Youth with behavior challenges 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 youth may carry a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), or intermittent explosive disorder (IED). They could also display challenging behaviors as part of a larger set of symptoms that have been identified as a mood, anxiety or development disorder.

The MGH Laboratory for Youth Behavior is affiliated with Think:Kids in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. We take a broad approach to studying the causes of challenging behavior during childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood.

We explore how, why, and for whom different treatment approaches for disruptive behavior disorders are effective, with a focus on studying the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach that is disseminated and implemented by Think:Kids.

Through partnerships with organizations that are implementing CPS, we contribute to the field’s knowledge of implementing evidence-based practices in schools, hospitals, and community-based clinical agencies.

Group Members
Alisha Pollastri, PhD

Alisha Pollastri, PhD

Principal Investigator, Laboratory for Youth Behavior
Director of Research & Evaluation, Think:Kids


Lu Wang, PhD

Lu Wang, PhD

Research Associate

Milo Dorfman

Milo Dorfman, MS

Research & Evaluation Program Manager

Sammy Stoll, BS

Sammy Stoll, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator

Research Projects

Our research 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. In addition, the team provides support and consultation on outcome evaluation to clinical and educational partners.

Ongoing and planned research projects in our laboratory cover the following topics:

  • Outcome improvement before and after adoption of CPS
  • Cost-savings related to decreases in restraint and seclusion
  • 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
  • Predictors of outpatient treatment response for challenging behaviors of childhood
  • Improvement in executive functions for children receiving home-based CPS
  • The impact of various implementation strategies on organization-wide CPS
Research Positions

At times, we seek Research Assistants, Research Coordinators, and Research Associates to help us in our research endeavors. These positions report directly to the Principal Investigator. Specific projects assigned to these staff members depend upon education, interest, and experience.

Occasionally, we also seek unpaid interns who are currently attending college or graduate school in a related field and who would like to gain research experience by working in our lab for 8 to 12 hours per week. 


  • The ideal candidates for full time positions will have an undergraduate or graduate degree in psychology, statistics, education, or a related field. 
  • Strong candidates will have excellent written and verbal communication skills, a high degree of flexibility, and excellent attention to detail
  • Strong candidates will have hands-on experience in data analysis, program evaluation, or related research practices, with experience conducting quantitative research and/or impact evaluation studies. Doctoral-level staff should have a demonstrated knowledge of how to perform and interpret statistical analyses, a publication record, 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!

Below is a sampling of recent publications from our laboratory. For a more comprehensive list of publications on the Collaborative Problem Solving approach, visit the Think:Kids website.

Pollastri AR, Epstein LD, Heath GH, Ablon JS. The Collaborative Problem Solving approach: Outcomes across settings. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2013; 21: 188-199.

Pollastri, AR, Lieberman, RE, Boldt, S, Ablon, JS. Minimizing seclusion and restraint in youth residential and day treatment through site-wide implementation of Collaborative Problem Solving. Resid Treat Child Youth. 2016; 33: 186-205.

Wang L, Pollastri AR, Vuijk PJ, Hill EN, Lee BA, Samkavitz A, Braaten EB, Ablon JS, Doyle, AE. Reliability and validity of the Thinking Skills Inventory, a screening tool for cross-diagnostic skill deficits underlying youth behavioral challenges. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 2019; 41: 144-159.

Heath G, Fife-Shaw C., Wang L, Eddy C, Hone M, & Pollastri AR. Collaborative Problem Solving reduces children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties and corresponding parenting stress via two key mechanisms. (in press)

Pollastri, AR, Wang, L, Youn, SJ, & Marques, L.  The value of implementation frameworks: Using the Active Implementation Frameworks to guide system-wide implementation of Collaborative Problem Solving. (in press)