Hello graduates! While you’re enjoying the summer break, we’d like to share the work of Kayla Knopp, a recipient of this year’s Harry Gollob Award given by the Department of Psychology to the best first author publication for a current graduate student. Kayla’s paper was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in September 2016.
Researcher: I’m a 6th-year Clinical Psychology PhD. student. My research has three main focuses: first, understanding how people form, maintain, and break commitments in romantic relationships; second, studying diverse relationships (e.g., non-monogamous relationships, relationships of LGBTQ people); and third, applying new statistical methods to better answer research questions about relationships. Right now, I’m mainly working on my dissertation study, which is exploring “defining the relationship” (“DTR”) talks in teens’ and young adults’ romantic relationships. In addition to conducting research, I work as a therapist with couples and families, and I teach undergraduate courses in psychology at the University of Colorado Denver. Once I earn my PhD, my goal is to work as a clinical researcher and supervisor at a university – and I hope to be able to settle down in a city that my partner and I love as much as we love Denver!
Published Research: In this paper, Within- and Between-Family Associations of Marital Functioning and Child Well-being, we looked at the way children’s well-being changed over time in concordance with their parents’ marital functioning. We found that at times when parents’ communication and conflict management was relatively better (or worse), children’s emotional and behavioral well-being was also relatively better (or worse). Before this paper, other studies had only looked at differences between different families rather than looking at changes over time within the same families. This paper gets us closer to understanding how to help parents with children make sure their family is functioning as well as possible.
Inspiration: I was inspired by learning a new statistical method (disentangling within-subject and between-subjects effects in a multilevel model). I noticed that this method was very applicable to my field, but I had never seen other researchers use it in this way. I think this paper is a great example of how we can use statistical innovations to help us understand psychological processes better.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge with this paper has been helping other people (like reviewers and other experts in my field) understand why this particular method is important. In a way, my coauthors and I were saying to other researchers that they need to make a change to the way they’ve been analyzing data and making conceptual inferences up to this point. It took a lot perseverance to write (and rewrite) this paper in a way that was meaningful and useful to these other researchers.
Research Result: First, I hope that parents find the information useful. One online blog has already published a summary of the paper, and I hope that some couples try to make changes to the way they communicate and solve conflict as a result of reading about this research. My other hope is that other researchers can use this paper as a template for how to use this kind of statistical method with similar data in the future.
Research Advice: Be persistent! Be open to feedback along the way. Projects and papers sometimes take a long time and many iterations to get off the ground. If you stick with it and continue to get input from others about how your project can be improved, you’ll be successful.