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School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences - The University of Texas at Dallas

Margaret Owen


Margaret Owen
















About Margaret Owen


My research focuses on children's development in the context of family relationships and the implications of maternal employment and early child care experiences for children's development and family relationships. In these interrelated pursuits her research has contributed to greater understanding of what constitute important interpersonal influences in children's lives, how family relations and child care experiences influence the young child's development, and how contexts of development are interrelated.


Some of my early work documents the influence of close, confiding marriages in the development of involved, sensitive mother-infant and father-infant interactions and, in turn, the development of secure infant-parent attachment relationships. It also addresses the detrimental effects of parents' marital conflict on children's attachments to their parents, particularly with respect to insecure/disorganized qualities in the infant-parent relationship.


I was a Co-Principal Investigator in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development 1990-2007, collaborating with investigators across the country in a prospective longitudinal study of the effects of early child care on over 1300 children and their families. The study followed the children from birth through age 15, guided by an ecological developmental framework that brings together information about the child care environment, the home and family, school experiences, peer experiences, and individual differences among children in understanding trajectories of children’s development across multiple domains. One of my contributions to the study was in designing the protocol for the longitudinal assessments of mother-child and father-child interactions and training and supervising the ratings of all of the study’s videotapes of parent-child interactions from 6 months through age 15 years. Findings from the study have addressed (1) characteristics of child care for infants and toddlers across various types and forms of care; (2) associations found between the use of child care and demographic and attitudinal characteristics of families; and (3) associations between child-care experiences and children's relationships with their mothers, adaptive and maladaptive social behavior, cognitive and language development, peer relations, qualities of mother-child interaction, health, and school achievement from preschool through middle school. Effects of early child care have been documented through adolescence. In addition numerous reports of developmental processes in children have been published from the study. In current follow-up work, we are studying the teens’ romantic relationships and attachment styles in their senior year of high school.


In the Dallas Child Care Project, we studied developmental effects of relationship-focused child care for low-income ethnically diverse children in Dallas and variations in the quality of care provided by accredited centers serving low-income children in the Dallas area.


Research Interests


My research focuses on children’s environmental contexts—particularly children’s home experiences and child-care experiences—and how they relate to the child’s development. I study linkages both within and across environmental contexts. Within the family, I study relations among mother-child, father-child, and husband-wife relationships, and I examine how qualities of these relationships are associated with children’s development. I have studied how a collaborating partnership between parent and child-care provider benefits parent-child and caregiver-child interactions and, in turn, relates to children’s developing competence.


In my current research I am studying the development of various dimensions of young children's self regulation skills and racial/ethnic disparities in school readiness and early school achievement. We are following 400 low income African American and Latino children and their families, first visited in their homes when the study children were 2-1/2 years and currently being followed as they transition into kindergarten and first grade. We are examining how early parent-child relationships, and various contextual factors shape the emergence of various aspects of self regulation and children's success in school.


Recent Publications


Owen, M. T., Caughy, M.O., Hurst, J. M., Amos, M., Hasanizadeh, N., & Mata-Otero, A. (2013). Contributions of fathering and mothering to emerging self regulation in low-income ethnic minority preschoolers. Early Child Development and Car, 183, 464-482.


Klausli, J. F., & Owen, M. T. (2011). Exploring actor and partner effects in associations between marriage and parenting for mothers and fathers. Parenting: Science and Practice.


McCartney, K., Burchinal, P., Clarke-Stewart, A., Owen, M.T., Bub, K., Belsky, J., and the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2010). Testing a series of causal propositions relating time spent in child care to children’s externalizing behavior. Developmental Psychology.