Jessica A Stern

Jessica A Stern
University of Virginia | UVa · Department of Psychology

PhD
Examining close relationships as a driver of human development

About

43
Publications
35,911
Reads
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829
Citations
Citations since 2016
33 Research Items
803 Citations
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Introduction
How does the capacity to care for others develop across the lifespan? My research examines attachment relationships as a lens to understand individual differences in empathy, prosocial behavior, and moral reasoning from infancy through adulthood. Current projects examine the role of social experiences in shaping children's empathic support for peers and moral judgments of environmental harm.
Additional affiliations
September 2019 - December 2020
University of Virginia
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Description
  • PIs: Toby Grossmann, Amrisha Vaish, Joe Allen
May 2014 - May 2019
University of Maryland, College Park
Position
  • Research Assistant
Description
  • Flagship Fellow; PI: Dr. Jude Cassidy
July 2012 - July 2014
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Position
  • Research Assistant
Education
August 2014 - June 2019
University of Maryland, College Park
Field of study
  • Developmental Psychology
August 2014 - August 2016
University of Maryland, College Park
Field of study
  • Developmental Psychology
August 2008 - May 2012
Pomona College
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (43)
Article
Empathy involves understanding and “feeling with” others’ emotions, and is an essential capacity underlying sensitive care in humans and other species. Evidence suggests that the roots of empathy appear early in ontogeny, and that individual differences in empathy bear meaningfully on children’s social behavior and relationships throughout developm...
Article
Full-text available
Attachment was examined as a predictor of teens’ empathic support for friends in a multimethod longitudinal study of 184 U.S. adolescents (58% Caucasian, 29% African American, 13% other) followed from ages 14 to 18. Adolescents’ secure state of mind regarding attachment at 14 predicted teens’ greater capacity to provide empathic support during obse...
Article
Full-text available
Recent social movements have illuminated systemic inequities in U.S. society, including within the social sciences. Thus, it is essential that attachment researchers and practitioners engage in reflection and action to work toward anti-racist perspectives in the field. Our aims in this paper are (1) to share the generative conversations and debates...
Article
Full-text available
Decades of evidence demonstrate that insecure attachment is associated with increased risk for depressive symptoms. Yet research has focused on predominantly White samples, with little attention to whether developmental pathways vary by social-contextual factors like racial identity and neighborhood racism. This study examines whether longitudinal...
Preprint
Full-text available
Empathic responding-the capacity to understand, resonate with, and respond sensitively to others' emotional experiences-is a complex human faculty that calls upon multiple social, emotional, and cognitive capacities and their underlying neural systems. Emerging evidence in adults has suggested that the hippocampus and its associated network may pla...
Article
This study examined development of emotional support competence within close friendships across adolescence. A sample of 184 adolescents (53% girls, 47% boys; 58% White, 29% Black, 14% other identity groups) participated in seven waves of multimethod assessments with their best friends and romantic partners from age 13 to 24. Latent change score mo...
Article
Full-text available
Research on parent-child relationships demonstrates the importance of maternal sensitivity for the development of children’s emotion regulation, social competence, and health; thus, it is important to understand the emotional-cognitive capacities underlying maternal sensitivity. We followed 120 mothers and their full-term infants from the newborn p...
Article
Full-text available
Experiences with parents and romantic partners during adolescence are theorized to have long-term effects on youth development. However, little research has empirically examined the relative contributions of experiences in each type of relationship at different points during adolescence to positive development in young adulthood. The goal of the pr...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: Nearly 50% of adults under age 29 report using some form of online dating to find sexual partners or romantic relationships. Limited evidence suggests online and offline dating behaviors and experiences can vary. We aimed to expand understanding these differences by examining how attachment styles are associated with online and offline s...
Article
Full-text available
Infancy is a sensitive period of human brain development that is plastically shaped by environmental factors. Both proximal factors, such as sensitive parenting, and distal factors, such as socioeconomic status (SES), are known predictors of individual differences in structural and functional brain systems across the lifespan, yet it is unclear how...
Article
Full-text available
Maternal depressive symptoms (MDS) have been linked to both child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Theory suggests that child attachment security may be a protective factor against the negative effects of MDS. This study examined child attachment security as a buffer of the link between MDS and child internalizing and externalizin...
Article
Full-text available
Ample research demonstrates that parents’ experience-based mental representations of attachment—cognitive models of close relationships—relate to their children’s social-emotional development. However, no research to date has examined how parents’ attachment representations relate to another crucial domain of children’s development: brain developme...
Article
Central to attachment theory is the idea that behavior in close relationships can best be understood in context. Although decades of research have illuminated cross-cultural patterns of caregiving and attachment, there remains a critical need to increase research with African American families, examine the specific sociocultural context of systemic...
Article
The present two-study investigation is the first to examine whether experimentally boosting attachment security (security priming) affects attitudes in the parenting domain for both parents and non-parents. Mothers (n = 72) and childless undergraduates (n = 82) were randomly assigned to a neutral or a secure prime condition and then completed measu...
Article
Attachment theory suggests that insecurely attached individuals will have more difficulty seeking and receiving support from others. Such struggles in adolescence may reinforce negative expectations of others and contribute to relationship difficulties into adulthood. Using a diverse community sample of 184 adolescents followed from age 13 to 27, a...
Article
OBJECTIVE: Although ample evidence indicates that child health is compromised by early adversity (e.g., abuse and poverty), less is known about the contribution of parenting in low-stress contexts to child health, especially in infancy. This longitudinal study extends previous research on early adversity to ask the question: Does quality of parenta...
Article
Full-text available
Maternal depressive symptoms (MDS) are inconsistently associated with lower rates of child prosocial behavior. Studies typically examine prosocial behavior as a unitary construct rather than examining its multiple dimensions, and rarely consider how the quality of the parent-child relationship could influence this association. OBJECTIVE: The curren...
Article
Full-text available
Parental child-focused reflective functioning (RF)—understanding children’s behavior as a function of mental states—and parental empathy—understanding, resonating with, and feeling concern for children’s emotions—have each been linked to sensitive caregiving and children’s attachment security in separate studies, but they have been neither directly...
Article
Individuals' social experiences are associated with their mental health, physical health, and even mortality. Over the last 30 years, researchers have examined the ways in which these social experiences might be associated with chronic inflammation—a component underlying many of the chronic diseases of aging. Little research, however, has examined...
Data
The main research article (Beier et al., 2018, Child Development) describes children’s responses during nine tasks: 3 helping opportunities, 3 sharing opportunities, and 3 comforting opportunities. This document provides procedural details for each of those tasks, plus coding guides for deriving children’s prosocial scores and identifying additiona...
Data
Additional methods and results for Beier et al. (2018), "Helping, Sharing, and Comforting in Young Children: Links to Individual Differences in Attachment".
Data
Additional details for the Preschool Strange Situation protocol, as reported in Beier et al. (2018), "Helping, Sharing, and Comforting in Young Children: Links to Individual Differences in Attachment".
Article
The first months after becoming a new parent are a unique and important period in human development. Despite substantial research on the many social and biological changes that occur during the first months of parenthood, little is known about changes in mothers’ attachment. The present study examines developmental stability and change in first-tim...
Article
Research indicates that dispositional attachment security fosters empathy, and that short-term increases in security ("security priming") increase empathy and willingness to help others. In two experiments, we examined effects of recalling one's own vulnerability ( feeling hurt by a relationship partner) and security priming on empathy for a recipi...
Article
Although evidence shows that attachment insecurity and disorganization increase risk for the development of psychopathology (Fearon, Bakermans-Kranenburg, van IJzendoorn, Lapsley, & Roisman, 2010; Groh, Roisman, van IJzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & Fearon, 2012), implementation challenges have precluded dissemination of attachment interventions...
Article
Few studies have examined stability and change in attachment during adolescence. This 5-year longitudinal study (a) examined whether prototype or revisionist developmental dynamics better characterized patterns of stability and change in adolescent attachment (at T1, N = 176; Mage = 14.0 years, SD = 0.9), (b) tested potential moderators of prototyp...
Article
Invited comment in Post-Election Forum http://arrow-journal.org/open-up-lean-in-stay-with/
Thesis
Full-text available
Though theory suggests that parents' empathy is important for children's empathic development, the transmission of empathy from parent to child remains poorly understood. The goals of this investigation were to test an intergenerational model of empathy with child attachment as a potential mediating mechanism and to replicate findings linking child...
Chapter
Full-text available
Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982, 1973, 1980) is, at its core, a theory of prosocial behavior. It explains how, in early childhood, interactions with mindful, caring, and supportive parental figures (“attachment figures”) create and solidify children’s positive mental representations of others (as competent, dependable, and well intentioned), t...
Method
Full-text available
An adapted version of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1980) for parents. Subscales measure parental Empathic Concern, Perspective Taking, and Personal Distress when responding to children's emotions and behaviors.
Article
Full-text available
In response to the high co-occurrence of anxiety symptoms in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), several interventions have been developed for this population. In spite of promising findings, some youth with ASD respond only minimally to such interventions. To understand potential factors that may impact treatment response, the current study...
Article
Full-text available
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Article
Full-text available
This descriptive study examines the complexity of psychiatric comorbidity in treatment-seeking youth with ASD and anxiety symptoms. Forty-two parents of youth with ASD and anxiety (ages 8–14) completed a structured diagnostic interview (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version). Youth o...
Conference Paper
Background: Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur in youth with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (Leyfer et al. 2006; van Steensel et al. 2011). Cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBT) are well-established, evidenced-based treatments and have been used in youth with ASD in well-controlled research settings with encouraging results (Re...
Conference Paper
Background: Adjustment problems such as anxiety have been widely reported in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD; Leyfer et al., 2006). In non-ASD community and clinical samples, cognition has been found to play a role in the development and maintenance of internalizing and externalizing problems (Schniering & Rapee, 2002, 2004a, 2004b)...
Article
Full-text available
Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur in youth with autism spectrum disorders. In addition to developing efficacious treatments for anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders, it is important to examine the transportability of these treatments to real-world settings. Study aims were to (a) train clinicians to deliver Facing Your Fears: Grou...
Data
Questionnaire measure of parental empathy used in Stern, Borelli, & Smiley (2015).
Article
Full-text available
Previous work suggested the association between intentionality and the reported time of action was exclusive, with intentionality as the primary facilitator to the mental time compression between the reported time of action and its effect (Haggard, Clark, & Kalogeras, 2002). In three experiments, we examined whether mental time compression could al...

Questions

Question (1)
Question
Our lab is gathering information about Gorilla, an online platform for building experiments (https://gorilla.sc). Has anyone heard of it, used it, or do you have colleagues who have used it? Do you have any experience with other web-based platforms to collect reaction time and accuracy data that you would recommend?
Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Network

Cited By

Projects

Projects (4)
Project
How do relationships shape the developing social brain? We examine the neural correlates of attachment, parenting behavior, and empathy in childhood.
Project
This 2021 Special Issue of Attachment & Human Development focused on bringing together scholars from the fields of attachment and Black youth development to foster dialogue about promoting healthy relationships in African American families.
Project
This line of research examines how social relationships become embedded in biological systems to shape physical health.