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Karen D. Rudolph

Division: Developmental

Professor of Psychology

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Contact Information:

  • Address:
    617 Psychology Bldg.
    603 E. Daniel Street
    M/C 716
    Champaign, IL 61820
  • Telephone: (217)333-8624

Research Description

Emotional disorders in childhood have become widely recognized as a significant mental health problem, both in terms of their immediate impact on children's lives and their implications for health and development through adolescence and adulthood. Why do some children face the many challenges of growing up with few ill effects, whereas others develop emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression? What causes some children to develop characteristics that protect them from emotional vulnerability, whereas others develop characteristics that make them more vulnerable? How does the experience of emotional difficulties early in life influence children's subsequent development? The goal of Dr. Rudolph's research in developmental psychopathology is to answer these questions using a dynamic child X environment framework that considers how attributes of children and their environments jointly contribute to well-being or ill-being across development.

One aspect of Dr. Rudolph's research involves identifying personal attributes of youth that increase their vulnerability to the development of psychopathology. This work focuses on the role of gender, social-cognitive processes, coping and emotion-regulation styles, and biological reactivity to stress as risk factors for anxiety and depression. Specifically, this research examines (1) how youths' beliefs and expectancies about their close relationships and their self-regulatory responses to stress contribute to emotional distress, and (2) how maladaptive belief systems and emotional, behavioral, and physiological dysregulation develop. For example, this research examines how family disruption (e.g., parental psychopathology, family stress) and problematic peer relationships (e.g., peer victimization, peer exclusion, and other stressors) contribute to the emergence of maladaptive belief systems and difficulties in regulating responses to stress. A major focus on this research concerns identifying the particular processes that place adolescent girls at risk for emotional difficulties.

A second aspect of Dr. Rudolph's work is to understand the social and developmental context of psychopathology, including the role of the family, peer group, and school context. In particular, this research investigates the transactions between children and their environments, by studying both how children respond to experiences, as well as how they construct and contribute to their environments. This research includes investigating the influence of nonnormative stressors as well as normative developmental challenges, such as pubertal maturation and social changes associated with the transition into adolescence, on emotional well being.

A variety of methodological approaches are used to investigate the processes involved in the development of emotional distress, including survey-based research, interviews, behavior observations, experimental tasks, and physiological assessments. Several ongoing studies reflect this diversity of approaches, including: (1) two community-based studies examining trajectories of psychological, social, and emotional adjustment across development (one focused on pathways from early childhood through late adolescence and the other on the transition to middle school, (2) a school-based study examining the antecedents and consequences of peer victimization, (3) an observational study of peer victimization, emotion regulation, and psychobiological reactivity to stress, and (4) a longitudinal, interview-based study of the onset and course of depression during early adolescence.

Education

  • Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles

Courses

  • Child Development
  • Developmental Psychopathology
  • Research Design in Clinical Psychology

Recent Publications

Conley, C. S., & Rudolph, K. D. (2009). The emerging sex difference in adolescent depression: Interacting contributions of puberty and peer stress. Development and Psychopathology, 21, 593-620.

Rose, A., & Rudolph, K. D. (2006). A review of sex differences in peer relationship processes: Potential trade-offs for the emotional and behavioral development of girls and boys. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 98-131

Rudolph, K. D. (2008). Developmental influences on interpersonal stress generation in depressed youth. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 673-679.

Rudolph, K. D., & Flynn, M. (2007). Childhood adversity and youth depression: The role of gender and pubertal status. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 497-521.

Rudolph, K. D., Troop-Gordon, W., & Flynn, M. (2009). Relational victimization predicts children*s social-cognitive and self-regulatory responses in a challenging peer context. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1444-1454.