Preschoolers' Adjustment and Intergenerational Risk

Project Background

Where did the idea for the PAIR Project come from?

The PAIR Project extends from Dr. Yo Jackson’s experience as a clinician and researcher. Her work with children exposed to maltreatment has provided insights into how different children handle the trauma they’ve experienced.

For example, Dr. Jackson has seen how some siblings exposed to the same negative, stressful, and maladaptive events, cope very differently, often times with one sibling experiencing minimal distress, while others really struggled with their feelings and behaviors post-abuse. Findings from the SPARK Project also supported this phenomenon—that children who have experienced the same trauma cope differently.

This research project continues and clarifies the idea that we need to understand what is helping the children who are coping successfully—i.e., what about their resources, contexts, appraisals, and coping styles lead them to adaptive outcomes? The research group strives to use empirical data to determine what helps children exposed to maltreatment adjust and be resilient.

What projects lead up to this one?

The SPARK project (Studying Pathways to Adjustment and Resilience in Kids) is the precursor for the PAIR project. SPARK was a research study federally funded by the National Institutes of Health and focused on understanding what helps children exposed to abuse and neglect recover and successfully manage the stressful experiences in their lives.

Where can I find more information about the design of the PAIR project?

You can request a copy of pertinent portions of the research grant application from Dr. Jackson. This includes detailed information about the pilot studies, conceptual model, and research design of the project.

Where can I find information about similar projects?

You can find information and articles from the SPARK project posted on the SPARK project website: You can also check out articles from the LONGSCAN project, a multi-site, longitudinal project that also studies children exposed to maltreatment and has similar procedures. Their website is

What are the basic steps of the research project?

What is the data collection process for the project?

We ask children and their adult caregivers to complete several frustration tasks, individually and together, and ask participants about their life experiences. The child completes a task measuring their working memory skills and caregivers are asked about their child’s trauma history and their own trauma history. The questionnaire is completed on our laptop computers using a special computer program called A-CASI (Audio Computer Assisted Self-Interview) that reads the questions aloud to people over a set of headphones. In addition, the child and caregiver are asked to complete certain frustration tasks* while wearing a heart monitor. These tasks are videotaped so that behavior observation data can be collected.

The data collection process generally takes between 4-6 hours. We provide child care and snacks during the survey times, and we meet at times that are convenient for families (often nights or weekends). We also meet at convenient community locations, such as Operation Breakthrough. Parents receive $60 for their first visit, $70 for their second visit, $80 for their third visit, and $90 for the fourth and final visit. Children receive a small toy for participating each time. After the first session, the child’s daycare or preschool teacher will be contacted to complete a survey about the child’s health and well-being, and given $15 for their time. 

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