Healthy Emotions, Relationships & Development (HERD) Lab (Hastings)

The HERD Lab explores the factors contributing to children’s social and emotional development. We examine the contributions of “nurture” through children’s close relationships with family and friends, and “nature” through their autonomic and neuroendocrine regulatory systems. Our focus is on understanding how these factors shape developmental trajectories toward adaptive functioning, like compassion and social competence, and maladaptive functioning, like aggression and anxiety.

Full Lab Website


Research Topics

Positive Emotions & Behaviors Study

In the study that we’re currently conducting, we are looking at the development of behaviors, like caring, sharing and helping in preschool-aged children. We will be looking at what parents do that might support these kinds of behaviors, and also how parent’s and children’s physiological functioning contributes to their behaviors.

This is a longitudinal project, which means we are looking at how children develop over a six month period and then again over a 2 year period. For this project, we recruited children who were 3 ½ years old (42 – 45 months) to begin the study, and we saw them again when they turned 4 years old. The children then returned for a third time around the age of 6, when they had entered first grade. The study involves each child and his or her mother making three visits to our laboratory at UC Davis, with the first two visits spaced 6 months apart, and the second and third visits spaced 2 years apart. We also asked preschool teachers, daycare supervisors, first grade teachers, or another adult who knew the child well to complete questionnaires describing children’s behaviors at daycare, preschool, and school.

This research project is being done in order to learn more about children’s social and emotional development. It is not meant to change behavior or help with problems. We are not qualified to offer you those kinds of services, and are not trained to give advice on what parents should or shouldn’t do with their children. Hopefully, what we learn in this research project will be useful, so that new ways of helping children can be developed.