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Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

M. Ann Easterbrooks


M. Ann Easterbrooks


Phone 617-627-3355
105 College Avenue, Medford, MA

I am an applied developmental scientist whose work focuses on the individual, relational, familial, and broader contextual characteristics that present challenges and opportunities for developmental thriving among infants, young children, and parents. My work embraces a bioecological approach (Bronfenbrenner, 2001) to understanding the mutual relations between people and their contexts. I work within a multidisciplinary approach, collaborating with investigators and students using both basic and applied research frameworks (via naturalistic observations in homes, and laboratory assessments) with the aim of fostering rigorous scholarship that can be used to inform both theory and practice. The ultimate goal is to conduct research that can be translated into programs and policies that will enhance the lives of diverse children and their families.

I have particular interests in the following topics: resilience, maternal depression, parent-child emotional availability and attachment, emotion regulation, child maltreatment, and effects of relationships (e.g., father-mother, Intimate Partner Violence, social support; child care provider-parent) on parenting and infant and child development.

Ph.D., University of Michigan, Developmental Psychology
M.S., University of Wisconsin, Developmental Psychology
B.A., University of Washington, Clinical and Developmental Psychology

Developmental risk and resilience; child maltreatment; parent-child emotional availability and attachment relationships; maternal depression; adolescent parenting; relational and contextual supports for thriving

Research Interests: 

Massachusetts Healthy Families Evaluation
For more than a decade, I have been a Principal Investigator (with colleagues Profs. Francine Jacobs, Child Development, and Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning; and Jayanthi Mistry, Child Development) on the Massachusetts Healthy Families Evaluation, an examination of the Healthy Families Massachusetts (HFM) program. HFM is a statewide program offered by the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund that provides home-visiting based services for parents under the age of 21, from pregnancy until their child's third birthday. The program aims to support families in positive adaptation of parents and children. Specific goals include: a) prevention of child abuse and neglect by fostering positive parenting; b) facilitating parental educational and occupational attainment; c) preventing repeat teen pregnancies; d) fostering optimal child health and development; and e) promoting maternal well-being, including depression. Our approach is to examine both how the program is implemented in different contexts that may vary by characteristics of program participants, community resources and risks; and whether and in what ways the program is effective in attaining its goals to support and strengthen families. Currently we are conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the program, in which we are examining treatment and comparison groups of families on indicators of program effectiveness.

Massachusetts Healthy Families Evaluation Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
This study is a longitudinal followup of the families who participated in the RCT evaluation of Healthy Families Massachusetts (see description above). Data from several early intervention and prevention programs, some with a home visiting component, provide support for the need to continue to examine long-term effects of early service programs. We again are visiting children and their families in their homes when children are preschool and kindergarten-aged in order to understand their developmental trajectories from pregnancy to age six, and potential longer-term HFM program effects. In addition to examining these long-term effects on the original goal areas, area of focus of the longitudinal followup include: a) children's school readiness; b) children's emotion regulation and executive functioning; c) family use of, and engagement with, other service programs; d) mother-child interaction; e) formal supports (e.g., child care, school) and informal supports (e.g., relationships with fathers of the children, romantic partners) that may foster positive adaptation.

Toddler Development Project
With Prof. Ellen Pinderhughes, Dr. Laurie Miller (Tufts School of Medicine), and several graduate students, I have been conducting a study of the emotion regulation and adaptation of internationally-adopted toddlers (and a comparison group of nonadopted toddlers) and their families. This is a multifaceted study, with data representing individual psychophysiological measures (cortisol, heart rate, activity level), behavioral interaction, and family context. We hope to understand patterns of transition to permanent homes during the first three months post-adoption.

Currently I also am collaborating with colleagues at Tufts School of Medicine and University of Massachusetts Medical School on a study of feeding practices and child obesity prevention among families of children with intellectual disabilities.

Selected Professional Activities: 
  • Board Member and Past-President, Boston Institute for the Development of Infants and Parents
  • Committee Member and Past-Chair, Publications Committee, Society for Research in Child Development
  • Founding Member and Secretary, Massachusetts Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
  • Editorial Board, Infant Mental Health Journal
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer to journals including: Applied Developmental Science; Attachment and Human Development; Child Development, Development and Psychopathology, Developmental Psychology, Early Education and Development; Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Family Issues
Selected Publications and Presentations: 

(asterisk indicates student coauthor)

Swartz, M.* & Easterbrooks, M. A. (in press). The role of parent, provider, and child characteristics in parent-provider relationships in infant and toddler classrooms. Early Education and Development.

Easterbrooks, M.A., Bartlett, J.D.*, Beeghly, M., & Thompson, R.A. (2013). Socioemotional development in infancy. In R. M. Lerner, M.A. Easterbrooks & J. Mistry (Eds.), Handbook of Psychology, Vol. 6: Developmental Psychology. (pp. 91-120). Editor in chief: I B. Weiner. New York: Wiley.

Bartlett, J. D.*, & Easterbrooks, M. A. (2012). Links between physical abuse in childhood and child neglect among adolescent mothers. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(11), 2164-2169.

Lerner, R. M., Easterbrooks, M. A., & Mistry, J. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of psychology: Vol. 6. Developmental psychology (2nd ed.). Editor-in- Chief: I. B. Weiner. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Easterbrooks, M.A., Bureau, J-F.*, & Lyons-Ruth, K. (2012). Developmental correlates and predictors of emotional availability in mother-child interaction: A longitudinal study from infancy to middle childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 24(1), 65-78.

Biringen, Z., & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2012). The integration of emotional availability (EA) into a developmental psychopathology framework: Reflections on the special issue and future directions. Development and Psychopathology, 24(1), 137-142.

Easterbrooks, M.A., Chaudhuri, J.H., Bartlett, J.D.*, & Copeman, A.* (2011). Resilience in parenting among young mothers: Family and ecological risks and opportunities. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 42-50.

Vashchenko, M.*, Easterbrooks, M.A., & Miller, L. (2010). Becoming their mother: Knowledge, attitudes and practices of orphanage personnel in Ukraine. Infant Mental Health Journal, 31(5), 570-590.

Jacobs, F., Swartz, M.I.*, Bartlett, J.D.*, & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2010). Placing relationships at the core of early care and education programs (pp. 341-352). In J. Sparrow & B. Lester (Eds.), Nurturing children and families: Building on the legacy of T. Berry Brazelton. NY: Blackwell.

Bureau, J.F.*, Easterbrooks, M.A., & Lyons-Ruth, K. (2009). Attachment disorganization and controlling behavior in middle childhood: maternal and child precursors and correlates. Attachment & Human Development, 11(3), 269-284.

Bureau, J.F.*, Easterbrooks, M.A., & Lyons-Ruth, K. (2009). Maternal depression in infancy: Critical to children's depression in childhood and adolescence? Development and Psychopathology, 21 (2), 519-537.

Biringen, Z., & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2008). Child care and relationships: Understanding relationships and relationship interventions. Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology, 4, 1-3.

Swartz, M.,* & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2008). Enhancing parent-provider relationships and communication in infant and toddler classrooms. Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology, 4, 53-71.

Riley, S.*, Brady, A.E., Goldberg, J., Jacobs, F., & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2008). Once the door closes: Understanding the parent/provider relationship. Children and Youth Services Review, 30 (5), 597-612.

Easterbrooks, M.A., Driscoll, J.R.*, & Bartlett, J.D.* (2008). Resilience in infancy: A relational approach. Research in Human Development, 5 (3), 139-152.

Mistry, J., Deshmukh, I.*, & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2007). Culture and infancy. In A. Slater & M. Lewis (Eds.), Introduction to Infant Development, 2nd edition. (pp. 303-319). New York: Oxford University Press.

Driscoll, J. R.*, & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2007). Young mothers' play with their toddlers: Individual variability as a function of psychosocial factors. Infant and Child Development, 16 (6), 649-670.

Lyons-Ruth, K., & Easterbrooks, M.A. (2006). Assessing mediated models of family change in response to infant home-visiting: A two-phase longitudinal analysis. Infant Mental Health Journal, 27, 55-69.

Easterbrooks, M.A., Chaudhuri, J.H.*, & Gestsdottir, S.* (2005). Patterns of emotional availability among young mothers and their infants: A dyadic, contextual analysis. Infant Mental Health Journal, 26 (4), 309-326.