Following her PhD in Human Development at the University of California, Davis, Dr. Claire D. Vallotton won a Clinical Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health to study as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Vallotton has been awarded the New Investigator Award from the World Association of Infant Mental Health, the Award of Distinction for Young Alumni from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, and was named an Exceptional Emerging Leader in childcare research from ChildCare Exchange.
Vallotton studies early development of language and social-emotional skills, and how they it is shaped by relationships with parents and early child educators. She also studies the factors that influence those relationships and children’s development, including family risks, adult mental health, and culture. She has expertise in infant signing (caregiver-child preverbal communication through gestures), and uses infant signing to gain insight into infants’ internal worlds, and the effects of early communication skills on later development.
Vallotton uses her research to improve the quality of training for the early childcare and education workforce, and provide parents with effective tools support their children's development of social-emotional and communication skills. She has been involved in state-level initiatives on training the early care and education workforce, creating public awareness around children’s mental health, and establishing standards of practice to support infant/toddler language and emergent literacy skills. She serves as an expert advisor on infant, toddlers, and families to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation.
Areas of Expertise (7)
Infant Mental Health
Early Childhood Education
Faculty Fellow, Strategies and Tools a cross Fields (STAF): Teaching with Writing (professional)
Writing Center, Michigan State University, May - August 2014
Lilly Teaching Fellow, "Using technology to enhance quantitative literacy and effective decision - making among ECE students" (professional)
Michigan State University, 2013 - 2014
Exceptional Emerging Leader 2015, Emerging Leaders in the Field of Early Care and Education (professional)
Child Care Exchange and Exchange Live, May, 2015
Harvard Gradudate School of Education: NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Education 2008
University of California: Ph.D., Human Development 2004
Simpson College: B.A., Psychology 1997
- Member, Network of Infant Toddler Researchers, Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families
- Member, Home - Based Care Workgroup, Child Care Policy Research Consortium (CCPRC)
- Member, Michigan Infant Toddler Research Exchange
Children with chores achieve better at school and at life
WLNS 6 online
Nobody likes doing chores, but numerous studies show children who are given household duties are more responsible, have higher self-esteem, and can deal with frustration better. These three qualities help kids in both school and in society, plus get them practice for needed life skills later. Child development expert, Claire Vallotton with MSU says, introducing household chores can start when toddlers began responding to direction. She believes many young kids show enthusiasm to help that parents can use to foster good habits as they grow older.
Asking the right questions can enhance child development
WLNS 6 online
Asking your kid the right questions can dramatically enhance childhood development. Child expert, Claire Vallotton with Michigan State University says, the science of early childhood development shows asking questions supports growth in a variety of ways, including social and emotional skills, getting to know themselves, cognitive functions, and language.
Parallel Talking with Your Infant
Parallell Talking is a great tool in supporting a child’s language development and comprehension. Just like a sportscaster, parents narrate and talk about whatever a child is doing, seeing, eating, touching, or thinking.
Infant Signing Tips for Parents
Parents can begin using signs with infants as soon as they begin waving. Michigan State University educator Claire Vallotton, PhD, has easy tips on how and when to sign with your child.
Claire Vallotton, Michigan State University – Dad’s Mental Health Matters
Academic Minute online
Claire Vallotton, associate professor in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University, examines what effect being a good dad can have on your kids.
Research Grants (2)
Trajectories of Teacher Stress: The Roles Coping and Prior Exposure to Trauma
2017-2020 Co-Principal Investigator (PI: Brophy-Herb)
Recognizing, Reflecting, and Responding to Infant/Toddler Cues: An Integrated Parent-Teacher Intervention to Support Social-Emotional Development through Caregiver Mindfulness and Sensitivity
ACF-OPRE Early Head Start University Partnership
2015-2020 Principal Investigator, (PIs: Stacks, Muzik)
Journal Articles (8)
Effects of maternal mentalization-related parenting on toddlers’ self-regulationEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
2018 Little research has examined associations between multiple indicators of parental mentalization and children's regulatory capacities. This study aimed (1) to examine the validity of a latent mentalization-related parenting construct and (2) to examine the relationship between the mentalization-related parenting construct and toddler's self-regulation, controlling for maternal depression, emotion disapproving beliefs, warmth, cumulative demographic risk, and child's gender. Mentalization-related parenting behaviors (MRPBs) included maternal use of mental state words, use of emotion bridging (linking emotions and behaviors in child and others), and representational mind-mindedness...
Cultural diversification of communicative gestures through early childhood: A comparison of children in English-, German-, and Chinese-speaking familiesInfant Behavior and Development
2018 Previous literature has demonstrated cultural differences in young children's use of communicative gestures, but the results were mixed depending on which gestures were measured and what age of children were involved. This study included variety of different types of gestures and examined whether children's use of communicative gestures varies by their cultural backgrounds and ages. 714 parents of children (6–36 months old) from USA English-, German-, and Taiwan Chinese-speaking countries completed the questionnaire on their children's use of each gesture described in the survey...
Maltreated children use more grammatical negationsJournal of Child and Family Studies
2018 Many studies reveal a strong impact of childhood maltreatment on language development, mainly resulting in shorter utterances, less rich vocabulary, or a delay in grammatical complexity. However, different theories suggest the possibility for resilience—a positive adaptation to an otherwise adverse environment—in children who experienced childhood maltreatment. Here, we investigated different measures for language development in spontaneous speech, examining whether childhood maltreatment leads to a language deficit only or whether it can also result in differences in language use due to a possible adaptation to a toxic environment...
Preservice Students’ Dispositional Mindfulness and Developmentally Supportive Practices with Infants and ToddlersSpringer
2018 Although dispositional mindfulness has recently been linked to high quality teaching practices, there is limited work on how mindfulness is related to caregiving beliefs and practices with infants and toddlers. Based on survey responses from 618 preservice students enrolled in child development/early education classes at nine US universities, we examined associations between mindfulness and students’ beliefs, knowledge, and practices with infants and toddlers.
Toddlers Use of Gesture and Speech in Service of Emotion Regulation During Distressing RoutinesInfant Mental Health Journal
2018 Research on the intersections of young children's emerging communication skills and emotion regulation has increased, following recognition of the link between these skills as they emerge in toddlerhood and the long‐term impact of these skills on academic success. However, little is known about how toddlers use gesture and emerging language for emotion regulation.
Cultural diversification of communicative gestures through early childhood: A comparison of children in English-, German-, and Chinese- speaking familiesInfant Behavior and Development
2018 Previous literature has demonstrated cultural differences in young children’s use of communicative gestures, but the results were mixed depending on which gestures were measured and what age of children were involved. This study included variety of different types of gestures and examined whether children’s use of communicative gestures varies by their cultural backgrounds and ages. 714 parents of children (6–36 months old) from U.S.A. English-, German-, and Taiwan Chinese- speaking countries completed the questionnaire on their children’s use of each gesture described in the survey.
Early home learning environment predicts children’s 5th grade academic skillsApplied Developmental Science
2017 We examined whether the early learning environment predicts children’s 5th grade skills in 2,204 families from ethnically diverse, low-income backgrounds; tested the mediating roles of children’s pre-kindergarten school-related skills and later learning environment; and asked whether lagged associations generalize across White, Black, Hispanic English-speaking, and Hispanic Spanish-speaking samples. Children’s early learning environment comprised measures of literacy activities, the quality of mothers’ engagements with children, and learning materials assessed at 14 months, 2 and 3 years, and at pre-kindergarten; learning environments were again assessed in 5th grade.
Parenting Supports for Early Vocabulary Development: Specific Effects of Sensitivity and Stimulation through InfancyPMC
2017 Growing recognition of disparities in early childhood language environments prompt examination of parent-child interactions which support vocabulary. Research links parental sensitivity and cognitive stimulation to child language, but has not explicitly contrasted their effects, nor examined how effects may change over time.