Current Research Projects

Helping the Noncompliant Child-Emotion Coaching (HNC-EC)

Principal Investigators: Robert McMahon, Lynn Katz
Co-investigators: Shannon Dorsey, Suzanne Kerns, Dave Pasalich, Michael Pullmann

Given the growing body of evidence suggesting that limited prosocial emotions may be one factor that mitigates the effects of traditional parent management training problems for child disruptive behaviour disorders, the primary goal of this project is to develop and test the feasibility of a brief emotion-coaching (EC) intervention in combination with an evidence-based parent management training program, Helping the Noncompliant Child (HNC), for use with clinic-referred children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder who exhibit limited prosocial emotions.

The Fast Track Project

Principal Investigators: (the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, in alphabetical order) Karen Bierman, John Coie, Max Crowley, Kenneth Dodge, Mark Greenberg, John Lochman, Robert McMahon, Ellen Pinderhughes

The Fast Track Project is a large, multisite collaborative study on the prevention of antisocial behaviour in school-aged children that began in 1990 and continues today. The project involved a randomized controlled trial of a multimodal preventive intervention, which specifically targeted young children at risk for conduct problems. With four research sites across the United States (i.e., in Durham, Nashville, rural Pennsylvania, and Seattle), it is the largest prevention trial of its type ever funded by the United States’ Federal government. For more information, please visit the Fast Track website:

Long-term and Cross-over Effects of Randomized, School-based Prevention Programs on Adult Mental Health

Principal Investigators: Rashelle Musci, Holly Wilcox
Co-Investigators: Mark Eddy, Katherine Masyn, Nicholas Ialongo, Robert McMahon, Patrick Tolan

This collaborative project involves the harmonization of six large data sets (including Fast Track) examining the long-term effects of school-based prevention programs on adult mental health. Of particular interest are cross-over or unintended positive intervention effects on non-targeted behaviours such as suicidal thoughts and behaviours, depression and anxiety symptoms and diagnoses, and psychosis symptoms.

Validating a Developmental Model of Primary and Secondary Callous-unemotional Traits

Principal Investigator: Stephanie Craig
Co-applicants: Natalie Goulter, Robert McMahon, Marlene Moretti, Debra Pepler

Elevated callous-unemotional (CU) traits (i.e., lack of empathy, shallow affect, uncaring attitude) are associated with persistent aggressive and antisocial behaviour starting in early childhood. There is growing evidence of different pathways to the development of CU traits, known as primary and secondary variants. Primary CU traits are thought to stem from a biologically based deficit in emotional processing, whereas secondary CU traits are thought to develop from difficulties with emotion regulation as a result of trauma and abuse, particularly within the family. The overall goal of the project is to validate a developmental model of primary and secondary callous-unemotional (CU) traits from early childhood to late adolescence. The first two objectives are to conduct systematic reviews to examine developmental patterns in the association between: 1) CU traits and emotion regulation and 2) CU traits and attachment. The third objective is to test the developmental model with two large data sets with samples of children and youth at high risk for CU traits.

Parental Mind-sets and Mental Health Treatment Attitudes

Principal Investigators: Janet Mah, Robert McMahon

With regard to the mental health care of children, parents are key gatekeepers and agents of change. To optimize treatment engagement and the child’s health outcomes, we need to understand the beliefs and attitudes of parents about mental health treatment. We will examine parental mind-sets, failure beliefs, attributions and parenting self-efficacy among a clinical sample (i.e., parents whose children are referred for mental health services at BC Children’s Hospital), and explore these cognitions related to both externalizing (e.g., attention and disruptive behaviour) and internalizing (e.g., anxiety and emotion) mental health difficulties in children. We will also explore the relationships among parental cognitions, treatment attitudes, and two components of treatment motivation (possibility of change and readiness for change). Finally, we will investigate the impact of changing parental mind-sets, beliefs, and cognitions on treatment expectancies and readiness for change.

Personalizing Psychosocial Interventions for Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Principal Investigator: Brendan Andrade 
Co-Investigator: Robert McMahon

This study has two main goals: 1) to determine clinical profiles of children aged 6-9 and 10-12 with ODD based on DSM-5 symptom dimensions and key domains of other psychopathology and neuropsychological functioning; and 2) to determine whether these profiles improve the ability to predict which subgroups of children with ODD are most likely, and least likely, to benefit from evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatment.

Connect: Reducing Violence and Victimization in At-Risk Adolescent Girls and Boys

Principal Investigators: Marlene Moretti, Robert McMahon

The primary goal of this team grant was to employ a randomized control design to examine the efficacy of an attachment-based family intervention (Connect) in an at-risk sample of 700 adolescents recruited from the community. Pubertal onset and the DRD4 7-repeat allele are being examined as potential moderators of intervention outcome. Sex and gender are being examined in relation to potential mechanisms of change (attachment security, emotion regulation, stress reactivity).

Toolkit for Reducing Reoffending and Building Resilience in Adolescent Offenders

Principal Investigator: Jodi Viljoen
Co-investigator: Robert McMahon

The major goals of this project were to develop, implement, and pilot a Reoffense Reduction and Resilience Toolkit for youth probation officers in British Columbia who work with diverse justice-involved youth.

Database Available for Secondary Data Analyses: Early Parenting Project (EPP)

Principal Investigators: Robert McMahon, Susan Spieker

The primary purpose of this research project was to examine the roles of parenting behaviour, infant attachment security, and other maternal and child risk and protective factors in the development of conduct problems in a high-risk sample of children. Adolescent mothers and their children participated in this longitudinal study in the Puget Sound Region, USA from the time the children were 1 year old until they completed Grade 3.