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Peter Vietze

Professor, Psychology

Dickson Hall 220
BA, State University of New York @ Binghamton
MA, Wayne State University
PhD, Wayne State University
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DR. VIETZE joined MSU as Chair of the Psychology Department in July, 2007. He has spent many years conducting research on infants and young children, as a research administrator and as a college professor. He has worked at George Peabody College for Teachers (Vanderbilt University), the National Institutes of Health, NYS Institute for basic Research in Developmental Disabilities and City University of New York. He also consults with Hand In Hand Development, Inc. and Community Assistance Resources and Extended Services (CARES) in New York City. Dr. Vietze has also worked as a clinical and developmental psychologist evaluating children with suspected disabilities and conducting individual, group and couples therapy. Dr. Vietze has published over 100 chapters and journal articles and written or edited 8 books.



The Development of Competence

Research on Parenting Style

Throughout my career, my research has focused on the Development of Competence. During graduate school I participated in a number of research projects that focused on adolescence and early childhood. My experience taught me that it was important first to understand the origins of Competence in infancy. During my Post-Doc at Berkeley, I acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out research with infants. Since then my studies have led to shift my focus to trying to understand how the interactions between parents, notably mothers, and their infants shape the infants? development of Competence. I define Competence as the ability to adapt to the environment to optimize one?s rewards. Through my studies and observations, it has become apparent that the way in which parents or primary caregivers present the world to the infants and the way in which they respond to the infant?s behavior is the most important influence in the infant?s early development of Competence. I have come to call the way the parent approaches and interacts with the infant, Parenting Style. My research for the next several years will be devoted to describing the variations in Parenting Style and the consequences of the different variations on infant Competence.
In order to carry out this research, I have developed observational methods that permit the measurement of one of the important ingredients in Parenting, responsiveness. My observational coding system preserves the sequence and duration of ongoing streams of behavior so that responsiveness can be measured with precision. With Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students I am analyzing data collected over the past several years and writing up the results. I have also collected some data from a small cohort of Russian children and their parents.

Research on Parents with Intellectual Disabilities

A secondary interest that may inform our understanding of Parenting Style is to study the way in which parents with Intellectual Disabilities interact with their children and how that affects their children?s Competence. Since parents with Intellectual Disabilities are often seen as unskilled in their parenting skills, this research will allow me to study the effect of an extreme naturally occurring variation of the parent on Parenting Style and childhood Competence.

Emotion Recognition in Children with Autism
Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty attending to social cues. They also are not good at interpreting facial expressions. We have embarked on a study with school-age children using eye-tracking methods to understand this phenomenon better. Included in this study is an assessment of theory of mind as a way of judging severity of autism.

Research on Young Children with Autism-Treatment Effectiveness
To examine how an extreme naturally occurring variation of the Child affects Parenting Style, I am interested in studying children who have been identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since the publication of Ivar Lovaas'(1989) study showing that Applied Behavior Analysis can help some young children with Autism behave and learn like children with typical development, I have been interested in understanding what differentiates those children who are "normalized" from those who are not. I have begun to study this at a school for infants and toddlers in New York City and plan to continue this research at MSU. The first of several papers from this project was just published.
( The next paper in this series examines two different intervention strategies, followed by one on the role of imitation in early learning among children with ASD. We are also embarking on a project in which a social skills curriculum is evaluated for its effectiveness.


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