Child Development and Behavior Branch (CDBB)


CDBB develops scientific initiatives and supports research and research training relevant to the psychological, neurobiological, language, behavioral, and educational development and health of children.

The following theme characterizes all branch programs: Development is best described and studied as a variable process in which individual differences in cognitive, social, emotional, language, neurobiological and physical maturation, environment, life experiences, and genetics interact in complex ways.

Bilingual and Biliteracy Development

Gap: One out of every five people age 5 years and older in the United States speaks a language other than English in the home, yet there is a paucity of research on bilingual and biliteracy development in dual-language children.

Priority: Stimulate research on bilingual and biliteracy development in children learning English in addition to a language spoken at home, including the differentiation of language impairment from typical language variation in dual-language learners.

Measures of Neurodevelopment

Gap: There is a lack of comprehensive, efficient, low-cost measures of cognition, language, self-regulation, and social functioning in typically developing infants and toddlers that can be linked with developmental changes in brain structure and function, and that can be used for evaluating developmental status and intervention outcomes.

Priority: Develop a low-cost, efficient, and comprehensive neurodevelopmental battery of measures from evidence-based neurocognitive research specific to typically developing infants and toddlers.

Pediatric Primary Care Behavioral and Health Promotion Interventions

Gap: Much of the behavioral intervention research in pediatric primary care is targeted toward short-term outcomes, with a focus on immediate effects or cure. There is a need for more pediatric primary care research focused on end results of particular health care practices and interventions, such as change in ability to function or increase in quality of life, especially for chronic conditions. There is the additional need to assess better ways to monitor and improve the quality of care in pediatric primary care and related clinical settings.

Priority: Facilitate research on the impact of behavioral and health promotion interventions in pediatric primary care and related clinical settings with a focus on end result child and adolescent health outcomes.

Psychosocial Adjustment for Individuals in High-Risk Environments

Gap: There is a large literature base on the detrimental effects of high-risk family and neighborhood environments on psychosocial adjustment among children and adolescents. What remains unknown are the factors associated with the significant number of children who develop positive outcomes despite high-risk environments. It is possible that those are the factors that can have the biggest impact when incorporated into prevention and intervention approaches for children in high-risk environments.

Priority: Stimulate research to identify developmental factors and mechanisms that promote short- and long-term psychosocial adjustment for children and adolescents exposed to high-risk family and neighborhood environments.

School Readiness Skills in Economically and Socially Disadvantaged Children

Gap: Interventions that result in significant, sustained, and positive academic and school functioning outcomes for disadvantaged children are lacking.

Priority: Support longitudinal and early intervention research to identify the mechanisms associated with long-term deficits in academic and school functioning of disadvantaged children to better hone interventions that result in more successful and sustained positive outcomes.

Reading, Writing, and Mathematics

Gap: Although interventions for reading, writing, and mathematics have progressed significantly for many children with learning disabilities, there is still a sizeable number of children, adolescents, and young adults who do not respond to the current state-of-the-art interventions. There is a significant need to identify these individuals early and to develop additional interventions for poor responders.

Priority: Support research on intervention efforts in reading, writing and mathematics that investigate early precursors of risk for future minimal intervention response; methods to model comprehensive risk for children that inform screening approaches and early intensive intervention efforts, and intensive intervention services for individuals who show minimal intervention response.


Gap: The ability to reason is related to many cognitive processes, including executive function, theory of mind, heuristic analysis, and decision making, that are necessary for learning, academic success, well-being, and health literacy, yet there is little research on how reasoning ability develops or on the factors facilitating or impeding typical reasoning skills.

Priority: Facilitate research on the neurocognitive development of reasoning (e.g., quantitative, deductive, inductive, causal) in typically developing populations, including the identification of biobehavioral, environmental, cultural, academic, and cognitive factors influencing the development of reasoning.

  • Lisa Freund, Branch Chief
    Main Research Areas: Cognitive development, behavioral neuroscience, psychobiology; disorders of sex development: psychosocial, cognitive, and behavioral aspects; brain development in typical populations; neuroendocrine correlates of the development of behavior, cognition, and social functioning
  • Ruben Alvarez, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Typical language development, bilingualism, and biliteracy
  • Layla Esposito, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Social and emotional development and child and family processes, human-animal interaction
  • James Griffin, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Executive Function: Typical Development, Atypical Development, Measurement, and Interventions; School Readiness (Includes short- and long-term outcome studies and economic studies of lifespan cost savings); and Primary Care and Childcare Parent and Child Interventions
  • Karen Lee, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Behavioral and developmental pediatrics and risk behaviors
  • Kathy Mann Koepke, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Mathematics cognition, reasoning, learning, development, and disorders; reasoning, including animal models and human learning, transfer, typical development, and dysfunction; science learning, including animal models and human cognition, reasoning, learning, typical development, interventions and disorders
  • Brett Miller, Program Director
    Main Research Areas: Reading, writing, and related learning disabilities; dyslexia/reading disability



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