Rachel Razza

Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Graduate Director

The primary focus of Dr. Razza’s scholarly work is children’s self-regulation, a multifaceted construct that encompasses a variety of skills underlying children’s ability to monitor cognitive strategies and adapt behavior to fit situational demands. Specifically, her work explores associations among different facets of self-regulation, biological and contextual predictors of self-regulation, and implications of various self-regulatory skills for children’s school readiness and later school success. She is particularly interested in specifying these pathways among at-risk children, as these youth at risk for self-regulatory deficits. In addition, her recent work examines mindfulness-based practice as a potential intervention strategy to enhance self-regulation and reduce the negative impact of trauma among children, youth, and adults. She is an Associate Director for the Contemplative Collaborative, a community of over 150 faculty, staff, and students across the University who are invested in contemplative pedagogy, research, and/or practice, and also serves as the Coordinator for the Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies.

Education

Postdoctoral Fellow, Developmental Psychology, National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, N.Y. Mentor: Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (2005-2007)

Ph.D. Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (2005)

M.S. Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (2001)

B.A. Psychology, State University of New York College (SUNY) at Geneseo, Geneseo, NY (1999)

Specialization

Social and cognitive development in at-risk children and youth; development and benefits of self-regulation; school readiness skills; mindfulness-based intervention; program evaluation

Research Focus

Dr. Razza’s research focuses on:

  • The biological and contextual factors that promote self-regulation among children and youth
  • The benefits of mindfulness-based programs for promoting resilience in schools and communities, particularly those exposed to concentrated poverty and/or high levels of trauma
  • The cognitive, social-emotional, and neural mechanisms of mindfulness-based practice

Research Projects

Mindfulness-Based Programs in Communities

Drs. Razza and Bergen-Cico also collaborate on several local projects that focus on mindfulness within the community. The aims of the Trauma Resiliency in Urban Environments (TRUE) grant are to implement and evaluate a trauma informed mindfulness-based program for pregnant and parenting women affected by community violence and living in areas of concentrated poverty and violence in the city of Syracuse. We are working with local community based organizations (CBO’s) and local government agencies to: a.) work together with CBO’s to assess needs of the community, b.)conduct a pilot program with our target population, and c.) build capacity for ongoing and sustainable trauma informed programming.

Another current project is an interdisciplinary collaboration with faculty in the MindLab (Newhouse) and School of Education that examines mechanisms of change associated with mindfulness training for people with posttraumatic stress. We are particularly interested in triangulating neural networks, biomarkers, cognition, and behaviors to better understand how mindfulness affects individuals experiencing trauma. This innovative project also includes the exploration of virtual reality as a tool to support and monitor mindfulness-based practice among these individuals.

Examining Changes in the Stress Response, Cognition and Neural Networks in Response to Mindfulness Interventions Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)

This research focuses on identifying the mechanisms of change in neural networks and physiological (biometric) measures that occur as a result of participating in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs. This study aims to identify neural networks associated with traumatic stress and to measure neural responsiveness to change following MBSR. More specifically this research uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) in conjunction with psychometric measures to triangulate mechanisms of change pertinent to trauma and stress.

Nature Inspired Scenes for Guided Mindfulness Training: Presence, Perceived Restorativeness and Meditation Depth

The research focuses on the development and testing of a virtual reality (VR) meditation interface to support mindfulness meditation practice. The aims of this research are to test whether VR simulation of an outdoor natural space has a restorative effect on attention; and the mediating effects of the sense of presence participants’ feel. This study uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure the neurophysiological relaxation response.

SELF Regulation Laboratory

The SELF (Social-Emotional Learning and Functioning) Regulation Lab seeks to involve graduate students, and scholars in the field of self-regulation across multiple ages and developmental domains with a focus of improving intervention strategies. Researchers explore how preschoolers’ regulate their cognition and behavior in the classroom to maintain attention and cooperate with peers. They investigate how environmental risk factors impact children’s self-regulatory processes and the implications for adolescence social functioning and well-being. The lab addresses children’s health behaviors, such as regulatory eating behaviors, nutrition, and the role of parents and caregivers in establishing these patterns and highlights mindfulness as an important strategy for enhancing self-regulation within schools and across diverse communities.

Learn more about the laboratory

Statistical Expertise

SPSS, STATA, SEM, Program Fidelity and Efficacy analyses, Experimental design and evaluation

Courses

CFS 331 - Play, Childhood Development & Early Education

CFS 345 - The Developing Infant

CFS 452/652 - Mindfulness in Children & Youth

CFS 458 – The Science of Caring and Sharing

CFS 637 - Theories, Interpretations & Applications in Child Development

CFS 736 - Development of Self-Regulation in Children and Youth

Recent Publications

  • Pudasainee-Kapri, S., & Razza, R. A. (2020). Low birth weight and children’s cognitive competence: the role of maternal warmth in early childhood. Early Child Development and Care, 190(16), 2551-2562.
  • Costa, M. R., Bergen-Cico, D., Razza, R., Hirshfield, L., & Wang, Q. (2020, July). Perceived Restorativeness and Meditation Depth for Virtual Reality Supported Mindfulness Interventions. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 176-189). Springer, Cham.
  • Tumanova, V., Woods, C., & Razza, R. (2020). The role of behavioral inhibition for conversational speech and language characteristics of preschool-age children who stutter. American journal of speech-language pathology, 29(2), 638-651.
  • Felver, J. C., Razza, R., Morton, M. L., Clawson, A. J., & Mannion, R. S. (2020). School-based yoga intervention increases adolescent resilience: a pilot trial. Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 32(1), 1-10.
  • Tumanova, V., Wilder, B., Gregoire, J., Baratta, M., & Razza, R. (2020). Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in Preschool-Age Children Who Do and Do Not Stutter: Evidence From Autonomic Nervous System Measures. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14.
  • Costa, M. R., Felver, J., & Razza, R. (2020). Supporting mindfulness based interventions with social virtual reality. In Proceedings of 2019 the 9th International Workshop on Computer Science and Engineering, WCSE 2019 (pp. 238-245). (Proceedings of 2019 the 9th International Workshop on Computer Science and Engineering, WCSE 2019). International Workshop on Computer Science and Engineering (WCSE).
  • Razza, R. A., Linsner, R. U., Bergen-Cico, D., Carlson, E., & Reid, S. (2020). The feasibility and effectiveness of mindful yoga for preschoolers exposed to high levels of trauma. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29(1), 82-93.
  • Costa, M. R., Bergen-Cico, D., Grant, T., Herrero, R., Navarro, J., Razza, R., & Wang, Q. (2019, July). Nature inspired scenes for guided mindfulness training: presence, perceived restorativeness and meditation depth. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 517-532). Springer, Cham.