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John Ecknerode retires

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portrait of John Eckenrode

John Eckenrode

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Professor John Eckenrode, a social psychologist and founding director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), is retiring this spring after more than 35 years at Cornell.

Eckenrode made substantial contributions to the university throughout his entire tenure at Cornell.

In 1988, he was responsible for securing federal funding to establish the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell and acted as its director for 30 years before stepping down as director recently. This resource makes data from many sources across the country available to researchers in order to better understand and address the problem of child abuse and maltreatment.

In 2011, Eckenrode helped to merge two separate centers – the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center – to create the BCTR. This combined center advanced the practice of translational research in the social sciences and helped the College of Human Ecology become a leader in using data and evidence to inform policy and practice in the real world.

“It’s virtually impossible to quantify just how much John has meant to the university, the college and the BCTR,” said Christopher Wildeman, the current director of the BCTR. “He has made fundamental contributions to the child welfare field and been the organizational glue for translational research at Cornell. More than that, however, he has also been the calm guiding force who has touched the lives of so many of us here and beyond.”

Eckenrode’s research focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect by investigating the broad range of factors that affect vulnerable families. One of his most-known research efforts relates to his collaboration with Dr. David Olds on the evaluation of Nurse Family Partnership, a program that provides specially-trained nurses to visit disadvantaged mothers during their pregnancy and first two years of their child’s life.

In 2018, Eckenrode and his colleagues won the Outstanding Article Award from the journal Child Maltreatment for a publication that found the program prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient.

One of Eckenrode’s earlier studies on the program, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed mothers and children for 15 years after they participated in the Nurse Family Partnership. The study found mothers who participated in the program were less likely to abuse or neglect their children, rely on public assistance, abuse drugs and alcohol and get arrested.

The BCTR recognized Eckenrode this year at the annual John Doris Memorial Lecture in April.

“I am delighted that we were able to recognize John Eckenrode on the occasion of his retirement from Cornell and express our appreciation for his many contributions to scholarship, as well as the impact he has had on our lives,” said Jane Powers, a senior extension associate at the BCTR. “As the founder and first director of the BCTR, John has left a significant mark – one that will impact future generations of scholars, students, practitioners and policy makers who will continue to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth and families in New York State and beyond.”

Eckenrode received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Tufts University and doctorate degree in social psychology, also from Tufts.

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Charting Mental Disorders from Childhood to Midlife, Thursday, April 25, 2019

portrait of Avshalom Caspi

Charting Mental Disorders from Childhood to Midlife: Lessons for Nosology, Etiology, Intervention, and Public Understanding of Mental Disorde
Avshalom Caspi, Duke University and King's College London

Thursday, April 25, 2019
4:30 p.m.
G10 Biotech Building

Mental-health professionals typically encounter a patient at one point in his or her life. This cross-sectional view fosters a focus on the current presenting disorder(s), on the assumption that diagnosis informs about etiology and prognosis.  But what happens outside the clinic, and what happens across development? Caspi presents new data from the longest longitudinal study of mental health to show how mental disorders ebb and flow over the life course, from childhood to midlife. Surprises emerge about when mental disorders develop, how common they are, and how they diversify with time.  He will present evidence about potent risk factors and health-damaging sequelae and discuss why life-course health policy needs to promote the mental health of children not only for intrinsic reasons, but because doing may improve the health of the population. 

portrait of John EckenrodeThis event also honors and celebrates John Eckenrode’s over 35-year Cornell career. A professor in the Department of Human Development, John has also served as founding director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, director of the Family Life Development Center and founding director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Reception to immediately follow the talk.

Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., is the Edward M. Arnett Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, and Professor of Personality Development at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience, King’s College London. His expertise is in longitudinal methods, developmental psychology, personality assessment, life-course epidemiology, and genomics in behavioral science.

Dr. Caspi grew up in Israel. He attended the University of California, Santa Cruz for his undergraduate degree and completed his Ph.D. at Cornell University. He worked in (West) Berlin, and served on the faculty at Harvard and the University of Wisconsin before moving to London and then Duke.

His research spans the fields of psychology, epidemiology, and genetics. His work is concerned with three broad questions: (1) How do childhood experiences shape aging and the course of health inequalities across the life span?  (2) How do genetic differences between people shape the way they respond to their environments? (3) What are the best ways to assess and measure personality differences between people?

For his research, Dr. Caspi has received both the American Psychological Association's Early Career Contribution Award and Distinguished Career Award. Dr. Caspi was also awarded a Royal Society-Wolfson Merit Award, and was a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, the Mortimer D. Sackler MD Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Developmental Psychobiology, the NARSAD Ruane Prize for Outstanding Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research, and the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for Productive Youth Development.

He holds an honorary doctorate from Tilburg University, The Netherlands. He is involved in international teaching and training initiatives in developmental psychopathology.

(1) Comment.  |   Tags: children    health    John Eckenrode    mental health   

Doing Translational Research podcast: John Eckenrode, Saturday, September 21, 2019

portrait of John Eckenrode View Media

Doing Translational Research podcast: John Eckenrode

What is Translational Research?
May 3, 2018

John Eckenrode
Cornell University

What is Translational Research?
May 3, 2018

John Eckenrode
Cornell University

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Eckenrode receives Outstanding Article Award

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

row of people holding award certificates

Eckenrode (second from right) and other award recipients with their certificates

A nationwide effort to improve the lives of disadvantaged moms and their children through visits from nurses prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient. That’s the conclusion of a recent paper authored by human development professor John Eckenrode, associate director of the BCTR.

Eckenrode and his co-authors – Mary I. Campa, Pamela A. Morris, Charles R. Henderson, Jr.,  Kerry E. Bolger, Harriet Kitzman, and David L. Olds,  – received the Outstanding Article Award for a publication in the Child Maltreatment Journal. They accepted the award at the annual conference of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children last month in New Orleans.

The program is called the Nurse-Family Partnership. It works by having specially-trained nurses regularly visit young, first-time moms-to-be starting in pregnancy and continuing through the child’s second birthday. The nurses provide health checks and counseling about staying healthy during pregnancy and, after birth, also focus on the baby’s health and well-being. Previous studies have found that the program significantly reduces child abuse and neglect. More than 280,000 families have participated in the program over the course of decades.

This awarded study followed 400 mothers and children 15 years after they first participated in the program. Researchers were trying to determine exactly how visits from nurses led to reductions in child abuse and neglect. Their analysis found that the program helped mothers by encouraging them to wait before having more children and helping them to become financially independent.

“It was an honor to receive this award on behalf of the NFR research team,” Eckenrode said. “Our findings suggest that in order to prevent child maltreatment over the long-term, it is important to focus on family planning and assisting young families to become financially self-sufficient.  This is in addition to promoting healthy behaviors, encouraging positive parenting practices, and attending to parents’ mental health needs.”

The article concluded that home-visiting programs can improve the lives of mothers and children by focusing on teaching mothers about planning future pregnancies and encouraging mothers to become economically self-sufficient.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: award    children    health    healthcare    John Eckenrode    Nurse Family Partnership   

National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect refunded

ndacan-logoBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, or NDACAN, secured a $5.2 million federal contract that will maintain the project over the next five years. 2018 will be the Archive’s thirtieth consecutive year receiving federal funding since the Archive was founded at Cornell in 1988.

NDACAN promotes analysis of data on child maltreatment, child well-being, and adoption and foster care. The Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, renewed the project’s contract. The Children’s Bureau plans, manages, coordinates, and supports child abuse and neglect prevention and child welfare service programs.

“We know that data archives and technical support for the secondary analysis of research data represent an important part of the research infrastructures of many fields of research, including child welfare,” said John Eckenrode, professor of human development and NDACAN co-director.

“Maximizing the use of child welfare data is key to making important policy decisions, raising public awareness, and identifying targets for prevention efforts,” he said. “In this way, we hope that our modest efforts at NDACAN can help lead to greater safety, permanency, and well-being for America’s children. We are very pleased to partner with the Children’s Bureau in this effort.”

NDACAN’s holdings include data from national surveys, administrative data from state and federal agencies, and individual studies by child welfare researchers. In addition to acquiring and processing data, NDACAN staff provide technical assistance to child welfare researchers and encourage networking among them in order to exchange information. These efforts have resulted in several hundred published studies.  NDACAN also conducts analyses of archived data to support the work of government agencies, foundations, advocacy groups, and the press.

“In the next five years, we plan to make the Archive even more integral to the child welfare research community by making aggregate data available in readily accessible formats and by opening up our micro-data holdings in ways that facilitate completely new and innovative types of analyses that can better inform child welfare policy—and social policy more broadly,” said Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of Policy, Analysis and Management and NDACAN co-director.

Researchers can find more information and review and order data sets at for no charge on the NDACAN web site.




(0) Comments.  |   Tags: child abuse    children    Christopher Wildeman    John Eckenrode    NDACAN   

Eckenrode recognized with Nicholas Hobbs Award

Tags: award,   children,   John Eckenrode,  

news-2017-eckenrode APA award-inpost

Eckenrode with the Nicholas Hobbs Award

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

The BCTR’s John Eckenrode received the Nicholas Hobbs Award from the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice, Division 37 of the American Psychological Association (APA), dedicated to applying psychological knowledge to advocacy, social justice, service delivery, and public policies affecting children, youth, and families.

Eckenrode is a professor of human development and founder of the National Data Archive of Child Abuse and Neglect, which he now co-directs with Professor Chris Wildeman. His research focuses on child abuse and neglect, the effects of preventive interventions, translational research, and stress and coping processes.

“John has spent his entire academic career doing research and organizing advocacy in the service of vulnerable children and their families,” said Stephen Ceci, professor of developmental psychology in the College of Human Ecology. “What stands out most in my opinion is John’s continuous success obtaining funding from the Children’s Bureau (DHHS) to create and support the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. This center is a gold mine for researchers in this area and John has expertly guided and managed it for a long time and invited scholars from around the world to use its resources.”

The Nicholas Hobbs award is presented annually to a psychologist who exemplifies devotion to child advocacy. The award is named for psychologist Nicholas Hobbs, a past president of the American Psychological Association who organized a national effort to standardize and disseminate diagnostic procedures for classifying and categorizing children with special needs.

Eckenrode received the award in August at the 125th Annual APA Convention in Washington, D.C.



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Teen dating violence strong predictor of future abuse


Deinera Exner-Cortens

Teens who experience physical or psychological violence in their adolescent dating relationships have a significantly greater risk of suffering abuse in their future adult romantic relationships. A new study, led by University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work researcher Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD, has isolated dating violence as a strong predictor that someone will suffer future abuse, even when victimized individuals were compared to others with similar backgrounds but who did not experience dating violence.

Exner-Cortens completed this research as a doctoral student at Cornell, working with John Eckenrode (BCTR associate director and professor of human development), who is also a co-author on the article.

Domestic violence takes a huge toll on the health and well-being of victims and families. Studies have shown that intimate partner violence against women has an estimated societal cost of $5.8 billion. In this light, Exner-Cortens says her study is a wake-up call that adolescent dating violence needs to be taken more seriously.

“When I talk to adolescents, they may not recognize that what they’re experiencing is dating violence,” says Exner-Cortens. “For a lot of them, it's their very first encounter in a romantic setting, so they may not know that it's not healthy. So, from a primary prevention – or stopping it before it starts – standpoint, we want to be communicating healthy relationships messages to adolescents. That you have a right to be safe in your relationship, and if a partner ever makes you feel unsafe or hurts you, that's not okay, and you have a right to leave, and to seek help.”

Exner-Cortens’ study, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is the first to demonstrate, in a U.S. national sample, that adolescent dating violence is uniquely implicated in a cycle of violence from adolescence to adulthood, even when comparing teens who were matched on key risk factors at the socio-demographic, individual, family, peer, school and community levels.

“For a long time adolescent romantic relationships weren’t a focus in research because people thought that they didn’t really matter for well-being,” explains Exner-Cortens. “This study strongly demonstrates that violence first experienced in adolescent relationships may become chronic, and that adolescent dating violence is an important risk factor for adult partner violence.”

Exner-Cortens and colleagues analyzed a sample of 2,161 American male and female heterosexual youth from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Participants were first interviewed about their dating experiences when they were ages 12-18, and then again five, and 12 years later. To measure dating violence, participants were asked if a partner had ever used insults, name-calling or disrespect in front of others; sworn at them; threatened them with violence; pushed or shoved them; or thrown objects that could hurt. Over a one-year period, about 19 per cent of teen respondents reported dating violence.

Five years after they were first victimized, female victims of adolescent dating violence had almost 1.5 times greater risk for experiencing physical adult intimate partner violence, and male victims had almost twice the risk for experiencing adult intimate partner violence. Individuals who reported intimate partner violence five years after dating violence victimization were also more likely to report intimate partner violence victimization during the twelve-year follow-up. These findings were all in comparison to a group who did not experience dating violence, but who were otherwise very similar in terms of risk history to dating violence victims. Variables used to create this well-matched comparison group included known predictors of adult intimate partner violence, such as child maltreatment, substance use and mental health.

“This is the first study to show that even when we get rid of many other confounding factors, dating violence still emerges as a predictor,” says Exner-Cortens. “Something is happening in those relationships over and above other things that would predict risk. Dating violence appears to set off some sort of cycle in terms of interpersonal violence.”

Exner-Cortens is calling for improved screening for adolescent dating violence in health-care settings, as well as the need for intervention programs for teens who have experienced abuse in their dating relationships. Programs that prevent adolescent dating violence before it starts are also key to intimate partner violence prevention.

Study co-authors are John Eckenrode (Cornell University), John Bunge (Cornell University) and Emily Rothman (Boston University). The research was supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


(0) Comments.  |   Tags: adolescence    article    Deinera Exner-Cortens    domestic violence    John Eckenrode    research    violence   

The BCTR welcomes incoming director Karl Pillemer

news-pillemer2-inpostThe BCTR is very pleased to welcome Karl Pillemer as center director beginning January 15. He additionally serves as Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development and Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. Karl has close and long-standing ties to the BCTR, serving as PI or co-PI on several center projects, including the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL). He also oversaw multiple projects under the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center (BLCC), a precursor of the BCTR, as well as serving as BLCC interim director. Karl succeeds John Eckenrode, founding director of the center and professor of human development.

Karl Pillemer's research examines human development over the life course, with a special emphasis on family and social relationships in middle age and beyond. His specific areas of interest include inter-generational relations in later life; family caregiving for impaired elderly relatives; long-term care for the elderly; conflict and abuse in families of the aged; and aging and healthcare. He has years of experience with translational research methods, including developing the BCTR consensus conference model, which brings researchers and practitioners together to  identify research gaps and prioritize topics for new research. As co-PI of TRIPLL, he works closely with researchers at Weill Cornell and with community practitioners in New York City. The former College of Human Ecology Associate Dean for Outreach and Extension, he is well connected with Cornell Cooperative Extension and has close ties with community partners throughout New York State.

In a Cornell Chronicle article on the directorship transition, Dean Alan Mathios notes,

Karl is well positioned to lead the center thanks to his deep ties with community partners across the state and with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), the Cornell Office for Research and Evaluation and Weill Cornell Medical College, all of whom are vital partners in achieving the college’s translational research goals and in fulfilling Cornell’s land-grant mission. I am excited to see how the center will evolve under Karl’s direction, and I am grateful for John Eckenrode’s tremendous guidance of faculty, staff and students to deliver translational programs in its first three years.

0089_12_069.jpgJohn Eckenrode oversaw the creation of the BCTR (in 2011) through the merger of the Family Life Development Center (FLDC), where he previously served as director, and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center (BLCC). During his tenure as BCTR director, John introduced the Talks at Twelve series, which draws an audience of both campus and community members, and the Innovative Pilot Study Program, awarding over $180,000 to eighteen teams of researchers in its first three years. He introduced a seminar on varying aspects of translational research through the Department of Human Development, the first of its kind at Cornell. Offered to undergraduate and graduate students in alternating semesters, the specific seminar topics vary, but all examine translational research in relation to policy and programs. In the new center, John continued the John Doris Memorial Lecture (introduced in 2008 in the FLDC) and the Iscol Family Program for Leadership in Public Service, which he has overseen since its inception in 2001 and will continue to administer in the future. John has been a champion of the work and legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner, ensuring that center-level programs are aligned with Bronfenbrenner's vision. In 2014 he organized, The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner, a panel discussion featuring leading College of Human Ecology faculty reflecting on Bronfenbrenner’s impact on current research and practice and on their own work. John will remain connected to the BCTR, contributing his significant experience to the center’s efforts, as well as continuing as director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, a center project.

In a video (see below) introducing Karl as BCTR director, he notes,

It’s an extraordinary opportunity right now to be stepping in as the director of the Bronfenbrenner Center because we’re at a critical juncture in American society. Precisely the problems that the Bronfenbrenner Center deals with are front and center now - child welfare, aging, problems of youth - and those are exactly the problems we deal with and have some good solutions for. [...] So I think that it really has a spectacular future right now and its building on a phenomenal base.

Karl Pillemer to lead Bronfenbrenner Center - Cornell Chronicle


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CCE Summer Interns present their research findings

Katrina Simon next to her poster on improving 4-H

Katrina Simon next to her poster on her research with 4-H

This year's Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Interns presented on their summer research on October 7th. Included in the group were four students who worked with BCTR researchers (listed below). This year each student gave a condensed one-minute presentation on their work. Presentations were followed by a poster session/reception where students could talk to attendees about their research.

Each year the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Summer Internship Program connects undergraduates with faculty research projects, helping Cornell fulfill its land grant mission by engaging students in outreach. From research to education and program development, interns are involved in a wide spectrum of activities which they document by blogging.

This year's BCTR-connected projects, which collectively reached eight counties:

Building a Community Legacy Together Program Evaluation
Faculty: Karl Pillemer
Location: CCE Orange County and CCE Genesee County
Student blog by Masrai Williams

Parent Education in New York City: The Parenting A Second Time Around (PASTA) Project
Faculty: Rachel Dunifon
Location: CCE New York City
Student blog by Paisley Marie Terenzi

Refugee Family Child Care Provider Project
Faculty: John Eckenrode with Lisa McCabe
Location: CCE Madison-Oneida County
Student blog by Emily Nina Satinsky

Research for the Continuous Improvement of 4-H
Faculty: Stephen Hamilton
Location: Erie (base), Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming Counties
Student blog by Katrina Simon

Cooperative Extension interns report on statewide research - Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: 4-H    CCE    John Eckenrode    Karl Pillemer    Lisa McCabe    media mention    Rachel Dunifon    Stephen Hamilton    students   

The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner


Evans, Sternberg, Wethington, Ceci, Hamilton, and Eckenrode

The BCTR is named in honor of Urie Bronfenbrenner, the renowned developmental psychologist who taught at Cornell for over fifty years. This September 18th a panel of Cornell faculty reflected on Urie's enduring legacy in the field. In his introduction, BCTR director John Eckenrode expressed the hope that the panel discussion would rectify a knowledge gap among newer members of the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the university about Urie and his importance to human development and the college as a whole.  The panel was moderated by BCTR associate director Stephen Hamilton.

The panelists were all professors of human development who were influenced by Urie's work. All but Sternberg were also colleagues of Urie's in the CHE department of human development. Elaine Wethington, center associate director, was co-author with Bronfenbrenner, Stephen Ceci, and others on The State of Americans: This Generation and The Next. Stephen Ceci worked on Urie's research projects in the 1980s. Gary Evans  took a class with Urie as a faculty member and went on to  co-teach with Urie. Robert Sternberg was acquainted with Urie and feels the impact of Urie's research in his own work.

Gary Evans

Gary Evans

Gary Evans noted that, while the impact of Urie's research is profound, he was also an engaged and influential teacher. Evans quotes Urie himself on teaching:

As a teacher, I have seen as my main goal enabling students to experience the adventure, and hard-won harvest, of disciplined, creative thought that goes beyond any one discipline. To be sure transmitting knowledge is also important, but today’s knowledge is sure to be surpassed by tomorrow’s. Thus, the greatest gift one can give to the young is to enable them to deal critically and creatively with new answers, and the new questions, that the future brings.

In the event video, Evans refers to this quote and to figures in a handout, which can be seen here.

Stephen Hamilton relayed a story of Urie testifying before a senate committee and being asked what it takes to produce a well-functioning human being. Urie replied, simply, "Somebody's gotta be crazy about the kid."

For an anecdote about the strange, interesting story about Urie and the naming of the College of Human Ecology, see minute 15:40 of the event video.

Panelists recall legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner - Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Elaine Wethington    Gary Evans    John Eckenrode    media mention    Stephen Ceci    Stephen Hamilton    Urie Bronfenbrenner    video