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Completed Studies

There are several completed studies from our lab, which continue to be used for follow-up analysis:

Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers for HIV/AIDS Orphans in South Africa

(Project leader: Francesca Penner)

This study, funded by the NICHD, evaluates the feasibility and acceptability of a one-year mentalization-based intervention to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In this study, we are partnering with NGOs and local Community Based Organizations to empower careworkers in their work with orphans. Our collaborators are Prof. Lochner Marais, Dr. Michael Boivin, Dr. Donald Skinner, Mr. Molefi Lenka, Mr. Joe Serekoane, and Dr. Cilly Shohet and Ms. Deborah Givon.

Parent-Child Mentalizing

(Project leader: Sophie Kerr)

In this study, funded by a NIMH F31 grant awarded to Salome Vanwoerden, we are developing and evaluating an observational coding system for mentalizing as it occurs during a parent-child interaction. Currently, assessment of mentalizing, or the ability and proclivity to attribute mental states to the self and other, relies on static assessment using questionnaires, interviews, and behavioral tasks. What these measures lack is a real-time assessment of mentalizing as it occurs during interactions with others. This novel coding scheme will be the first to evaluate mentalizing in the environment that it actually occurs, providing a more ecologically valid assessment.

Mental Health and Campus Experiences of Immigrant Undergraduate Students

(SHSU PI: Tessa Long; UH project leader: Kiana Wall)

Currently, there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Many of these individuals are children who have lived in the US for their entire lives and are unaware of their immigration status until late adolescence. This creates the first of many stressful barriers when transitioning from high school to college as an undocumented individual. Through collaboration with several higher education institutions in Texas, researchers at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) aim to collect demographics on both documented and undocumented immigrant undergraduates and to quantitatively assess relations between undocumented immigrants' mental health outcomes, academic achievement, and campus experiences. The principal investigator of this study at SHSU is graduate student Tessa Long. The faculty sponsor of this study at SHSU is Dr. Amanda Venta. 

Perceptions of Dimensional and Categorical Presentations of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

(Project leader: Kiana Wall)

While studies have shown mixed results from the perspective of clinicians regarding preference for one personality disorder diagnostic system above another, nothing is known about the patient or client’s preferences. Therefore, the objective of this study is to gauge the utility of dimensional, categorical and “mixed” diagnostic reports of a borderline personality diagnosis, from the patient perspective. This study is being conducted in collaboration with the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA BPD).

Personality Characteristics in College Students

(Project leader: Kiana Wall)

It is unknown what the typical levels of borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms are in college student samples. This study focuses on understanding this question with an eye on intervention in this setting.

Ecological Momentary Assessment of Feelings and Social Cognition in Relation to Psychopathology

(Project leader: Kiana Wall; Allison Kalpakci)

In this study we were interested in the use of new technology to better understand the link between emotions and social cognition in everyday life. To this end, EMA methodology was used over a period of 20 days to examine the relation between perceptions of others, interpersonal behavior and negative affect via self-report and physiology.

Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology

At the Adolescent Treatment Program (ATP) of the Menninger Clinic we developed a research program which had two goals (1) to test a model of social cognition for the development of emotional-behavior difficulties, in particular emerging personality disorder and (2) to test the effectiveness of a mentalization-based treatment approach in an adolescent in-patient setting. We collaborated closely with the treatment team at the ATP under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Newlin. We also collaborated with Dr. Peter Fonagy at University College London and the Anna Freud Center in the United Kingdom. The work was funded by the Child and Family Program of the Menninger Clinic. This study was later expanded to include a collaboration with another investigative team at the Menninger Clinic who run the MIND-MB project. In this study we made use of fMRI technology and molecular genetics to investigate neurobiological correlates of psychiatric problems in adolescents and adults. This project was funded by the McNair Foundation.

Social Cognition and Positive Psychology

(Project leader: Francesca Penner)

This study will examine links between social cognition and positive psychology in two ways, with the overall goal to yield findings that have clinical implications for the prevention and treatment of psychological disorders. This study has two primary aims: 1) Examine mentalizing as a resilience factor for young adults who have experienced adverse childhood events (ACEs), and 2) Test associations between positive psychological constructs such as optimism, hope, gratitude, and life satisfaction and symptoms of personality pathology among young adults.


Sharp, C., Williams, L., Ha, C., Baumgardner, J., Michonski, J., Seals, R., Patel, A., Bleiberg, E., & Fonagy, P. (2009). The development of a mentalization-based outcomes and research protocol for an adolescent in-patient unit. The Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 73(4), 311-338.

Venta, A., Sharp, C., Patriquin, M., Salas, R., Newlin, E., Curtis, K., Baldwin, P., Fowler, C., & Frueh, C. (2018). Amygdala-frontal connectivity predicts internalizing symptom recovery among inpatient adolescents. Journal of Affective Disorders, 225, 453-459. [IF: 3.845]

Sharp, C., Pane, H., Ha, C., Venta, A., Patel, A. B., Sturek, J., & Fonagy, P. (2011). Theory of mind and emotion regulation difficulties in adolescents with borderline traits. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry50(6), 563-573.

Sharp, C., Ha, C., Carbone, C., Kim, S., Perry, K., Williams, L., & Fonagy, P. (2013). Hypermentalizing in adolescent inpatients: treatment effects and association with borderline traits. Journal of personality disorders27(1), 3-18.

Penner, F., McLaren, V., Leavitt, J., Akca, O. F., & Sharp, C. (2020). Implicit and explicit mentalizing deficits in adolescent inpatients: specificity and incremental value of borderline pathology. Journal of personality disorders34(Supplement B), 64-83.

Sharp, C., Penner, F., & Ensink, K. (2020). Reflective function and borderline traits in adolescents. Journal of personality disorders34(Supplement B), 1-16.

Orme, W., Bowersox, L., Vanwoerden, S. et al.The relation between epistemic trust and borderline pathology in an adolescent inpatient sample. bord personal disord emot dysregul 6, 13 (2019).

Intranasal Oxytocin and Social Cognition in Youths

(Project leaders: Salome Vanwoerden; Carolyn Ha; Amanda Venta)

In this research project, we were interested in examining how intranasal oxytocin affects social-cognitive functioning in adolescence. Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain during social interactions to promote bonding experiences. The study was in collaboration with the Adolescent Treatment Program of the Menninger Clinic. The work was partially funded by several sources including two pre-doctoral training grants through the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to Carolyn Ha and Amanda Venta, funding from the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Child and Family Program of the Menninger Clinic, and a dissertation grant from the American Psychological Association Dissertation awarded to Amanda Venta.

Venta, A., Ha, C., Vanwoerden, S., Newlin, E., Strathearn, L., & Sharp, C. (2017). Paradoxical intranasal oxytocin effects on trust in inpatient and community adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

Social Cognitive factors and Suicide-related Behaviors in Adolescents

(Project leader: Claire Hatkevich)

At the Harris County Psychiatric Center our research investigated models by which social-cognitive and other cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., implicit bias, problem-solving, etc.) interact with life stress to confer risk for suicide-related behaviors and borderline symptoms in adolescents. At HCPC we collaborated with Dr. Iram Kazimi who is at the University of Texas.

Buitron, V., Hartley, C., Pettit, J., *Hatkevich, C., & Sharp, C. (2018). Aggressive Behavior Moderates the Association between Internalizing Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation in Inpatient Adolescents. Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior.

Buitron, V., *Hill, R., Pettit, J., Green, K., *Hatkevich, C., & Sharp, C. (2016). Interpersonal stress and suicidal ideation in adolescence: Direct associations and an indirect association through perceived burdensomeness towards others. Journal of Affective Disorders,190, 143-149.

Mellick, W., Sharp, C., & Sumlin, E. (2019). Trust and general risk-taking in externalizing adolescent inpatients versus non-externalizing psychiatric controls. Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology7, 92-96.

Hill, R. M., Hatkevich, C., Pettit, J. W., & Sharp, C. (2017). Gender and the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide: A three-way interaction between perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and gender. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology36(10), 799-813.

Venta, A., Hatkevich, C., Sharp, C., & Rotenberg, K. (2017). Low emotional trust in mothers is associated with increased suicide attempts in inpatient adolescents with depressive symptoms. Journal of social and clinical psychology36(3), 221-237.

Noblin, J. L., Venta, A., & Sharp, C. (2014). The validity of the MSI-BPD among inpatient adolescents. Assessment21(2), 210-217.

Novel Methods for Measuring Social-Cognitive Processes

Our lab has collaborated with researchers in related fields to develop novel methods to evaluate social-cognitive processes. One study was in collaboration with optometry faculty Drs. Heidi Hofer and Manuel De La Cruz Gutierrez in which we developed a measure of self-representation based on constructions of ones’ face. Another collaboration with Dr. Shishir Shah from Computational Sciences used technology to measure micro-expressions during an in-vivo trust task. In addition, we have evaluated performance on the trust task with pre-adolescent boys to gain an understanding of the development of this social-cognitive process.

King-Casas, B., Sharp, C., Lomax, L., Lohrenz, T., Fonagy, P., & Montague, R. (2008). The rupture and repair of cooperation in borderline personality disorder. Science. 321:806-810. doi: 10.1126/science.1156902.

NARSAD: Intergenerational Transmission of Depression

Funded by a NARSAD Grant, this study recruited three groups of female adolescents and their mothers: depressed teens with depressed moms, non-depressed teens with depressed moms, and non-depressed dyads. Using fMRI and behavioral measures, social-cognitive mechanisms of the intergenerational transmission of depression were evaluated.

Sharp, C., Kim, S., Herman, L., Pane, H., Reuter, T., & Strathearn, L. (2014). Major depression in mothers predicts reduced reward-related brain processing in adolescent daughters, with or without depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 123(2), 298-309.

Characterizing Psychopathology Among HIV/AIDS Orphans in South Africa

Funded by the NICHD, this study examined the effect of AIDS orphanhood on child outcomes in Mangaung township of South Africa. As part of this work, we have been evaluating psychometric properties of common assessment instruments of psychopathology for this population

Skinner, D., Sharp, C., Serekoane, M. and Ross, M. (2016). The Cultural Adaptation of the DISC-IV: Appropriateness for Sotho Speaking South Africans. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 25(1), 1-19.

Sharp, C., Jardin, C., Marais, L., & Boivin, M. (2015). Orphanhood by AIDS-related causes and child mental health: A Developmental Psychopathology approach. Journal of HIV and AIDS, 1(3), 1-18.

Jardin, C., Marais, L., Bakhshaie, J., Skinner, D., Neighbors, C., Zvolensky, M., & Sharp, C. (2017). Caregiver alcohol use and mental health among children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Psychological and Socio-medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV, 28(3): 399-407.

Sharp, C., Penner, F., Marais, L., & Skinner, D. (2018). School connectedness as psychological resilience factor in children affected by HIV/AIDS. AIDS care30(sup4), 34-41.