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Expertise in Multiple Fields Of Study

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Wediko’s commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable youth is illustrated not only in our direct service programs, but also in our continuing investment in scholarly and applied research. A wide range of publications, dissertations, and presentations have been based on studies at Wediko, allowing clinical researchers and practitioners to access the robust learning environments at Wediko. Publications are featured in noteworthy journals, such as the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Disability Studies Quarterly, and many more.

Current Wediko Research

Since 2014, the Wediko New York office has been running a comprehensive program evaluation to better understand student outcomes in school-based mental health programming. Specifically, the research has looked at the intersection of social and emotional learning (SEL) and the known effects of student trauma in urban, low-income students using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Questionnaire. The first phase of this program evaluation, under the direction of Johanna Creswell Báez, Ph.D., LCSW and Kristen Renshaw, LCSW, looked at these outcomes in one case study school, New Directions Secondary School. The evaluation has expanded to include two additional schools. Data will be collected over time to fully understand the impact of Wediko’s school-based programs longitudinally. Current findings have been presented at the annual Advancing School Mental Health Conference and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies annual conference.

Since 2012, Wediko Children’s Services has been developing an online application to inform behavioral interventions for children. Wediko launched a pilot of the Checklist Data Tracker during the 2013 Wediko Summer Program, under the direction of Winslow Robinson, LCSW. The project enables the digital use of a time-tested tool, the Wediko Cognitive Behavior Checklist, to collect and analyze data to identify rates and patterns of both positive (or desired) and problem behavior. This project empowers data-driven decision-making for effective and efficient action planning. The pilot has expanded and is now being customized for use at Wediko School.

Recent Publications

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Wediko’s Executive Director, Amy C. Sousa, Ph.D., was recently published in Disability Studies Quarterly, Her article, entitles “Crying Doesn’t Work: Emotion and Parental Involvement of Working Class Mothers Raising Children with Developmental Disabilities,” sheds light on the varying interactions between the low income mothers interviewed and the institutions they rely on to provide services for their students, with emphasis on how income and emotionality inform their reactions to school demands.

The Wediko School’s Clinical Phase Model was featured in the Journal Of Contemporary Social Services. The article, written by Johanna Creswell Baez,Ph.D., LCSW, highlights how the Wediko School successfully incorporates family therapy into their clinical phase model of student treatment. Creswell Baez identifies a need for holistic clinical work in family systems to support children and demonstrates how the Wediko School integrates familial treatment into residential structure.

A History of Research at Wediko

Research at Wediko began with the work of those who helped create the program. Robert Young and colleagues evaluated treatment techniques in the summer program (Young, Miller, & Verven, 1951), and Howard J. Parad examined the need for uniform recording and reporting practices (Parad & Young, 1953). The early 1980s signaled the emergence of a research program with a dual emphasis on evaluating behavior change (Parad, 1983) and on basic processes in personality and social development (Wright, 1983).

Under the leadership of Dr. Jack Wright of Brown University, research at Wediko has examined issues of central importance to the understanding of children’s psychosocial adjustment. Specific topics that have been investigated include the cross-situational organization of children’s prosocial and problem behaviors, social status in children’s peer groups, gender differences in aggression and adaptive behaviors, and, most recently, how people’s concepts of psychopathology change with age and clinical expertise.

A Contextual Model

A central theme of the research is that children’s behaviors, and more broadly their personalities, cannot be understood without attention to the interpersonal contexts in which they are embedded. Research at Wediko beginning in the late 1980s led investigators to advance a “contextual” model of traits that conceptualizes personality as patterns of “if…then” links between social contexts and children’s responses to them (Wright & Mischel, 1987, 1988; Wright & Dawson, 1989; Shoda, Mischel, & Wright, 1989, 1993a,b, 1994; Mischel & Shoda, 1995). This model continues to shape how researchers think about complex individual differences in behaviors such as anxiety, hostility, aggression, and prosocial behavior (see Van Mechelen & Kiers, 1999; Vansteelandt, 1999).

In the last decade, Dr. Audrey Zakriski at Connecticut College and other collaborators have played increasingly important research roles, in part by expanding a contextual view of personality into a model of child clinical assessment (Wright, Lindgren, & Zakriski, 2001; Wright & Zakriski, 2001, 2003; Wright, Zakriski, & Drinkwater, 1999; Zakriski, Wright, & Underwood, 2006). This approach raises questions about widely used assessment practices that broadly summarize children’s behavior problems over contexts. It also offers methods for studying the variability in children’s behavior problems that can identify children with distinct psychosocial profiles and treatment needs. This contextual framework has been extended to the study of treatment outcomes. Rather than focusing on the overall “amount” of change, as is common in outcome research, Wediko research emphasizes the need to understand the interpersonal dynamics of how change occurs. Accumulating evidence (e.g., Zakriski, Wright, & Parad, 2005) suggests that only by distinguishing between multiple change pathways is it possible to interpret what overall change means or predict whether it will transfer to other settings.

Expanding Assessment

Federal and state guidelines call for functional analysis of behavior and empirically-based educational planning, but assessment methods have not kept pace with policy mandates. One key goal for Wediko is to make empirical data more clinically useful within the setting; another is to make methods we have developed more widely available to other professionals. For many years, the Wediko Behavior Observation System (WBOS) enabled staff to provide extensive field data needed to assess children’s social interactional patterns (Wright et al., 1999; Zakriski et al., in press). As Wediko develops digital means to collect field data, researchers and clinical staff will have immediate access to empirical data on children’s social adjustment and behavior, data that can then be used in clinical supervision, family consultations, and end-of-summer reports. By developing methods for studying behavior that are both efficient and contextually sensitive, Wediko research should also help professionals in other settings respond to mandates for empirically-based assessment and planning.

As Howard Parad and Robert Young emphasized over 50 years ago, Wediko remains committed to the systematic study of troubled youths. In the decades to come, Wediko will continue to be a model of clinical-research integration—by serving the immediate needs of children in treatment, by helping professionals evaluate the services they provide, and by contributing to basic research on children’s socio-emotional development.

Selected References

Báez, J. C. (2015). Testing and Explaining a Social Emotional Learning Program and the Intersection of Trauma in Urban, Low-Income Students: A Mixed Methods Study (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Smith College Libraries.

Báez, J. C. (2015). Bridging the distance: A clinical phase model of family therapy with adolescent residential treatment. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 96(1), 41-48.

Coppersmith, D., Zakriski, A. L., Wright, J. C., Hartley, A., & McCarthy, C. E. (October, 2012). Expert-Novice Differences in the Assessment of Change: Clinical Experience Improves Contextual Sensitivity. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association, Worcester, MA.

Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: Reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological Review, 102, 246-268.

Parad, H. W. (1983). Behavioral consistency and change in children during and after short-term residential treatment: A multiple perspectives approach. Doctoral Dissertation. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Parad, H. J., & Young, R. A. (1953). Recording practices in a therapeutic camp. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 23, 358-368.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1989). Intuitive interactionism and person perception: Effects of context-behavior relations on dispositional judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 41-53.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1993a). The role of situational demands and cognitive competencies in behavioral organization and personality coherence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1023-1035.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1993b). Links between personality judgments and contextualized behavior patterns: Situation-behavior profiles of personality prototypes. Social Cognition, 11, 399-429.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1994). Intra-individual stability in the organization and patterning of behavior: Incorporating psychological situations into the idiographic analysis of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 674-687.

Van Mechelen, I., & Kiers, H. A. L. (1999). Individual differences in anxiety responses to stressful situations: A three-mode component analysis model. European Journal of Personality, 13, 409-428.

Vansteelandt, K. (1999). A formal model for the competency-demand hypothesis. European Journal of Personality, 13, 429-442.

Wright, J. C. (1983). The structure and perception of behavioral consistency. Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

Wright, J. C., Lindgren, K. P., & Zakriski, A. L. (2001). Syndromal versus contextualized assessment of childhood psychopathology: Differentiating environmental and dispositional determinants of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1176-1189.

Wright, J. C., & Mischel, W. (1987). A conditional approach to dispositional constructs: The local predictability of social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1159-1177.

Wright, J. C., & Mischel, W. (1988). Conditional hedges and the intuitive psychology of traits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 454-469.

Wright, J. C., & Zakriski, A. L. (2001). A contextual analysis of externalizing and mixed syndrome boys: When syndromal similarity obscures functional dissimilarity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 457-470.

Wright, J. C., & Zakriski, A. L. (2003). When syndromal similarity obscures functional dissimilarity: Distinctive evoked environments of externalizing and mixed syndrome children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 516-527.

Wright, J.C., Zakriski, A. L., & Drinkwater, M. (1999). Developmental psychopathology and the reciprocal patterning of behavior and environment: Distinctive situational and behavioral signatures of “internalizing,” “externalizing,” and “mixed” syndrome children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67,95-107.

Young, R. A., Miller, L., & Verven, N. (1951). Treatment techniques in a therapeutic camp. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 21, 819-826.

Zakriski, A. L., Wright, J. C., & Cardoos, S. (2011). Evaluating Deviancy Training within Residential Treatment: Individual and Group Effects of Peer-Nominated Deviant Talk. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Zakriski, A. L., Wright, J. C., & Underwood, M. K. (2006). Gender similarities and differences in children’s social behavior: Finding personality in contextualized patterns of adaptation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88,844-855.

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