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Think:Kids Laboratory for the Study of Childhood Behavior Disorders

The Laboratory for the Study of Childhood Behavior Disorders, directed by Alisha Pollastri, PhD, uses modern research tools to examine the cognitive, biological and social underpinnings of behavioral challenges during childhood, and the factors that are associated with positive treatment outcomes.


Rethinking Challenging Kids

The Laboratory for the Study of Childhood Behavior Disorders is affiliated with Think:Kids in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. Under the direction of Stuart Ablon, PhD, Think:Kids teaches Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), a revolutionary, evidence-based approach for helping children who struggle with behavioral challenges.

Childhood Behavior Disorders

Children with behavior disorders are often referred to as oppositional, challenging, explosive, difficult, defiant or aggressive. They often display externalizing behaviors such as temper tantrums, defiance, deceit, destruction of property and verbal or physical aggression.

These children may carry a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or intermittent explosive disorder. They could also display defiant behaviors as part of a larger set of symptoms that have been identified as a mood, anxiety or development disorder.

These behaviors have significant costs. They have a negative impact on the parent-child relationship, and cause additional stress for parents and teachers. There are also significant financial costs associated with treating children with disruptive behaviors in juvenile detention centers, specialized school programs, residential facilities, inpatient psychiatric units and outpatient community agencies.

Our Laboratory

Our laboratory takes a broad approach to studying the causes of challenging behaviors during childhood, and explores how, why, and for whom different treatment approaches for disruptive behavior disorders are effective, with a focus on studying the CPS approach.

Group Members

Meet our Staff:


Stuart Ablon


J. Stuart Ablon, PhD

Director, Think:Kids

Alisha Pollastri, PhD

Alisha Pollastri, PhD

Director, Laboratory for the Study of Childhood Behavior Disorders
Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer

Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer, PhD

Postdoctoral Clinical and Research Fellow

Julia Lesnick

Julia Lesnick

Research Intern


Research Projects

Research Initiatives

The research arm of Think:Kids is focused on exploring how, why and for whom different treatment approaches for disruptive behavior disorder are effective, with a focus on the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach.

Ongoing and planned research projects in our laboratory include the following:

  • Outcome improvement before and after adoption of CPS: A quasi-experimental comparison
  • Cost-savings related to decreases in restraint and seclusion: A CPS case study
  • Validation of the Thinking Skills Inventory as a brief screening tool for lagging neurocognitive skills in behaviorally challenging children
  • Mechanism of change in CPS parent training groups
  • Change in teacher stress after school-wide implementation of CPS
  • Change in job stress after agency-wide implementation of CPS in a residential treatment facility
  • Family outcomes related to CPS training in therapy groups for foster parents
  • The effect of adding a mindfulness component to the CPS parent training group
  • Predictors of outpatient treatment response for childhood challenging behaviors
  • Improvement in executive functions: A mechanism of change for CPS?
  • Mechanisms of change in response to in-home therapy conducted with CPS
  • A randomized controlled trial of CPS for behavioral Parent Management Training non-responders


Research Positions

Research Positions

The Laboratory for the Study of Childhood Behavior Disorders offers up to two unpaid research internships for current graduate students. The ideal intern will be a graduate student in clinical, counseling, or school psychology or a related field, with interest and experience in psychological research.

Interns will receive direct mentorship on methodological design, data management, statistical analysis, and use of statistical software in the context of providing research support in the laboratory. Though primarily a research position, interns will also have the opportunity to attend introductory and advanced clinical training seminars on the Collaborative Problem Solving approach, as well as attend other clinical seminars in the Department of Psychiatry.

Interns will be encouraged to develop their own research interest within data available in the laboratory, and will be permitted to use data available at Think:Kids for their own university research projects, including master’s and doctoral theses, under the guidance of Alisha Pollastri, PhD, and the intern’s primary graduate mentor.

Internships are for 10-16 hours per week, with a minimum commitment of one year. For more information, contact


Select Publications

  1. The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach: Outcomes Across Settings
    Pollastri, Alisha R.; Epstein, Lawrence D.; Heath, Georgina H.; Ablon, J. Stuart.
    Harvard Review of Psychiatry
    . 21(4):188-199, July/August 2013.
  2. Use of Collaborative Problem Solving to Reduce Seclusion and Restraint in Child and Adolescent Inpatient Units
    Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.; J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D.; Andrés Martin, M.D., M.P.H.
    Psychiatric Services. 2006; 57(5):610-612. doi: 10.1176/
  3. Effectiveness of collaborative problem solving in affectively dysregulated children with oppositional-defiant disorder: initial findings. Greene RW, Ablon JS, Goring JC, Raezer-Blakely L, Markey J, Monuteaux MC, Henin A, Edwards G, Rabbitt S
    J Consult Clin Psychol.2004 Dec;72(6):1157-64.
  4. A transactional model of oppositional behavior: underpinnings of the Collaborative Problem Solving approach.
    Greene RW, Ablon JS, Goring JC.
    J Psychosom Res. 2003 Jul;55(1):67-75. Review.
    PMID: 12842233 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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