The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Feb. 15, 2001

UI psychology professor wins $2.6 million grant to study parent-child relationships

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- John Knutson, a psychology professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts, has won a $2.64 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for a five-year study of parent-child interactions and children's social development.

With the cooperation and assistance of local social service agencies, Knutson and his collaborators will recruit 540 families with children between ages 4 and 8 to participate in the study. Participants will be drawn from three study sites -- Omaha, Neb., Oneida County in Northern Wisconsin, and Linn and Johnson Counties in Iowa -- in order to develop a diverse study group.

The project involves interviewing parents, observing children and their social behavior with peers, and observing parents' interactions with their children. "I'm interested in studying the full range of children's experiences with different parenting styles," Knutson said.

By studying children's relationships with parents and peers, Knutson hopes to demonstrate connections between family interactions and the development of peer relationships. Information on the formation of peer relationships is crucial to determining the origin of children's anti-social behavior, Knutson said.

"Because discipline is closely related to other aspects of parent-child relations, we'll also be using this project to try to understand the importance of disciplinary tactics in the development of children's social behavior with their peers," he said.

At the Omaha study site, Knutson will work with Patricia Sullivan of the Boys Town National Research Hospital, continuing a decade of collaborative research. For the Oneida County study, Knutson has established a new UI laboratory in Rhinelander, Wis., where he has a long-standing collaborative relationship with the Oneida county Department of Social Services. Gina Koeppl, a psychologist with post-doctoral experience at the UI, will be a collaborator at that site.