December 2016 Spotlight, Daniel Ewon Choe, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Daniel Ewon Choe in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Choe‘s research interests center on the development of children’s self-regulation and externalizing behavior (e.g., aggression, hyperactivity), their complex associations with parents’ mental health and caregiving, and their contributions to the onset of psychopathology, specifically child disruptive behavior disorders and maternal depression. He follows a biopsychosocial approach to studying psychopathology and its intergenerational transmission, often utilizing observational, questionnaire, interview, and biological data. Dr. Choe is currently examining gene–environment interactions, neural threat circuitry, parenting and neighborhood influences on the development of antisocial behavior during the first two decades of life. His lab is also collecting pilot data for a study on preschool-age children’s self-regulation and general cognitive skills, and the role parents play in fostering young children’s cognitive development (i.e., executive function).

faculty webpage: http://humanecology.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/hde_choe_daniel.html

lab webpage: http://choe.faculty.ucdavis.edu/

New Faculty Profile photo

Personal Spotlight

We asked scholars to describe one of the following: a) what drew them to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to them in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in their area.

My interest in juvenile delinquency drew me to research on the development of externalizing psychopathology from its antecedents in early childhood (e.g., difficulties with self-regulation/social-cognition) to its consequences in early adulthood (e.g., arrest records, violent behavior).  After working with Dr. John Hagen in 2006 as an undergraduate intern in Michigan’s Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), I decided to apply to Michigan’s doctoral program in developmental psychology rather than the clinical program even though most of my graduate applications were for clinical psychology.  Coincidentally, I only applied to two developmental psychology programs, the other being UC Davis’ because it was close to home (I’m glad UC Davis didn’t accept me then because I wouldn’t be a professor here now).  My decision to pursue a doctorate in developmental psychology has shaped my understanding of psychopathology and delinquency as processes that unfold over time, thus informing my moral stance toward crime, mental illness, and other worldwide societal issues.  Once I embraced my niche in developmental psychopathology, it was clear what set of skills I needed to cultivate to bridge interdisciplinary efforts to investigating antisocial behavior.  I’m humbled everyday by the work of my colleagues and collaborators, and I have acquired a strong sense of humility and skepticism regarding my own knowledge, both of which I hope serve as virtues that will ensure I remain a sound scientist and educator.

Research Spotlight

We also asked scholars to describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other understudied populations; d) practice or policy relevance.

My co-authors Chardée A. Galan, Daniel S. Shaw, Erika E. Forbes, and I recently had a paper accepted to Development and Psychopathology in which we replicated within Caucasian men and African American men evidence of gene–environment (GxE) interactions between the monoamine oxidase A gene and exposure to mothers’ punitive parenting in early childhood.  These GxE interactions predicted men’s school-age maladaptive social information processing, specifically their aggressive responses generation to fictional peers who could be perceived as threats, which in turn predicted men’s arrest records or antisocial behavior in early adulthood.  This is the first study to report a social information processing variable as a mediator of a GxE interaction in young men’s antisocial behavior, thus highlighting the interplay of genetics and experience in shaping how people respond to perceived threats and providing an example of a social cognitive mechanism through which early harsh parenting can contribute to chronic aggression and violence for individuals with susceptible genotypes.  The paper’s findings are exciting and I can’t wait for its dissemination in the field and its generalization to work related to childhood maltreatment.  Perhaps we will someday be able to identify which maltreated children are most genetically susceptible to adopting their abusers’ violent tendencies and intervene early in correcting their maladaptive social schemas and in reinforcing prosocial alternatives.

Experiences with Asian Caucus

I served as the Asian Caucus’ Early Career/Graduate Student Representative for two years after being asked by Dr. Ram Mahalingam, my faculty mentor in the Asian/Asian American Psychology Student Association (APSA) at the University of Michigan.  During my service, I took the lead in organizing an Asian Caucus faculty–student speed mentoring event at SRA in Vancouver, Canada.  I recall a cacophony of lively discussions between students, postdocs, and faculty members of the Asian Caucus, and I left the event with an affirming sense of connectedness that my insecurities as a graduate student facing an intimidating job market were not uncommon or indicative of me being an ineffective scholar.  I hope to one day participate in a similar event but from the perspective of a faculty mentor.  The Asian Caucus has helped connect me with other scholars who share similar interests, values, experiences, and a hopeful vision of what the field of child development will become in our lifetime.

Upcoming Talks/Presentations

Hopefully, I’ll present two paper talks at the 2017 SRCD Biennial Meeting in Austin, TX.  I submitted one paper as a symposia chair for series of papers investigating the development of self-regulation in early to middle childhood and its association with later adjustment problems.  The other submission is an imaging genetics paper linking interactions of genes and early harsh parenting to young men’s neural threat circuitry and violent behavior.

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