By Courtney Hibler
A Youngstown State University psychology professor, Jaelyn Farris, has a goal of disseminating a program to prevent developmental disorders in children and adolescents.
Farris is a trained developmental psychopathologist who studies social, emotional and behavioral development, with a focus on understanding and changing the factors that can help people develop in healthy ways.
Farris was awarded a Research Professorship for the 2018-2019 academic year. YSU’s Office of Research offers this program to aid faculty in pursuing their scholarly work while also teaching and advising students.
With this award, Farris will have support to engage with community and talk to people who live and work in the Mahoning Valley.
“I will be conducting focus groups with parents and social service providers in the Youngstown area,” Farris said. “I will talk about my research and request feedback on the ways that I can help in our community.”
Farris said her goal is to help people who are facing more challenges than the average person, but haven’t yet developed a disorder such as social, emotional or behavioral.
“I try to promote resilience among youth who are at risk for problems or negative outcomes,” Farris said. “Most disorders begin in childhood or adolescence.”
Farris said one of the most effective ways to prevent problems in children and adolescents is by offering help and support to parents and caregivers.
“Most parents don’t have access to prevention programs and can’t attend on a regular basis,” Farris said. “I will invite local parents and service providers to come in and hear about my research.”
Kara Kushner, a junior special education major, believes the focus groups and lectures are extremely important for parents to attend.
“Parents are the biggest influence on their child’s life,” Kushner said. “Their education on this specific issue can help their child tremendously.”
Taylor McKenney, a junior psychology major, said attending one of the lectures will be valuable.
“You’ll be gaining experience rather than reading about it,” McKenney said. “These are scientific facts and statistics people will be learning.”
This program is a pilot project for Farris to provide data in order to obtain grants for a larger parent empowerment program in the future.
Farris said this project has been in the making for 20 years and is near and dear to her heart.
“This is the first small step toward my goal of preventing problems among the youth in our community,” Farris said. “Healthy children are on a path toward becoming healthy adults.”
Jeff Coldren, chair of the psychology department, and Kristine Blair, dean of the college of liberal arts and social sciences, said they are giving their full support to Farris as well as a group of psychology majors.
“This community and university has helped me achieve my goals and it’s an honor to be able to give back in some way,” Farris said.
Students are able to get involved with this program by working as research assistants.
Those interested are encouraged to attend a meeting the psychology department will be holding on Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. on the third floor of DeBartolo Hall.