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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
Kristen Paadre, BA
Kristen Paadre, BA
Research Coordinator
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

Position Available: Research Associate at Think:Kids

At Think:Kids, in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, we teach and study Collaborative Problem Solving, a revolutionary, evidence-based approach for helping children with behavioral challenges. Think:Kids offers a variety of clinical services, support and resources, and provides training and coaching on Collaborative Problem Solving for parents, mental health providers, and educators around the world.

We are seeking a Research Associate to help grow our active Research and Evaluation team. The Research and Evaluation team at Think:Kids conducts clinical research on outcomes and mechanisms of Collaborative Problem Solving.

In addition, the team provides consultation on outcome evaluation to clinical partners and conducts research and quality assurance efforts in the Think:Kids outpatient clinic. The Research Associate will report directly to the Director of Research and Evaluation. Specific projects assigned to the Research Associate will depend upon interest and experience.


  • Design and implement internal and external clinical outcome and program evaluation studies
  • Develop and maintain relationships with university and community partners for evaluation projects as well as formal research opportunities
  • Work directly with external clinical sites to build supportive evaluation plans that are attuned to the program design and mission
  • Meet weekly with members of study teams (internal and external to MGH) to ensure that studies are proceeding smoothly
  • Analyze study results using common statistical software packages (e.g., SPSS, STATA, SAS, R)
  • Prepare papers for publication and presentation
  • Share management responsibilities for junior research staff (e.g., Research Coordinator)
  • Develop and manage IRB protocols and relevant forms
  • Identify relevant grant opportunities and assist with preparation of grant applications
  • Accept responsibilities for special projects as requested


  • The ideal candidate will have a graduate degree in psychology, statistics, education, or a related field, doctorate strongly preferred.
  • Strong candidates will have excellent written and verbal communication skills, a high degree of flexibility, and excellent attention to detail
  • Strong candidates will have a minimum of four years’ hands-on experience in data analysis, program evaluation, or related research practices, with experience conducting quantitative research and/or impact evaluation studies, including a demonstrated knowledge of how to perform and interpret statistical analyses.
  • A publication record is required and experience with grant-writing is preferred.
  • Experience in child development or family services environments is preferred.
  • Agreement with the mission, vision, and values of Think:Kids is a must!

Commitment: Part-time to full-time — 3 to 5 days per week

Compensation: Commensurate with degree and experience


Alisha Pollastri, PhD
Director of Research and Evaluation
Think:Kids at MGH

Visit our website

To apply: Send resume and cover letter outlining your strengths and reasons for applying.

The Massachusetts General Hospital is a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and Partners HealthCare System, Inc. Women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply.


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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