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CRF Welcomes Dr. KC Haydon from Mount Holyoke College to the Scholar-in-Residence Program

Dr. KC Haydon lectures a class of students at Mount Holyoke College

Photo credit: Jim Gipe photo / Pivot Media

The Five Colleges consortium—a well-established partnership between the University of Massachusetts and its sister colleges in the Pioneer Valley—has sparked many engaging and innovative collaborations over the years. Given the unique strengths of Mount Holyoke College’s Department of Psychology and Education and UMass Amherst’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, it’s no surprise that Dr. KC Haydon, a graduate of Mount Holyoke (’00) and a current assistant professor at her alma mater, became interested in the Center for Research on Families’ Scholar-in-Residence program as she prepared for her sabbatical year in 2015-16.

Prof. Haydon considered CRF “a natural fit” for her research interests, which “lie at the intersection of developmental and social psychology.” Her program of study has included research into attachment processes in adolescents and adults; romantic relationship development and maintenance processes; the way that close relationships develop across each partner’s lifespan; and the physiological effect that being in a relationship has on individuals.

Lately, her research has vectored into an area with significant interest to young adult couples. “My lab recently collected a diverse sample of couples in which we assessed attachment, physiological reactivity, conflict behavior, and how effectively partners recover from conflict,” Haydon explains. She and her team are using these data to help understand how romantic partners co-regulate each other’s behavior during times of stress.

As a visiting scholar at UMass Amherst, Dr. Haydon gains opportunities to showcase her research to new and diverse audiences. Working out of her temporary office space in Tobin Hall, just around the corner from the CRF offices, she has found herself right in the middle of UMass Amherst’s—at times hectic—hub of psychology-related inquiry and discourse.

At a recent brown bag lunch event sponsored by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, she shared video clips of several couples interviewed as part of her recent study. These were adult couples that completed a conflict discussion followed by a “recovery” task in which they were asked to end conflict and switch gears to talk about areas of agreement.

“One of our most interesting findings so far is about how couples take advantage of—or sabotage—opportunities for repair in the moment following conflict,” Haydon says. People whose partners dodged conflict tended to sabotage the moments after conflict by continuing to harp on disagreements; in turn, people whose partners sabotaged the recovery process were less satisfied in their relationships one year later.

“Avoiding or minimizing conflict may appear to make things easier in the short-term,” Haydon explains, “but there are negative consequences for both partners in the long run.”

Sharing her observations with a room full of graduate students and fellow faculty—colleagues with their own research interests—is an exciting prospect for Haydon. As a professor at a small liberal arts college, her normal day-to-day interactions often take place with undergraduate students who are just embarking on potential careers in psychological research.

In addition to continuing her research and disseminating it to a broader audience at UMass, Dr. Haydon has contributed her time and energy to several of CRF’s major initiatives during her time in the Scholar-in-Residence program. Among other activities, she is working with the many faculty affiliates who comprise the Stress Research Working Group, a peer-led interdisciplinary discussion group that meets at CRF bi-weekly. The group has been working on the NSF Research Traineeship Program grant proposal and will be part of the program if it is funded.

Prof. Haydon was also eager to avail herself of new mentorship opportunities during her sabbatical year as a CRF visiting scholar. She praised the Center’s impressive track record of supporting junior, tenure-track faculty as they build momentum to advance further in their academic careers. When she decided to make CRF her adopted home for the 2015-16 academic year, she was excited to tap into the expertise of Dr. Paula Pietromonaco, a current Family Research Scholar at CRF, Dr. Sally Powers, CRF’s founding director, and Dr. Aline Sayer, CRF’s resident methodological studies expert.

Participating in working groups and collaborating with faculty mentors are just two of the ways in which visiting scholars might benefit from their time in the Scholar-in-Residence program. Dr. Haydon has used her sabbatical time so far to prepare and submit several manuscripts based on her latest data collection. Like the participants in CRF’s Family Research Scholars program, she plans to use this year to prepare a new grant proposal. If the past is any indication, Haydon hopes a successful proposal will lead to groundbreaking new understandings about couples in crisis and further her work in the field.

“CRF has a fantastic hit rate when it comes to grant funding,” she says, “and so many of their affiliates have completed amazing research on topics with broad implications for families.”

Prof. Haydon recounts: “My experience at CRF so far has already been incredibly generative and inspiring as I pursue the next phase of my research. I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage with new colleagues and the many exciting programs at CRF.”

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Interested in becoming a visiting scholar at CRF? Consider applying for the Scholar-in-Residence program! If you’re a faculty member in the Five Colleges with an upcoming junior leave or sabbatical, and your program of study intersects in some way with the many disciplines involved in family research, contact crf@psych.umass.edu for more information about the application process.