately 80 boys have participated in the program and received academic supports and taken part in family engagement activities. The primary program goal is to increase academic success and social-emotional competence among kindergarten boys.
The goal of the proposed project is to support DREAAM in submitting a proposal to seek extramural funding for a longitudinal evaluation to determine the effectiveness of its program in preparing children for success in kindergarten and throughout their academic journey. The data from this long-term study will support efforts to increase awareness of the program among the community, garner additional funding, and adjust it as needed to increase positive outcomes. This in turn will increase the capacity of DREAAM to provide services to a larger population.
To assist DREAAM in preparing a competitive proposal, we will undertake work in three areas. Firstly, DREAAM needs a conceptual model highlighting the underpinnings of its program. Secondly, we will organize and analyze the data on the program collected to date. Thirdly, we will collect pilot data to begin to understand the effectiveness of the program. Approximately 40 boys will participate in the Kindergarten Success Program from June 29 to July 24, 2020. We will administer measures relating to students’ academic growth (e.g., literacy and numeracy assessments), social-emotional behaviors (Social Skills Improvement System), and their family engagement and parental involvement during this period in order to collect the needed pilot data.
|Testing the Efficacy of Therapy Integrating Peer-Sharing, Technology, Aerobic and Resistance Training (TIPSTART) Intervention to Reduce Mental Illness in First-Generation College Students
Sean Mullen, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Chris Larrison, School of Social Work
Sa Shen, Center for Health, Aging, & Disability (CHAD), College of Applied Health Sciences
An estimated 18.1% of U.S.adults 18 years or older live with mental illness and 4.2% live with serious mental illness. Indeed, mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Among college students, mental health is a growing concern with approximately a third or more students reporting at least one mental health issue. Presidents from four-year colleges are increasingly allocating additional resources to address this unmet need. Although data is currently unavailable to assess the extent of psychological damage to students caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, leading agencies and advocacy groups have acknowledged the inevitable impact of coping with stress from fear, uncertainty, changes in everyday behavior (sleeping, eating), and adopting federal guidelines for social distancing—each a serious threat to mental health and to individuals at risk of worsening pre-existing conditions.
First-Generation College (FGC) Students (neither parent received a four-year degree) are at a greater risk for mental illness, and while their academic progress is often loosely monitored, they are rarely provided any supportive services beyond what is accessible to the rest of the student body. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, FGC Students represent 24.6% of the freshman class, and the situation is the same. Proposed Study. This study is designed to test whether cognitive-behavioral therapy combined with exercise, and further supported by FGC student peer groups and text-messaging will increase adherence to mental health services, lower self-reported mental illness symptomology, and secondarily improve academic outcomes regardless of diagnosis. The analysis will include an examination of the intervention’s targeted mechanisms of change (increased physical activity and social engagement).
|The Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Impact of Stalking and Cyberstalking among College Students
Rachel Garthe, School of Social Work
Nicole Allen, Department of Psychology
Sarah Colomé, Women's Resource Center
This project is designed to further the understanding of stalking and cyberstalking, including its prevalence, risk factors, and impact on health outcomes and help-seeking behaviors among college students. National surveys find that 1 in 6 women in the United States havebeen victims of stalking in their lifetime, and the prevalence of stalking is highest among college students. Stalking occurs when someone repeatedly harasses, threatens, or follows the victim, leading to concerns of fear and safety(Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). These experiences can also take place through electronic methods (i.e.,cyberstalking; Tokunaga & Aune, 2017).
Stalking victimization is associated with a host of adverse outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms (Basileet al., 2005; Fisheret al., 2006). Most studies examining stalking have relied on cross-sectional estimates, used inconsistent definitions and measurements, and have not included cyberstalking. Additionally, research examining stalking and cyberstalking has received less attention in campus-and community-based prevention and intervention efforts. Therefore, a longitudinal study is necessary to address these gaps, informing prevention and intervention efforts among a population at greatest risk for stalking/cyberstalking. The goal of this project is to collect baseline data from college students to inform a federal application where we would propose to follow a cohort of college students longitudinally across three years.
|Transportation Energy Vulnerability and its Geography in the United States Objectives
Eleftheria Kontou, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Julie Cidell, Geography and Geographic Information Science
Michael Minn, Geography and Geographic Information Science
Transportation is a major energy consuming sector in the US. Light-duty vehicles account for 58% of the transportation energy used and consume 92% of the country’s motor gasoline . At the same time, transportation energy use facilitates travel and access to opportunities in the US sprawled and car-oriented development and is found as a significant enabler of economic mobility , . Long commute distances and high fuel prices can impose burden to families to meet household needs and can raise the share of transportation expenses relative to their income, particularly for households under the poverty line. Automobile dependence , low neighborhood density , and unreliable public transport services  can increase the population share vulnerable to transportation energy use changes. Vulnerable households to transportation energy use increase are not only exposed to budgetary constraints but also to social exclusion . Strong reliance on automobiles with increasing energy costs can hinder job access, educational opportunities , and other social functions instrumental to social inclusion and mobility . Measuring the US population’s vulnerability to transportation energy use changes and capturing its geography enables the design of targeted interventions and support mechanisms, which can help vulnerable households to escape transportation energy poverty. Transportation energy vulnerability is a function of three dimensions: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptative capacity , .
The proposed research has three major objectives: (1) we will develop indices that quantitatively measure the three vulnerability dimensions in the context of US transportation energy use; (2) we will compute a composite vulnerability score and its geography across US census tracts using open datasets that are representative of the nation’s transportation system characteristics and socio-demographics; and (3) we will assess scenarios of policy instruments application and their effectiveness in increasing adaptive capacity and alleviating vulnerability.
|COVID-19: Assessing Depression and Anxiety in Mexican-American and Mexican Immigration mothers (CADA MAMI; translation is each mother)
Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Kinesiology and Community Health
Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez, Marquette University
Women of Mexican descent also have a high rate of fertility and elevated exposure to immigrant-related stressors, increasing their risk of depression and anxiety. The proposed study directly responds to the CSBS’s Health Research Small Grant objectives because it focuses on factors that contribute to poor mental health in vulnerable mothers.
The proposed research has three major objectives: (1) we will develop indices that quantitatively measure the three vulnerability dimensions in the context of US transportation energy use; (2) we will compute a composite vulnerability score and its geography across US census tracts using open datasets that are representative of the nation’s transportation system characteristics and socio-demographics; and (3) we will assess scenarios of policy instruments application and their effectiveness in increasing adaptive capacity and alleviating vulnerability.
Annually, as many as 43% or 378,263 women of Mexican descent in the U.S.suffer from perinatal depression, a major depressive episode occurring in pregnancy or first postpartum year that affects approximately 20% of women in the general population . Women of Mexican descent also have elevated rates of perinatal anxiety, with 20-36% compared to 15% of women in the general U.S. population . Women of Mexican descent also a high rate of fertility and elevated exposure to adversity, such as poverty, throughout the life course, increasing their risk of poor perinatal mental health. While rates of PND in Mexican-American versus Mexican immigrant women are equivocal, Mexican immigrant women are especially vulnerable to factors associated with migration processes, such as acculturative stress, that can translate into a higher risk of poor depressive and anxiety symptoms. Depression and anxiety during the perinatal period have been shown to have negative and potentially long-lasting effects on women and their infants. Perinatal anxiety is associated with preterm birth and poor infant development . Postpartum women with depression are more likely to exhibit negative interactions with infants  and infants of women with postpartum depression are at increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems . While immigrant-related stressors are risk factors(e.g., acculturative stressors, deportation fear) for depression and anxiety in mothers, less is known about how large-scale events such as the coronavirus pandemic increases a woman’s risk for depression and anxiety. The current coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has resulted in significant illness and death in the U.S. and across the globe . Racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. have been especially and disproportionately affected, likely due to disparities in health risk factors (e.g., diabetes, hypertension), economic constraints on quarantine behaviors, limited access to high-quality healthcare, and unequal health care . The current sociopolitical climate has exacerbated these disparities due to racism and discrimination, particularly towards Latinos . Health disparities are further complicated by immigrant status. Fears of deportation have increased in recent years further complicating access to care among marginalized communities, including mothers of Mexican descent. Recent Spanish-language news outlets have reported that fears of deportation have been heightened during the pandemic, with some communities fearing deportation more than COVID-19 . All these psychosocial stressors may lead to increased mental health disorders among mothers of Mexican descent. Indeed, we found that deportation fears were significantly associated with an increased risk of anxiety in prenatal women . Therefore, the proposed study aims to answer the following research question: How does COVID-19 stress (e.g., fears of contagion, household impact, etc.) affect maternal mental health (i.e., depressive and anxiety symptoms) in mothers of Mexican descent? We hypothesize that COVID-19 stress will heighten immigrant-related stressors and that women will report experiencing elevated depressive and anxiety symptoms since the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.
|Identifying SARS-COV-2 Critical Control Points At Rantoul Foods And The Community: Aim 3
Korinta Maldonado, Department of Anthropology
Ellen Moodie, Department of Anthropology
Gilberto Rosas, Department of Anthropology
Jessica Brinkworth, Department of Anthropology
The larger project initially brought together researchers from the Institute for Genomic Biology, NCSA, Veterinary Medicine, Microbiology, Pathobiology, Statistics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as individuals in the OSF Healthcare System, to address the community health emergency of COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 among workers at Rantoul Food, a pork processing plant. The situation is now further complicated by the temporary agricultural workers arriving in late June. The larger project involves testing of community members as well as taking environmental samples. Our cohort in particular considers the social, behavioral, and cultural contexts that affect susceptibility to infection. We aim to mitigate pathogen transmission as we develop data on social stressors imminent to premature death and to establish linkages between disease and social stressors. We will focus on transmission dynamics outside of the plant and other workplaces, considering how people can incorporate recommended disease prevention measures into their daily lives beyond their workplace--and what obstacles might hinder them from doing so. To this end, we will identify social factors, including race, gender, nationality, education, and income levels, as well as access to pertinent information, that affect living and working conditions. We expect to produce data on the asymmetries of healthcare care, social stressors, and premature death, all of which these populations already experience. As statistics show, the current pandemic crystallizes their vulnerability.
|Mapping Global Geographies of Online Consumption: Comparing Usage of Websites, YouTube Trends, and Twitter Trends over 100 countries
Yee Man Margaret, College of Media
Harsh Taneja, College of Media
The digital revolution powered by the internet, smartphones, and the Web enables much of the world’s content to be globally accessible. The flow of (mis)information in online digital spaces influences protest movements, national elections, and popular culture. But do web users really transcend national boundaries? On one hand, we believe that social media such as YouTube and Twitter, enable content to gain currency globally, yet we also know that web use tends to be quite culturally specific. Our understanding of global online flows remains fragmented, depending on the site of research. The proposed study addresses this knowledge gap and assesses the extent to which the Web has realized its potential as a global medium. Our main objective is to examine the extent of similarities between countries’ web use patterns simultaneously accounting for different modes of online consumption. We propose to analyze web usage in over a hundred countries, based on people’s consumption of each country’s most popular websites, as well as each country’s consumption trends from YouTube and Twitter. This would, to the best of our knowledge, be the first study to simultaneously compare global web use through both websites and multiple social media platforms. Using databases of world languages and geographic distances, an additional objective is to unravel the extent to which these similarities are driven by language and geography. This project, broadly speaking, assesses the cultural impact of the digital revolution on a global scale and establishes UIUC as a thought leader in this interdisciplinary area integrating approaches from social and information sciences.
|Investigation of Mental Health Needs/Services in Minority Agricultural Community
Ann-Perry Witmer, Applied Research Institute
Josie Rudolpi, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Christopher Larrison, School of Social Work
Mary Pietrowicz, Applied Research Institue
The University of Illinois proposes to undertake a research project focused on effective mental health services for patients living in rural agricultural communities. Our objective with this seed grant is to improve the evaluation process for a pilot community so that targeted mental health support may be provided based on the specific needs and conditions in a given rural population. The delivery of rural mental health care services has been recognized for decades as a challenge in the United States (Levin and Hanson, 2001). While mental health services have become more available in urban areas, they have remained virtually inaccessible to the rural population's large swaths. Specific barriers identified include isolation, scarcity of resources, inhospitable climates, the inability to preserve anonymity with in-person treatment, lack of culturally competent care, and indigenous traditionalism that can inhibit diverse thought or identity sometimes associated with mental health treatments.
Our interdisciplinary team has identified a minority, low-resource farming community in Illinois. We may pilot a coordinated data-collection methodology that will evaluate needs, identify context, and govern the design/implementation of interventions. The research team intends to use this data-collection process in creating a larger study, to be funded through a series of resources, including Campus Research Board, Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Extension (ICE), National Institutes of Health, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with an end goal of producing a contextualized, validated mental health intervention that addresses rural, agricultural population needs. This is the first step in a broader research and application program, which will use multiple university-system and external funding resources to create a process that accurately identifies a rural community's specific mental health needs and develops appropriate services and interventions that address community context.
|Virtual mindfulness for veterans’ caregivers (ViMiVetCare)
Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
With the disabled veteran population rising, the number of informal caregivers for veterans (ICVs) has surged, with estimates as high as 5.5 million in the United States. ICVsprovide complex care for longer durations than non-veteran caregivers, often while meeting other life demands. The added responsibility of caring for a disabled veteran can increase ICVs' stress and put them at risk for short-and long-term poor mental and physical health. These risk factors can be complicated by social and geographic isolation. Despite ICV'srisks, there is limited research on effective interventions for this population, including holistic approaches. There is even less on the feasibility of clinical trials using innovative complementary health interventions. Complementary practices, such as mindfulness, have been shown to reduce stress and improve mood among caregivers in the general population. Our preliminary data suggests that mindfulness-based training significantly reduces stress in ICVs. However, the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)intervention with ICVsis yet to be determined. The first step is to determine the acceptability and feasibility of a virtual MBSR intervention. Our pilot data showed that ICVs have competing demands and geographic barriers that prevent them from attending in-person interventions, suggesting that a virtual MBSR intervention is needed for this special population. Our data also showed that there is interest in mindfulness-based training. However, competing demands made it difficult for some caregivers to participate because they had to stay home to care for their veterans. To meet this special population's needs, the proposed study will work with veterans' caregivers through virtual focus group interviews to adapt our pilot intervention from in-person to live streaming. Evidence demonstrates that mindfulness training, including programs that are offered via live stream, reduces stress. Because access to technology and skills with video cameras and audio can vary across participants, the proposed study will also inquire about adaptations needed to increase the accessibility and acceptability of the live-streaming MBSR intervention. Given the need to stay home due to COVID-19, virtual focus groups will safely allow caregivers to participate in the study while caring for their veterans. The proposed study will enroll 25 caregivers of veterans to participate in virtual focus groups. Three waves of virtual focus group interviews will be conducted. The first focus group meeting will focus on learning about this population's technical needs, capabilities, and barriers. The second focus group will gather information about mindfulness-based training perceptions and gather recommendations for tailoring the live streaming intervention for their needs. We will adapt the in-person mindfulness-based program to live streaming using data collected in the first two focus group interviews. The last focus group interview will gather perceptions of the adapted intervention to ensure it will be acceptable and feasible for veterans' caregivers. The following aims: 1) guides the study and adapt an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention from in-person intervention to live streaming. We will conduct focus groups with veterans' caregivers to identify their needs and perceptions of mindfulness-based training offered virtually to ensure the adapted intervention meets their needs. 2)Assess the accessibility and acceptability of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for veterans' informal caregivers. To determine the adapted intervention's acceptability, we will conduct focus groups with participants to ascertain whether the intervention can meet their needs and barriers to participation.
2019 Small Grant Awardees
|Developing and Validating Tailored Sexual Health Education Messages for Older Adults
Liza Berdychevsky, Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Wendy Rogers, Kinesiology and Community Health
Galit Nimrod, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Many older adults are sexually active, but ageist societal stereotypes fuel the tendency of neglecting seniors' sexuality and its links to health and wellbeing, while formal sexual health education programs for seniors are virtually nonexistent. The purpose of this research project is to address
an important gap in research and practice by (Aim1) establishing older adults’ sexual health needs that should inform sexual health education, (Aim2) developing the content vignettes of preliminary tailored sexual health education messages for older adults, and (Aim3) investigating older adults’ willingness to adopt technology tools to receive innovative Internet-based sexual health education messages tailored to their needs.
This study’s results will serve as a proof of concept demonstrating the necessity for providing older adults with individually tailored Internet- based sexual health education messages that deliver personally relevant information, influence health behaviors, and help older adults take charge of their sexual health.
|Studying Cancer Communication in the New Media Environment
Kevin Chang, Computer Science
Cabral Bigman-Galimore, Communication
Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Kinesiology and Community Health and Nutritional Sciences
Joerg Heintz, Health Care Engineering Systems Center
Aminah Jatoi, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network
Colleen Young, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network
Effective communication is key to cancer control. As the growth of new media connects cancer- affected populations (patients, survivors, and caregivers) across the cancer control continuum, it promises unprecedented opportunities for healthcare stakeholders. The new digital social universe, consisting of social channels (such as YouTube, Twitter or Facebook) that are open (allowing everyone to join), programmatic (accessible from various devices and apps), and participatory (where people ask questions and talk), has ushered in new ways of communicating. However, due to the open, participatory nature of the digital social universe, unsubstantiated health advice and claims can rapidly proliferate, making it difficult to surveil and intervene to prevent adverse health outcomes. Moreover, in a fragmented online environment, it is challenging to determine which social “channels” are being used to seek and communicate about cancer information, and how that communication might vary by demographics. Yet, such knowledge is needed to effectively target communication strategies and avoid communication-based health inequalities.
In this proposal, with an interdisciplinary (computer science, communication, epidemiology, oncology, social media) and multi-institutional (UIUC and Mayo Clinic) team, towards preparing an externally-funded project, we aim to study cancer communication in the new media environment with the following specific tasks: Specific Task 1. Pilot Study #1: Examine social media cancer communication practices and investigate the potential for communication inequalities.
Specific Task 2. Pilot Study #2: Develop computational techniques for profiling social-media users based on their online content and behaviors.
|Emotion Control Training to Improve Well-being in Cancer Patients and Caregivers: A Transdisciplinary Pilot Investigation
Florin Dolcos, Psychology
Howard Berenbaum, Psychology
Kelly Bost, Human Development and Family Studies
Sanda Dolcos, Psychology
Roxana Girju, Linguistics and Beckman Institute
Yilan Xu, Agricultural & Consumer Economics
Major stressors, including cancer-related, are associated with high levels of anxiety and depression, impacting directly the emotional well-being of patients and caregivers alike. In addition, unprecedented increases in the costs of cancer treatments, along with associated financial stressors, are indirect sources of emotional distress. Because both direct and indirect causes of distress can lead to treatment non-adherence and dramatically lower quality of life, there is a pressing need for evidence-based interventions that can reduce the detrimental impact of emotional and financial stress. Existing interventions have mainly relied on established clinical techniques, but novel translational interventions that take advantage of emerging findings from behavioral science and neuroscience are still lacking.
Here, we propose a training alternative that will test and validate the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at improving emotion control skills essential in facing emotional challenges and increasing emotional well-being in patient-caregiver dyads. This involves identification of specific neurobehavioral mechanisms of behavior change and collection of ecological momentary assessments measuring desirable changes in self-regulatory behavior, as participants move through their daily lives.
The proposed research capitalizes on our team’s successful implementation of a similar pilot training in student veterans, showing that resilience and well-being can be improved through training. By investigating interactions among constructs from multiple domains and incorporating multiple units of analysis, this novel training will add to the emerging area of “precision medicine” treatments. Importantly, this pilot project will also provide preliminary data in support of upcoming external grant applications proposing large-scale validation and implementation of these tools.
|Data Collection and Coding for the Assessment of Empathic Language in Medical Students’ Spoken Dialogue Interaction
Roxana Girju, Linguistics
Jeff Moore, Chemistry
Howard Berenbaum, Psychology
Empathy has long been recognized as a critical component of good medical practice with direct impact on patient adherence, utilization, and health outcomes. By analyzing computationally the language of perceived empathy in patient - physician scenario interactions, we can gain insights into the empathy processes that are driving and are reflected in the language expressions of coherent discourse. One main challenge of empathy computation is that it is a complex human capability with task-specific significance and interpretation. Thus, in this research we carefully position our work with respect to the definition and context of target empathic behaviors: pre-medical students’ cancer diagnosis of a hypothetical patient and explanation of the chemical mechanism of action.
In this pilot study we will collect, annotate, and prepare a large dataset and identify assessment metrics of student perceived empathy with the future goal of training an artificial intelligence system to learn and recognize empathetic language in medical students’ essays. Such novel dataset and technology will not only lead to a better understanding of empathy across disciplines, but will also inform human graders in grading students’ assignments, and even provide valuable, timely, frequent, and consistent feedback to the future doctors. Such essay writing assignments have been previously and continue to be used as a pedagogical tool to positively affect students’ intrinsic motivation to learn by connecting students’ academic tasks, such as studying organic chemistry, with their career aspirations, like helping patients as practicing physicians.
|Strengthening Foster Youth in Illinois Across the Life Course through Interdisciplinary Research & Public Agency Partnership
Judith Havlicek, Social Work
Hyunil Kim, Social Work
Lisa Mercer, School of Art + Design
Christopher Napolitano, Educational Psychology
William Schneider, Social Work
Each year more than 20,000 youth exit public foster care systems through emancipation at age 18 years, commonly known as aging out. As compared with their counterparts in the general population, former foster youth experience much worse social and economic outcomes. Although nearly all foster youth have held a job by age 21, many have difficulty maintaining employment, with evidence showing that by age 24, former foster youth’s past-year employment rates decline by as much as half and 1 of 5 of those employed (22%) earn incomes below the poverty line.
Foster youth are also plagued by disproportionately high rates of school drop-out and a subsequent cascade of poor educational outcomes. As compared with 10% of same-aged peers in the general population, nearly 25% of foster youth reach age 21 years without either a high school diploma or a GED, contributing to significantly lower rates of post-secondary education and past-year employment as well as high risk of homelessness. The extensive needs of this population require more powerful approaches for supporting positive developing in the life course.
In this proposal, we seek to build a University-based public agency partnership to develop a sustained response to a vexing societal problem. In doing so we seek to include former foster youth in the production of solutions and apply innovations in predictive analytics to identify risks and deliver targeted interventions.
|Immigrant Incorporation in Comparative Perspective
Matthew S. Winters, Political Science
Ilana Redstone Akresh, Sociology
Cara Wong, Political Science
In an era of increased migration and new forms of resistance to that migration in migrant-receiving countries, what predicts decisions among migrants about incorporation into the social and political contexts to which they have migrated? In response to the RFP from the Migration and Refugees in Regional and Global Perspective Initiative at UIUC, we designed a two-year, multidisciplinary pilot project that explores the macro-level determinants of migrant incorporation and collects new micro-level data about the best ways of measuring the phenomenon.
The project is designed such that, in the first year, we will (1) expand available data regarding immigration policies in non- Western contexts; (2) catalog and refine measures of migrant integration and incorporation; and (3) catalog cross-national measures of anti-immigrant sentiment, while during the second year of the project, we will (4) field test new measures of migrant incorporation; and (5) apply for external funding to support broader data collection efforts on migrant incorporation around the world.
2018 Small Grant Awardees
|Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Document Uses of Lethal Force by Law Enforcement in Nearly Real time: Toward the First Comprehensive National Database of Police Shootings
Scott Althaus, Cline Center for Advanced Social Research
Andrea Miller, Psychology
Jennifer Robbennolt, Law and Psychology
No authoritative national database of police-involved shootings in the United States currently exists. Despite a sustained amount of societal attention to the racial dimensions of police-involved shootings, we simply do not know whether the fragmentary records of such encounters, often taking the form of video from dash cams or cell phones, indicate that there is a systemic problem with the racial dimensions of lethal force incidents involving law enforcement, what the sources and implications of that problem might be, or how it might be remedied.
We propose to fund a proof-of-concept study to establish the feasibility of a comprehensive, media-derived database of police uses of lethal force in the United States that can be updated in nearly real time. The end result will be a demonstrated capability to use one or more machine learning algorithms to detect and properly classify news stories about police-involved shootings in the United States with high degrees of precision and recall.
|Exploring an Optimal Patient-Centered e-Intervention of Dual Health Behaviors Among Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors
Anna Arthur, Food Science and Human Nutrition
Chung-Yi Chiu, Kinesiology and Community Health
Maria Grosse-Perdekamp, Carle Cancer Center, Carle Foundation Hospital
Evidence suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, after breast cancer diagnosis can reduce fatigue and improve physical functioning, quality of life, and disease-free survival. Developing theoretically based healthy lifestyle interventions that can be incorporated into the standard of care for breast cancer patients and survivors (BCPS) is vitally important for promoting their health and longevity.
Efforts to promote healthy lifestyles are likely to be most effective if they address the needs and interests of the target group. Multiple behavior interventions may have greater impact on health outcomes compared to single-behavior interventions, especially given that multiple unhealthy behaviors often co-occur. Importantly, use of information and communication technology (ICT) (e.g., web, text messaging, social media, mobile apps) may empower BCPS to self-manage and regulate their healthy lifestyle.
As such, we propose a study with the following objectives: (1) To clarify the preferences and needs of BCPS when being provided with an ICT-based intervention of physical activity and diet, and (2) to know when and what kind of formats of ICT-based intervention of physical activity and diet will be appreciated and used by BCPS at different phases of the cancer continuum (e.g., under active treatment, post-treatment/survivorship phase).
We anticipate being able to significantly contribute to the field of breast cancer research and clinical care by contributing useful guideline recommendations for ICT-based interventions in BCPS at different treatment phases and designing a BCPS-centered, phase-specific, and ICT-based intervention of dual health behavior.
|Life History and Hormones: Mechanisms Linking Childhood Experiences to Women’s Health
Kathryn Clancy, Anthropology
Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Kinesiology and Community Health
Laura Shackelford, Anthropology
We seek to expand our work on the embodiment of early and current stressors on women’s health by developing two related areas of research in this study. Our prior work has focused on the ways in which energetic and inflammatory stressors affect reproductive health.
The first new area of research will provide a needed perspective on psychosocial stressors by adding expertise on early trauma, pain, and postpartum depression. This will help us understand how early trauma affects reproductive and inflammatory biomarkers.
The second new area of research will provide a needed perspective on bone health. This will enable us to understand how energetic and psychosocial stressors affect bone biomarkers and density. Extending our work to both psychosocial stressors and bone health is consistent with our lab’s mission of promoting inclusion in science by maintaining a feminist biology lens on research questions that have gone unasked, and these facets of women’s health are especially understudied.
|Examining the Impact of Parental Leave Decisions on Parents’ Career and Family Outcomes: A Cross-Cultural Study
Karen Kramer, Human Development and Family Studies
Eunmi Mun, Sociology
Teresa Cardador, Labor and Employment Relations
Parental leave policies are seen as having a positive impact on parents’ and children’s well-being, as well as women’s attachment to the labor force. However, scholars have raised concerns about negative outcomes of leave policies, arguing that employees who take parental leave suffer career setbacks.
The proposed multi-country research study expands this proposition and comprehensively examines how parental leave decisions affect a host of work outcomes, including wage growth and “opting out” from one’s career, as well as family outcomes, such as marital satisfaction, divorce, family well-being, and decisions about having more children. We propose to test the impact of parental leave utilization on individuals and families, differentiating the theoretical mechanisms and empirical outcomes for fathers and mothers. This research will make important theoretical and policy-relevant contributions to the understanding of work and family benefits and penalties associated with the use of parental leave policies.
|Oral Language Development in School-Age Dual Language Learners
Silvina Montrul, Linguistics, Spanish, and Portuguese
Pamela Hadley, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Jessica Montag, Psychology
Kiel Christianson, Educational Psychology
Despite their linguistic, cognitive, and social potential, many dual language learners and English learners struggle to meet the requirements of academic success in comparison to their English-speaking peers. How can we best promote literacy and academic achievement in one or two languages in dual language learners?
Strong oral language skills are foundational for the development of literacy. Surprisingly, we know nothing about the oral language development of bilingual children across the full school-age period (ages 6-18), and this is a barrier to enhancing their academic achievement. The present study seeks to fill this gap by documenting the oral language development of both heritage languages speakers of Spanish and native speakers of English in dual language programs in Champaign-Urbana.
We will investigate how oral language development is related to both literacy development and academic achievement. Our schools lack sensitive and rigorous linguistic measures they can use to identify the factors contributing to specific patterns of language and literacy development. We will develop novel linguistic measures in Spanish and English to document the development of the students’ two languages from ages 6 to 18.
|Behavioral Decision Research—To Go
Michel Regenwetter, Psychology
Hari Sundaram, Computer Science and Advertising
Daniel R. Cavagnaro, Information Systems and Decision Sciences, Cal State Fullerton
This project proposes to augment the standard “dine-in” setting of behavioral decision experiments in the laboratory with “to-go” features that allow people to participate in experiments via their cell phone. We aim to develop a system for behavioral economics experiments that will provide unprecedented quantitative rigor and diagnostic power for testing theories of decision making.
Over the past decade, the Regenwetter laboratory has developed path-breaking quantitative methods for behavioral decision research. A typical current-day study considers hundreds of predictions from dozens of theories, using many different data sets, and computes millions of statistical analyses on the supercomputer. Despite the huge scope of such projects, there remain important bottlenecks in that every participant’s data are based on the same stimulus set, and everyone gives large numbers of responses within a short time in the laboratory. Ultimately, data collection could be made far more efficient by adapting the design in real time, as data are collected. Our vision of the future web-mobile platform for behavioral decision research is to reduce computational waste associated with one-size-fits-all stimuli.
2017 Small Grant Awardees
|Assessing the Impact of Neighborhood Food Environment on Diet and Health Among Physically and Psychosocially Vulnerable Children and Adults
Ruopeng An, PhD, MPP, Kinesiology and Community Health
Craig Gundersen, PhD, Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Zaheeda Darvesh, Extension
Over the past decade, the media, politicians, practitioners, and researchers paid increasing attention to the role neighborhood food environment played in people’s nutrient intake, diet quality, and waistline. Several population-level policy interventions have been implemented, such as the zoning regulation that limits establishment of new fast-food restaurants in Southern Los Angeles, and a multimillion-dollar public and private investment to build new supermarkets nationwide. The rationale of these policies has been based on the “food desert hypothesis”—proximity to fast-food outlets and convenience/corner stores results in lower diet quality and overeating, whereas proximity to large supermarkets has a protective effect due to its provision of various healthy food options such as fresh produce. To date, scientific evidence linking neighborhood food environment to individuals’ dietary behavior and body weight status at best remains mixed and inconclusive.
Among many factors that may lead to the null findings on the impact of neighborhood food environment, differential susceptibility to and dependency upon the food environment across population subgroups is particularly intriguing and policy-relevant. Physically and psychosocially vulnerable individuals could be influenced disproportionately by the immediate food environment surrounding their residence, primarily due to lack of access to transportation, mobility impairment, and/or intellectual disability that restrain their grocery shopping behavior.
Investigating the role of neighborhood food environment on physically/psychosocially vulnerable individuals could inform the design and implementation of targeted policy interventions that address their specific nutritional needs. The short-term goal of the study is to examine the influence of neighborhood food environment on physically and psychosocially vulnerable individuals, and compare the estimated impact to that of the general population and their less-vulnerable counterparts. The long-term goal is to design, implement, and assess interventions that adequately address the nutritional needs of these highly susceptible population subgroups.
|A Nuanced Model for Recognizing Levels of Conflict in Decision Making Using Natural Language Processing
Suma Bhat, PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Marshall Scott Poole, PhD, Communication
The ability to leverage massive amounts of written language using natural language processing (NLP) techniques enables us to make sense of the world around us in unprecedented ways. Coding and content analysis of texts, like transcripts of group decision making interaction and newspaper articles, are some of the most important analysis methods available to the behavioral and social sciences. These techniques have been used to: study errors in decision making deliberations that lead to disastrous wars, diagnose mental illness, study political agendas available through the media, and understand the causes behind airplane and train accidents, among other things.
However, manual coding and content analysis are highly resource-intensive, often requiring hundreds of hours of work for relatively small datasets. Additionally, although computational methods have been applied to content analysis for many years, they generally involve the analysis of word counts and n-grams (sets of n words that co-occur) to find patterns. Applications based on word counts from a pre-defined dictionary can tell us a good deal about discourse, but they leave out much of the nuance required to make finer judgments about the function and meaning of communicative acts. This requires a higher level of sophistication in the language patterns than current machine applications are able to provide.
We propose to develop a prototypical framework for automatically coding levels of conflict in transcribed interactions using NLP approaches so that aspects such as the flow of ideas, conversational dynamics, and group balance in small groups can be studied in ways that have better agreement with manual analyses.
|Microbiome–Gut–Brain–Axis in Mothers and Their Preschool Children: Attachment, Nutrition, and Implications for Socioemotional and Cognitive Outcomes: A Pilot Study
Kelly Bost, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies
Florin Dolcos, PhD, Psychology
Sanda Dolcos, PhD, Psychology
Sharon Donovan, PhD, RD, Food Sciences and Human Nutrition
Barbara Fiese, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies
Wendy Heller, PhD, Psychology
Salma Musaad, MD, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies
The role of the gut microbiota in regulating psychosocial, neurocognitive, and metabolic processes is widely accepted, and growing evidence suggests bi-directional communication between gut microbiota and the brain. Specific mechanisms involved in this communication have only begun to be elucidated and include the vagus nerve, immune system, and microbial neurometabolite production. The impact of the microbiota-gut-brain-axis (MGBA) on stress-related physiology, in particular, is gaining interest because dysregulated stress responses and related cognitions are implicated in a wide range of mental and physical health outcomes. Pivotal work with animals has demonstrated 1) the critical role of gut microbiota in early programming of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and in modulating social stress reactivity and behaviors; 2) that psychosocial stress across the lifespan can alter microbiota composition; and 3) that changes in microbial composition can affect stress reactivity and depression.
Evidence of this bi-directionality in humans is scarce, but preclinical data support associations between microbial composition, emotion regulation and neurocognitive function in adults. Studies examining links between emotion, cognition, and gut microbiota in human samples are needed for developing mechanistic models of the MGBA. Importantly, a comprehensive understanding of these associations in relation to the strong impact of diet on gut microbiota and emotion, as well as interpersonal factors that have robust effects on emotional, attentional, and behavioral response patterns, is crucial.
In this pilot project, data from the Strong Kids 2 Program will be leveraged to examine the gut microbiota of mothers and their 24-month old children, and how microbial composition is related to psychosocial and executive function assessments. Neural correlates of microbial diversity and community structure in mothers will be explored. The long-term goal is to explicate multi-level influences on developing and changing microbial composition and diversity, and consequences of the MGBA for socioemotional, neurocognitive, and health outcomes in children and adults.
|Establishing an Illinois Twin Project
Daniel A. Briley, PhD, Psychology
Kristen L. Bub, PhD, Educational Psychology
John P. Caughlin, PhD, Communication
Joseph R. Cohen, PhD, Psychology
Jaime Derringer, PhD, Psychology
R. Chris Fraley, PhD, Psychology
Benjamin L. Hankin, PhD, Psychology
Aleksander J. Ksiazkiewicz, PhD, Political Science
Ruby Mendenhall, PhD, Sociology
Christopher M. Napolitano, PhD, Educational Psychology
Eva Pomerantz, PhD, Psychology
Kelly M. Tu, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies
Yilan Xu, PhD, Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Unraveling the interplay between genetic influences and environmental contexts remains a central impediment to progress in the behavioral sciences. Individuals have different liabilities for illness partially due to genetic processes, partially due to past life experiences or health behaviors, and partially due to the interplay of these features of development. Twin and family studies offer a powerful tool to unravel the interconnected influences of genes and environments to address important questions that are often confounded in non-genetically informative designs.
The primary objective of this research is to establish an Illinois Twin Project. We intend to form a developmental cohort for future interdisciplinary work across psychology, political science, economics, sociology, and communication.
The long-term goal of this work is to establish a cohort of interested families which will be followed over time to track pathways of healthy child development. Twin and family methodology offers improved inferential power for many research questions. In addition, the current project would take seriously the family aspect of twin and family studies. Parents provide crucial social inputs for children, and a genetically informative design allows for parsing the bi-directional influence between parents and children. Beyond parents, children are situated within neighborhoods, schools, and regions. A key goal of the project will be understanding the effect of inequality in terms of economics and opportunity.
|Children in the Wild: Engineering Tools to Capture Child Development in Real-World Contexts
Nancy McElwain, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies
Harley Johnson, PhD, Mechanical Science and Engineering
Eva Pomerantz, PhD, Psychology
Kristen Bub, PhD, Educational Psychology
Laura Hahn, PhD, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Jennifer Bernhard, PhD, Engineering
During early development, dynamic transactions between children and their environment are posited to shape brain structure and function, physical and mental health, and cognitive and academic functioning. Early experiences with caregivers often set children on trajectories of psychological adjustment or maladjustment that can be difficult to alter.
Our understanding of the processes by which the dynamic transactions between children and their environment guide development is limited by some methodological challenges. Development is: 1) fueled by a child’s repeated, real-time interactions with caregivers over time, but observational assessments of child-caregiver interactions can be brief and have static study designs; 2) characterized by continuous transactions at multiple levels of analysis, but typical methods and approaches assess constructs in isolation from one other, with limited capability to capture dynamic patterns that emerge across levels of analysis; and 3) intertwined with the real-world contexts in which it occurs, but developmental studies are often carried out in controlled laboratory settings or in naturalistic contexts where assessments are brief and researchers are present.
Our overarching aim is to develop remote, unobtrusive methods to simultaneously capture physiological and behavioral streams of data on a large scale among young children and their caregivers in everyday, natural environments. To this end, our specific aims include designing a child-appropriate, unobtrusive apparatus that embeds sensors and devices to collect and synchronize multiple streams of physiological and behavioral data.
Our project will afford methodological innovations that will have the potential to transform the types of questions that can be advanced about dynamic processes underlying development. Ecologically valid and noninvasive assessments will contribute to the identification of individual differences that set children on varying trajectories of psychological adjustment or maladjustment. In the long term, such assessments could serve as mechanisms of preventive screening and/or intervention for children at risk.
|An Interdisciplinary Analytical Framework to Understand Socioeconomic and Cultural Contexts for Delivery of Safe Water, Sanitation, and Resource Management in Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Uganda
Assata Zerai, PhD, Sociology
Teresia Olemako, PhD, Geography & Geographic Information Science (GGIS)
Rebecca Morrow, Ph.D. Student, Sociology
Jeremy Guest, PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE)
Global humanitarian crises have resulted in the forcible displacement of 65.3 million people, including 21.3 million refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) seeks to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees by encouraging host countries to create conditions conducive to the peaceful resolution of disputes and protection of human rights. To achieve this, UNHCR relies on cooperation from States, but many host States have severe resource limitations and are the least developed countries in the world. In Uganda, host to the 8th largest number of refugees, these resource challenges are extensive, yet it is considered one of the world’s most favorable refugee environments.
Uganda currently hosts a disproportionately high number of women and children, and holistic solutions are required to meet the needs of these vulnerable populations. One area of profound importance concerns water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs that are not being met in refugee settlements. Not only are women and girls the predominant providers of water in households, but a lack of adequate WASH has direct effects on childhood morbidity and child nutrition. Providing WASH technologies to residents in a refugee settlement requires a better understanding of the lived experiences of women and children as they navigate micro-aggressions from the resident population and structural inequality that may demote their needs within already distressed social, political, and economic systems.
The project’s specific objectives are to: (1) understand the socioeconomic and cultural context, (2) conduct feminist qualitative analysis of lived experiences of women refugees, including experiences of marginalization due to ethnocentrism, (3) identify stakeholders in a Ugandan refugee settlement and host community, (4) develop bottom-up solutions and a plan for engagement to increase inclusiveness, and (5) intentionally partner with female scholars in Uganda to establish a framework to develop affordable, deployable WASH solutions, and enable meaningful integration among engineering, business, and the social and natural sciences.