About David J. Bridgett, Ph.D.

Professional Background and Education

 I received my Ph.D. in Psychology with a focus in Clinical Child Psychology and Developmental Psychopathology from Washington State University in 2008. My dissertation, directed by Maria (Masha) Gartstein, examined predictors of trajectories of infant temperament and the role of infant temperament in the emergence of early symptoms of internalizing and externalizing difficulties. My dissertation and my other research experiences while at Washington State University were instrumental in the development of my current research interests in self-regulation, including emotion regulation, effortful control, and executive functioning, other aspects of temperament (e.g., negative and positive affect) and family processes (e.g., parenting behavior, home chaos). Prior to receiving my doctorate, I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a M.A. in Psychology (2002) and I received my B.S. in Psychology from Midwestern State University in 1999.

I completed my clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship (clinical and research training) at the Yale Child Study Center located within the School of Medicine at Yale University (2007-2009). While on fellowship at the Child Study Center, my clinical work encompassed the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children, particularly children between the ages of 6 months and 10 years. My research included examination of trajectories of aspects of self-regulation in school-aged children at high risk for difficulties due to prenatal exposure to substances and living in impoverished conditions. I joined the faculty at the Yale Child Study Center as an Adjunct Research Professor in July of 2009.

I joined the Department of Psychology at Northern Illinois University in August of 2009 as an Assistant Professor where I started the Emotion Regulation and Temperament Laboratory. I was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor effective August, 2015.

To date, I have authored or co-authored over 50 publications related to my interests and areas of expertise, including empirical studies and comprehensive reviews, book chapters, and invited editorials. These publications appear in some of the leading journals in the field, and in well-regarded specialty journals. I also have authored or co-authored over 125 conference presentations (talks and posters), mostly at internationally recognized meetings, and have given a number of invited talks (e.g., colloquia, brown bags, etc.) to national and international audiences. In addition to these activities, I have been a principal investigator, co-investigator or collaborator on multiple grants, and regularly collaborate with other teams nationally and internationally on research relevant to my areas of expertise. Furthermore, I am actively engaged in the field through involvement with internationally recognized organizations (e.g., International Congress on Infant Studies) and editorial board memberships for journals such as Psychological Assessment, Infant Behavior and Development, and the Infant Mental Health Journal, and through my role as an Associate Editor for a core American Psychological Association journal, the Journal of Family Psychology.

Research Interests

My research interests are in the areas of self-regulation, including emotion regulation, effortful control, and executive functioning, other aspects of temperament, such as positive and negative affect, parent-infant/parent-child interaction, other aspects of family dynamics (e.g., home chaos, interparental relationship adjustment) and developmental psychopathology. Within these broader areas, I am interested in:

  • Multi-level mechanisms (e.g., genetic factors, stress physiology, environmental factors) involved in the intergenerational transmission of self-regulatory attributes;
  • Factors that predict trajectories of early self-regulation, such as parenting;
  • Through an international collaboration, how prenatal factors (e.g., maternal stress) influence early temperament and self-regulatory attributes;
  • How parenting behaviors and other aspects of home ecology are influenced by parent characteristics, such as emotion regulation, executive functioning, effortful control and other temperament and personality characteristics;
  • Factors (e.g., executive functioning, stress physiology, experiences of early life stress) related to parent (and non-parent) response to infant distress cues;
  • Intrinsic characteristics of young children, such as negative affect, that influence how regulation-related characteristics develop over time;
  • Developmental precursors, such as early attentional processes, which influence the emergence of effortful regulation in toddlerhood and beyond;
  • How characteristics of infants and young children (e.g., emotion regulation and temperament) influence parent behavior;
  • Understanding how trajectories of early self-regulation and temperament act as risk factors for the emergence of internalizing and externalizing difficulties;
  • The contributions of temperament, self-regulation, and family processes to notable outcomes, such as language and body mass index, across the life-span;
  • Overlap and distinctiveness, across levels of analysis, among self-regulatory attributes.

Methodologically and statistically, I take a longitudinal, individual-differences approach to examining my research questions. In particular, I believe that taking into account the trajectory that early temperament and self-regulation attributes are on is critical to understanding later outcomes. Furthermore, my work is informed by the developmental psychopathology perspective. For example, my ongoing work considers or directly examines processes at different levels of analysis (e.g., genetic, neural, physiological, cognitive, behavioral and environmental) involved as predictors or indicators of temperament, self-regulation (e.g., respiratory sinus arrhythmia), and stress (e.g., cortisol obtained from saliva samples) and family processes. Given the importance of trajectories of self-regulation and temperament that become apparent early in life, much of my research involves infants, toddlers and preschool aged populations, though I also have completed or ongoing work with school-aged, adolescent, emerging adult and adult samples. Finally, while much of my work has involved community samples, which often include a significant percentage of families at sociodemographic risk (e.g., family income falling at or below the poverty line), I have conducted research with samples of children prenatally exposed to illicit substances (e.g., cocaine), youth undergoing psychiatric hospitalization, and parents identified as being at high risk of perpetrating child physical abuse.

Teaching Interests

While I have taught general courses, such as undergraduate Introductory Psychology, Statistics, and Research Methods, consistent with my research and clinical areas of expertise, I have primarily taught the following undergraduate and graduate courses.

Undergraduate Courses:

Developmental Psychopathology

Clinical Psychology Laboratory

Graduate Courses:

Developmental Psychopathology

Theory and Assessment of Intellectual Functioning

Clinical Research Methods

Psychological Assessment of Children

Practicum in Clinical Psychology

Clinical Interests

I am particularly interested in the assessment and diagnosis of a wide range of difficulties in young children (0-5 years), such as developmental delay, early disruptive behaviors and anxiety. I take an integrative approach to the conceptualization of cases and frequently involves parents in addressing behavioral difficulties in children. In addition to these areas of specific interest, I have extensive experience in the cognitive assessment of children and adolescents for problems such as learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delay and autism spectrum difficulties and has treated children, families, adolescents and young adults for myriad emotional/behavioral problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD and disruptive behavior). My experience also includes collaboration with schools and educators to address the individual needs of children as well as school-initiated consultations.