Child Clinical Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
Cohort Five Fellow

Academic Mentor
Sandra Azar
Professor, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Policy Mentor
John Landsverk
Research Scientist, Oregon Social Learning Center

Research Interests
Parenting risk, externalizing behavior problems, rural families, implementation science

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs, Home Visiting and Maltreatment Prevention, Implementation Science, Hierarchical Linear Modeling, Regression Modeling, Adolescents and Young Adults, Fathers, Low-Income Families and Individuals, Military Families, Preschool-aged Children, Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Elizabeth Miller is a doctoral student in the child clinical psychology program at the Pennsylvania State University. At Penn State, Ms. Miller works with Dr. Sandra Azar on studies examining a social cognitive model of parenting risk. Her dissertation will extend this work by examining parenting risk in rural fathers. Ms. Miller is also interested in externalizing problems in maltreated youth and the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment and externalizing problems. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, she worked as a research assistant at the Child & Adolescent Services Research Center in San Diego, CA, examining the implementation of evidence-based practices in child welfare and mental health systems. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University and a master’s degree from Penn State.


Social Information Processing Deficits and Economic Stress in Rural Fathers: Informing Child Maltreatment Prevention with an Understudied Parent Population

Child maltreatment is a critical concern in rural communities, where children are nearly twice as likely as their urban peers to experience maltreatment. Despite this heightened risk, little research has examined factors related to parenting risk in rural areas. Fathers or father figures are present in approximately 75% of rural children’s households, and can be sources of both risks and resources for children. Father involvement is positively related to children’s behavioral, social, psychological, and cognitive outcomes, yet fathers may also pose considerable risk to children, as they perpetrate a substantial proportion of maltreatment cases and are overrepresented as perpetrators of severe physical abuse and fatalities. The proposed study will examine the roles of economic stress and social information processing deficits in parenting risk. Data will be collected from low-income, rural, resident fathers of preschool-aged children. Identifying risk factors most relevant to rural fathers will allow interventions to be specifically tailored to this population, and may increase fathers’ engagement by making these services more relevant to the challenges they face, ultimately maximizing the impact of services on the safety and well-being of rural children.