|Title:||Associate Professor, Clinical Psychology; Ph.D.|
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Northwestern University, 2002
B.A., University of California, San Diego, 1995
The primary aim of my research is to evaluate programs and policies designed to promote positive outcomes for youth in the child welfare system. Youth in the child welfare system often come to care with a wide range of significant social, emotional, developmental, and educational needs. Policies that are initiated by state and federal agencies to address these needs must be properly evaluated to ensure they are having the intended effect.
For example, I am currently evaluating a federally funded project entitled “The Recruitment and Kin Connections Project”, an initiative designed to establish lifelong family permanency opportunities for youth in child welfare. Unfortunately, when youth enter the child welfare system, it is common for them to lose contact with their relatives. The Recruitment and Kin Connections Project hired a team of highly experienced child welfare professionals and trained them in the state-of-the-art methods for how to locate family members, and how to engage these family members to play vital roles in youths’ development while in the child welfare system (e.g., as a foster parent, mentor, support). My evaluation is employing an experiemental design to compare the intervention group (n=250) and a control group (n=250) on youths’ placement permanency, mental health, strengths, attachment, and self-esteem outcomes.
Current thinking regarding mental health policy recognizes that mental health services are delivered to children and adolescents in a variety of contexts, ranging from community-based services to residential treatment and psychiatric hospitalization. A major focus of my research program has examined the appropriateness and effectiveness of mental health services delivered to youth in the child welfare system at each of the major levels of care: Community-based care, residential treatment, and psychiatric hospitalization. My recent work with graduate students and colleagues involving community-based care has studied the effectiveness of a wrap-around program for 2,000 youth in Illinois’ child welfare system (e.g., Dunleavy & Leon, 2011), and the impact of a child’s proximity to mental health and positive youth development services in the community on placement stability (Weiner, Leon, & Stiehl, in press). My recent research involving residential treatment has studied the effect of frontline staff ratings of organizational climate on children’s mental health outcomes (Jordan, Leon, Epstein et al, 2009), and the interaction of staff personality traits (Big Five) and children’s mental health presentation on worker burnout (Leon, Visscher, Sugimura et al, 2008). At the highest level of care in the system, psychiatric hospitalization, I recently completed a longitudinal study of 800 youth throughout their stays in psychiatric hospitals. By measuring their psychiatric acuity on a daily basis, we have been able to study youths’ patterns of recovery in treatment and the ways in which these patterns vary across hospital units. We are currently working on several manuscripts involving these data.
In pursuit of a recently developed research interest, I am currently conducting several studies on the relationship between Implicit Self Esteem (ISE) and psychopathology. ISE is a construct in psychology, developed over the past 20 years, which has been defined as "the introspectively unidentified (or inaccurately identified) effect of the self-attitude on evaluation of self-associated and self-dissociated objects" (Greenwald & Banaji,1995). More succinctly, it can be thought of as the experience or representation of the self in the unconscious register. ISE has been distinguished from Explicit Self Esteem (ESE), the experience or representation of the self in the conscious register, in dozens of studies. Both forms of self esteem predict important outcomes, yet these two forms of self esteem are consistently poorly correlated. Comparisons between implicit and explicit self esteem have been studied recently by clinical psychologists, but this work is nascent, with the majority of research focusing on differences between explicit and implicit self esteem in depression, narcissism, and eating pathology. My current research seeks to study differences in explicit and implicit self esteem across a broader range of clinical phenomena, such as antisocial traits, borderline personality traits, and avoidant personality traits. For example, I recently completed a study to determine if the ISE and ESE constructs and their interactions significantly predict clinical scores on the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III).
Weiner, D.A., Leon, S.C., & Stiehl, M.J. (in press). Demographic, clinical, and geographic
predictors of placement disruption among foster care youth receiving wraparound
services. Journal of Child and Family Studies. pdf
Dunleavy, A.M. & Leon, S.C. (2011). Predictors for resolution of antisocial behavior among
foster care youth receiving community-based services. Children and Youth Services
Review, 33, 2347-2354. pdf
Jordan, N., Leon, S.C., Durkin, E., Epstein, R., & Helgerson, J. (2009). The
effect of organizational climate on child outcomes in residential treatment.
Residential Treatment for Children and Youth, 26, 194-208. pdf
Leon, S.C., Visscher, L., Sugimura, N., & Lakin, B.L. (2008). Person job
match among frontline staff working in residential treatment centers: The impact of
personality and child psychopathology on burnout experiences. American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry, 78, 240-248. pdf
Sieracki, J.H., Leon, S.C., Miller, S.A., & Lyons, J.S. (2008). Individual and provider
effects on mental health outcomes in child welfare: A three level growth curve
approach. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 800-808. pdf
Leon, S.C., Ragsdale, B., Miller, S., & Spaccirelli, S. (2008). Trauma
resilience among youth in substitute care demonstrating sexual behavior
problems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 67-81. pdf