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Center for Children and Families UT Health
Margaret Caughy

Margaret Caughy, ScD, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Margaret Caughy’s research combines the unique perspectives of developmental science, epidemiology, and public health in studying the contexts of risk and resilience affecting young children. She is particularly interested in race/ethnic disparities in health and development and how these disparities can be understood within the unique ecological niches of ethnic minority families and has completed several studies focused on how inequities in neighborhood structural characteristics and social processes affect the cognitive development, socioemotional functioning, and early academic achievement of young children in diverse race/ethnic groups.

She is currently Principal Investigator of the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project funded by NICHD which explores the contextual, cultural, and family factors contributing to the development of self-regulation in low income African American and Latino preschoolers and how these processes facilitate school readiness in these children. Another theme of her research has been methodological, specifically methods related to measuring neighborhood context and the utilization of these measures in models explaining child developmental competence using multilevel and structural equations modeling methods. Finally, she is Director of the Maternal and Child Health Training Program at the UT School of Public Health. Dr. Caughy is married to Dennis Caughy, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in child/adolescent behavioral health. They have two children, Michaela and Aidan.

Margaret Caughy

Margaret T. Owen, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Margaret Owen earned her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan and is the Robinson Family Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research interests focus primarily on children’s relationships with their parents and others who care for them, and how the quality of these relationships nurture children's optimal growth and development.

Her recent work centers on the role of self-regulation in children’s readiness for school and how parents help their preschool children develop these important skills.

Plastilla Arnold

Plastilla Arnold, Home Visiting Team

Plastilla Arnold has been part of the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project from the very beginning. She played a large role in the initial recruitment of families and continues to be an integral part of the home visiting team and following up with families over the years. Her primary roles on DPReP include conducting parental interviews and coordinating home visits.

Suzy Armstrong

Suzy Armstrong, MEd, IMH-E (IV)

Suzy Armstrong works with the UTD Center for Children and Families (CCF) as a Developmental Specialist and has been with the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project since October of 2013. She came to UTD after working for over 30 years in the field of Early Childhood Intervention, the statewide program serving infants and young children with developmental concerns, where she worked in the ECI State Office for many years as well as directing two community ECI programs. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and is endorsed as an Infant Mental Health specialist through the Texas Association of Infant Mental Health. She works as a home visitor for DPReP and as a developmental screener for CCF. In her time away from work, her primary interests revolve around the loves of her life — her two very precious grandchildren, as well as her husband, 3 adult children and their spouses, and her 3 spoiled dogs.

Ericka Ball

Ericka Ball, MA

Ericka Ball joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in July of 2013 as a Graduate Research Assistant. Her current roles include child assessment, coding, and data analysis. She is currently a second year Master’s student in the Psychological Sciences program and will be graduating in May of 2015, under the mentoring of Dr. Margaret Owen.

Ericka’s research interests include the relationship between physical discipline and various other factors, such as child behavior outcomes, parental depression, and racial/ethnic differences. She plans to obtain her PhD in Clinical Psychology and become a forensic psychologist, specializing in child abuse and neglect. During her breaks from school, she enjoys spending time with her fiancé, Franklin, and going home to Florida to see her family and friends.

Meg Denning

Meg Denning, BS

Meg Denning joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in January 2015 as a Graduate Research Assistant. She is a bilingual child assessor.

Meg is currently a second year Master’s of Public Health student at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Her research interests include maternal and child health, and in particular, child obesity prevention and adolescent sexual education. After completing her Master’s Degree, she plans on continuing to work in the maternal and child health sector. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, eating, and hanging out with friends and family.

Dawn Brinkley

Dawn Brinkley, PhD, Project Director

Dawn Brinkley received her PhD in Psychological Sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2014. She joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in September 2013 as Project Director. As project director, Dr. Brinkley oversees the day-to-day administration of DPReP. Her general interests include parenting practices and child outcomes such as the role of parents in children and adolescents’ academic achievement and the role of mobile technology use in children and adolescents’ social and emotional development.

Nazly Dyer

Nazly Dyer, PhD, Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Nazly Dyer received her PhD in Psychological Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Associate for the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project. Dr. Dyer joined the project in August of 2009 as a Graduate Research Assistant and has held many roles on the project including project design, training, home visiting, data management and data analysis, coding, and supervising research interns.

Her research interests include examining variations in parenting styles and associations with various family factors (e.g. risk factors and maternal depression) as well as child outcomes, such as school readiness and behavior problems.

Jennifer Reingle Gonzalez

Jennifer Reingle Gonzalez, PhD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Jennifer Reingle Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas. She earned her doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Florida in 2011, and a MS degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati in 2007. Dr. Reingle Gonzalez has published more than 70 peer-reviewed articles in journals spanning the disciplines of substance use and abuse, mental health services, and treatment utilization among criminal justice involved adults and racial/ethnic minority populations. Her research is currently funded by the National Institute of Justice and SAMHSA.

Maria Amalia Maese

Maria Amalia Maese, MA

Maria Maese joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in February of 2014 as a Graduate Research Assistant. She is a child assessor, and is part of the mother-child interaction coding team.

Maria is completing her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies. In the fall, she will start the Master’s program in Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders. Her interests are working with families and children. She also volunteers regularly with the Center for Children and Families. She enjoys helping people and spending time with her family.

Britain Mills

Britain Mills, PhD, Faculty Associate

Britain Mills received a BS in Neuroscience from Texas Christian University and a PhD in Human Development from Cornell University. He is currently a faculty associate at the UTHSC School of Public Health, Dallas. His substantive research interests include culture and acculturation, neurocomputational models of higher brain function, the developmental psychology of memory, judgment, and decision-making, and how perspectives across these varied domains intersect in research on psychopathology and addiction in particular. He also has general methodological interests in structural equation modeling and its use in adjudicating questions about construct validity, operationalization, and instrument bias in psychological research.

Craig Motsenbocker

Craig Motsenbocker, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Craig Motsenbocker joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in January of 2014 as an undergraduate research intern. His roles include coding, data management, and will soon begin home visits.

Craig will graduate with a degree in Psychology in May of 2015. Once he graduates, he will begin applying to Occupational Therapy programs. His academic and career interests are tied to his passion for those with special needs, more specifically those with Autism. Aside from the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project, Craig enjoys running and rock climbing.

Peris June Ng’ang’a

Peris June Ng’ang’a, BS

Peris June Ng’ang’a joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project as an undergraduate student in January 2011. Her roles in the project have included assisting in coding, data entry, manuscript development, and the supervision of undergraduate interns. Her research interests include the home literacy environment and its associations with preschool readiness. She enjoys working with children and is aspiring to become a pediatrician. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, spending time with her family, and traveling.

Daniel Pacheco

Daniel Pacheco, MS, Graduate Research Assistant

Daniel Pacheco is currently a third year doctoral student in the Psychological Science program. He joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project DPReP) in August of 2013 as a child assessor. Since then he has also helped with self-regulation data collection for the Bilingual Language Lab. Daniel has assisted with the creation of coding standards for two DPReP tasks as well as other engaged in other roles such as training, data analysis, and supervising undergraduate and graduate student research assistants. Daniel’s research interests include the onset and persistence of antisocial behavior, especially physical aggression, in children; the way executive function plays a role in the development of antisocial behavior as well as the contextual factors that may influence child outcomes.

Priya Thomas

Priya Thomas, BS

Priya Thomas joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in December 2014. She is a child assessor and a parent assessor with the home visiting team. She has a Bachelor in Science from the University of Texas at Austin. Her interests include psychiatry and clinical psychology. When she’s not working, she enjoys reading, drawing, and dancing.

Laura Von Hatten

Laura Von Hatten, MPH

Laura Von Hatten joined the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project in July 2014. She works with the home visiting team. Laura has her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education and is working toward a degree in Nursing. Her interests include maternal and child health, healthy pregnancy, and providing support to new mothers and their families. When she is not at work she enjoys finding fun things to do with friends and family, being active, and playing music.


We would like to thank all members of the DPReP team, both past and present, for their contributions to the study. Special thanks to Alexandra Abercrombie, Melissa Amos, Russell Ansley, Maria Barriento, Michaela Caughy, Laura Davila, Piper Younger Duarte, Carmen Gonzales, Jamie Hurst, Gabriella Jairala, Bunnoi Mcdaniel, Ana-Maria Mata-Otero, Cynthia Medina, Caroline Mejias, Claire Noonan, Tatiana Peredo, Helen Reyes, Jerry Roberson, Junie Shrestha, Kristine Tolentino-Plata, Obed Vaca, Adriana Villa, and Matthew Willoughby.