Article: Does Collegiate Drinking Affect Graduate School?

Hannah Allen, Ph.D.October 10, 2019:

The high prevalence of heavy drinking among college students is widely known. Less clearly understood is how problematic alcohol use during college might be linked to post-college educational goals and attainment. In a recent article in the Journal of American College Health, Prevention and Methodology Training (PAMT) Postdoctoral Fellow Hannah Allen and a team of researchers from the University of Maryland examined the prospective relationship between alcohol abuse and dependence during college and graduate school plans and subsequent enrollment. They found that heavy drinking during college might impact graduate school enrollment and concluded that early intervention efforts could potentially help students achieve their educational goals.

The authors examined a sample of 980 students who participated in the College Life Study and graduated college within five years. Alcohol use was assessed throughout college, and participants indicated in their final year of college whether they had plans to attend graduate school. Enrollment in graduate school was assessed after college graduation, and all analyses controlled for demographic characteristics and college grade point average.

The authors found that college students meeting criteria for alcohol dependence were less likely to have plans to attend graduate school. Additionally, among those with plans to attend graduate school, both alcohol abuse and dependence during college were associated with decreased likelihood of actually following through on these plans and enrolling in graduate school after college. These findings support prior research studies that have found a negative association between problematic drinking in college and academic achievement.

Hannah, who performed the analyses in the study, explained the importance of studying graduate school enrollment as an academic outcome. “More and more young adults are choosing graduate school as a next step after college graduation. With an increasing number of career paths requiring a graduate degree, it is vital that we understand how substance use during college might interfere with students’ ability to meet their educational and career goals.”

Hannah continued, “Universities have a unique opportunity to intervene with students who are engaging in problematic alcohol use during college. Through a joint effort between academic advisors, career counselors, and campus health professionals, college students with graduate school aspirations should be made aware of the potential link between their current alcohol use and their health and success both during and after college graduation.”

Read the article. (Journal access required.)


Arria, A. M., Allen, H. K., Caldeira, K. M., Vincent, K. B., & O’Grady, K. E. (2019). Excessive drinking and drug use during college: Prospective associations with graduate school plans and attendance. Journal of American College Health, 1-7. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1535494


Interest Group for Optimizing Interventions at SBM

Linda M. CollinsSeptember 27, 2019:
If you are interested in Linda M. Collins‘ research on the optimization of interventions and the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), then you might be interested in the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Optimization of Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions (OBBI) special interest group. The Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) is dedicated to to “providing new perspectives and progress on human behavior, health, and illness.” The OBBI special interest group provides opportunities for behavioral scientists and methodologists to network and discuss the optimization of behavioral and biobehavioral interventions. Questions? Contact OBBI Chair Sara St. George.

Lear more about SBM.

Article: Parental Monitoring and Adolescent Weight

September 16, 2019: John FeltDifferent researchers bring a diverse set of research backgrounds and interests to The Methodology Center. Prevention and Methodology Training (PAMT) Postdoctoral Fellow John Felt has applied his expertise in methods to a broad array of social and health problems. Recently, he worked with a team of researchers from California and Massachusetts to examine whether parental monitoring was related to obesity in adolescence. Their work was published in a recent issue of the journal, Obesity.

Adolescent obesity has been on the rise for decades in The United States. Higher levels of parental monitoring (that is, a parent’s level of awareness about where their children are and what they are doing) has been associated with many positive outcomes. In this study, the authors analyzed data from 4,773 participants of the Healthy Passages cohort study of emerging adolescents in Alabama, Texas, and California to understand the relationship between monitoring and health among adolescents.

The authors found that parental monitoring corresponded with a number of positive factors for adolescents. Regardless of race, higher parental monitoring was associated with higher consumption of healthy foods, lower consumption of unhealthy foods, and lower levels of screen time. Parental monitoring also correlated to lower weight overall. The research suggests that parenting-skills instruction could be a useful addition to youth-obesity interventions.

John performed the analysis on this project. His interest in measurement invariance has enabled him to research many important issues in public health, including racial and ethnic differences in health behaviors related to obesity, the experience of traumatic events, and quality of life. John explained why he thinks measurement invariance is important. “Measurement invariance is a latent variable method that allows us to test whether a given construct is interpreted similarly by different groups. If we do not establish measurement invariance in the groups we are comparing, we cannot rule out differences in measurement from actual meaningful group differences in what we are measuring.”


Read the article. (Journal access required.)



Kim, K. W., Wallander, J. L., Felt, J. M., Elliott, M. N., & Schuster, M. A. (2019). Associations of parental general monitoring with adolescent weight‐related behaviors and weight status. Obesity, 27(2), 280-287.

R Interest Group for Penn State

John DziakAugust 30, 2019:

This fall, Methodology Center Investigator and Programmer John Dziak will be hosting a special interest group for researchers who are interested in R software for statistical computing. The group is open to all, but it is geared toward teaching the basics of R to interested faculty and students.

This semester’s meetings will cover the basics of R. Pending interest, during spring semester the group will cover more advanced topics and take the form of a learning collaborative. Experience with R is not at all required, but it is recommended that people download R and R studio ( before attending. If you are interested in a specific R-related topic, please contact John directly. We hope to see you there!

R Special Interest Group
Dates: Wednesdays 9/18, 10/23, 11/13, and 12/11
1 – 2 p.m.
401 Health and Human Development Building
Contact: John Dziak (

Podcast: Getting Started in Grant Writing With Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

August 28,2019:

In the current research landscape, researchers need to develop grant writing skills. In this podcast, Methodology Center Investigator and Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University Lisa Dierker discusses topics including how to learn what works in grant writing, the best funding mechanisms, and how to approach grant writing as a methodologist or applied researcher. This podcast is intended for graduate students and junior investigators, but there are tips for more senior researchers as well.

Download Podcast 35

00:00 – Introductions
00:54 – Lisa’s background in research and grant writing
03:15 – The value of rejected grants
09:26 – Lisa’s favorite funding mechanisms
16:08 – How to get started in grant writing
19:45 – Whom to contact while preparing a grant
25:16 – How applied scientists can incorporate innovative methods into grant writing
28:48 – How methodologists can successfully get their work funded
31:15 – Pursuing grants in a difficult funding environment
34:15 – Top 3 pieces of advice on grant writing

Time-Varying Effect Modeling Interest Group for Penn State

Ashley Linden-CarmichaelAugust 5, 2019:

This fall, Methodology Center Investigator Ashley Linden-Carmichael will be hosting a special interest group for researchers who are interested in time-varying effect modeling (TVEM). TVEM is a data-analysis method that extends linear regression to allow the association between two variables to be modeled without making assumptions about the nature of the association.

The group will provide a forum for researchers to discuss their own research and to learn from others. Students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty are all invited.

Want to learn more about TVEM before the first meeting? Use the TVEM Learning Path to learn what questions TVEM can answer, how to prepare your data, how to run the macro, and more.

TVEM Special Interest Group
Dates: Tuesdays 9/24, 10/22, 11/19, and 12/10
noon – 1 p.m.
401 Health and Human Development Building
Contact: Ashley Linden-Carmichael (

To learn more, look for details about the TVEM course that Ashley will teach in spring semester of 2020.

Free Webinar on Configural Frequency Analysis

Mark Stemmler holding his bookJuly 10, 2019:

Configural frequency analysis (CFA) is a data analysis method that can detect patterns that occur more or less often than would be expected to occur according to a prespecified null hypothesis. CFA is applicable across many fields, but in human development, researchers apply it to examine multiple behaviors and determine which patterns correlate to healthy or unhealthy development. This statistical tool can be applied to categorical variables; in addition also continuous variables can be used as covariates.

Mark Stemmler, professor of psychological assessment at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and author of the book Person centered methods: Configural frequency analysis (CFA), will be visiting The Methodology Center this fall. On Thursday, October 31, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET, Mark will present a 1 & 1 webinar on CFA. 1 & 1 webinars consist of a one-hour live video presentation on a method followed by a one-hour question-and-answer session with the presenter. CFA is easily performed through an R-package called confreq. The use of confreq will be demonstrated. To join the webinar, click when the webinar is starting. Registration in advance is not necessary.

To join by phone in the United States, call  1-646-876-9923  or 1-669-900-6833.
Webinar ID: 752 886 198
International numbers available:

Questions? Email:

Fond Farewells

Ben Bayly, Jessica Braymiller, Walter Dempsey, Cara Exten Rice, Jamie Gajos, Grace Mak, Sarah Perzow, Ashley Walton, Mengya XiaJuly 9, 2019:

Each academic year there are arrivals and departures, but 2019 has seen an unusually high number of former investigators and trainees moving up the ladder in their career. Join us in congratulating all of them!

  • Ben Bayly accepted a position as assistant professor of family studies, child and youth development in the agricultural economics, sociology, and education at Penn State.
  • Jessica Braymiller earned her Ph.D. (Double congrats!) and is now as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California.
  • Walter Dempsey, who recently completed his postdoctoral fellowship in biostatistics at Harvard University with Susan Murphy, accepted a position as assistant professor of biostatistics at University of Michigan.
  • Cara Exten Rice who has worked as research faculty in The Methodology Center, accepted a position as assistant professor of nursing at Penn State.
  • Jamie Gajos accepted a position as assistant professor of human development and family studies at University of Alabama.
  • Grace Mak earned her Ph.D. (Double congrats!) and is now postdoctoral scholar at the Dornsife Center for Self-Report Science at the University of Southern California.
  • Sarah Perzow, a former PAMT trainee, will graduate with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in August and will begin a postdoctoral fellowship in psychology at The University of Denver.
  • Ashley Walton, who was also a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard with Susan, is now a research fellow in the cognitive science program at Dartmouth College.
  • Megya Xia earned her Ph.D. and accepted a position as assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alabama.

We look forward to the great science you will create in the future and to collaborating with each of you!

Building Better Adaptive Interventions by Expanding SMART

June 27, 2019:

John DziakBehavioral interventions for prevention and treatment are an important part of the fight against drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. Among the challenges faced by scientists is how and when to alter the course of treatment for participants in the intervention. Adaptive interventions change based on evidence about what is best for the participant at a given time.

For over a decade, Methodology Center researchers have developed and applied sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trials (SMARTs), which are experimental designs that can be used to build adaptive interventions that address a variety of health and behavioral challenges, such as substance abuse abstinence, weight loss, ADHD management, and language acquisition. Recently, researchers have begun developing methods to evaluate SMARTs by using multiple measures of the outcome over time rather than only considering the outcome at the end of the study. For example, a researcher who is developing an adaptive intervention to promote abstinence from alcohol may want to consider alcohol usage rates every month for six months to decide how to construct the intervention. In a recent article in Multivariate Behavioral Research by Methodology Center Investigator John Dziak, Methodology Center Affiliates Daniel Almirall and Inbal “Billie” Nahum-Shani, and others, the authors develop and demonstrate a new method for evaluating a SMART using repeated measures of a binary outcome (such as substance use versus nonuse).

The authors apply their method to the ENGAGE SMART study, which was conducted to help develop an adaptive intervention for promoting treatment engagement among cocaine- and alcohol-dependent individuals. The authors found that certain designs correlated to increased abstinence rates during the first two months but abstinence rates that were equivalent to other designs by the end of the study. Had the investigators measured relapse solely at six months, they would not have observed the relapse differences during the early months, which may have practical or clinical significance. The authors go on to provide guidelines for using multiple binary measurements of the outcome while analyzing data from a SMART.

Lead author John Dziak discussed the importance of the study. “SMART is a valuable method because conditions such as addiction and many other health problems, are chronic and often need treatment over time. In many cases, the appropriate treatment could change depending on the individual’s experiences. SMART trials can help scientists decide which set of adaptive treatment rules will work the best. In a lot of the past SMART literature, ‘work the best’ just meant having the best expected outcome at the end of the study.  But considering short-term and long-term effects together might help clinicians make better decisions to fit an individual’s  goals.  Also, it allows scientists to study delayed effects, where an early treatment choice affects how well later treatments work, and that could render theoretical insight into the treatments.”


Dziak, J. J., Yap, J. R., Almirall, D., McKay, J. R., Lynch, K. G., & Nahum-Shani, I. (2019). A data analysis method for using longitudinal binary outcome data from a SMART to compare adaptive interventions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1-24.

New Resource for Learning TVEM

simulated TVEM graphicMay 10, 2019:

Our newest resource helps scientists teach themselves how to use our time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) SAS macro. TVEM allows scientists to understand how associations between variables change over time. The TVEM Learning Path is designed to allow SAS users to efficiently teach themselves how to prepare data for, plan, and run a TVEM.

The Learning Path allows users to select from a variety of educational resources including videos, presentation slides, webpages, and hands-on SAS exercises. This format allows users to access the specific content they need in the format they desire to develop their skills as quickly as possible. Content is divided into

  • Conceptual introduction,
  • Detailed introduction,
  • Running a SAS macro,
  • Flipping data from long format to wide format,
  • Preparing to run a TVEM,
  • Running a TVEM,
  • Plotting results, and
  • Running the Weighted TVEM SAS macro.

We hope the Learning Path is useful and can be applied to other methods. Please send any thoughts, suggestions, or questions about the Learning Path to

Open the TVEM Learning Path.

New Study Aims to Prevent Spread of HIV in High-Risk Populations

photograph of a red ribbonMay 9, 2019:

Despite great strides in decreasing the HIV infection rate in the United States over the last three decades, certain populations remain at high risk of infection. Young men who have sex with men (YMSM), especially Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino YMSM who live in inner cities, account for the most new infections annually. A new paper in JMIR Research Protocols by researchers from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Methodology Center Investigators Bethany Bray and Cara Exten Rice, and graduate student Eric Layland, describes the protocol for a longitudinal research study designed to improve HIV care and prevention among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino YMSM.

The goal of the Healthy Young Men’s Cohort Study is to prevent new HIV infections and improve engagement with HIV care among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino YMSM. Investigators are collecting data on drug use, sexual risk and protective behaviors, health care connectedness, mental health, stress and discrimination, emotion regulation, personal history with trauma, and more. This mixed-methods study  combines qualitative data with quantitative and biological data in order to generate the richest and most accurate data possible. These data will help characterize Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino YMSM engagement in HIV care and prevention.

Methodology Center Investigator Bethany Bray spoke about why the Healthy Young Men’s Cohort Study will have a positive impact on the health of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino YMSM in the future. “Research that can inform tailored approaches to prevention and treatment engagement is critical. Society cannot end the HIV epidemic by 2030 without focusing on the high-risk populations in these two cohorts. These data will serve as a resource to a broad range of researchers.”

In the Healthy Young Men’s Cohort Study, data will be collected eight times at six-month intervals. The study has retained 97% of participants over the first 12 months. We look forward to the insights this study will yield.


Kipke M. D., Kubicek K., Wong C. F., Robinson Y. A., Akinyemi I. C., Beyer W. J., Hawkins W., Rice C. E., Layland E., Bray B. C., & Belzer M. (2019). A focus on the HIV care continuum through the Healthy Young Men’s Cohort Study: Protocol for a mixed-methods study. JMIR Research Protocols 8(1). PMCID: PMC6365874

“MOST-ly Mingling” at SPR

May 1, 2019:

Kate GuastaferroMethodology Center Investigator Kate Guastaferro will host an informal gathering during the Society for Prevention Research 2019 Annual Meeting to socialize and network with people considering or applying the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST). The gathering will be held on Wednesday, May 29, at 7:00 p.m. at the Eclipse Kitchen & Bar in the Hyatt Regency San Francisco and is open to anyone who is interested. Kate will answer questions about MOST and facilitate connections between researchers with similar interests. We hope you can make it!

Join Us at SPR!

April 30, 2019:

Join us at the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) 2019 Annual Meeting, May 28 through 31 in San Francisco. Methodology Center researchers will present symposia, talks, posters, a technical demonstration, and participate in the SPR Cup. We hope to see you there! Below is a list of the places where you can find us.

Tuesday, May 28

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Poster Session I

  • “Heavy drinking and academics: Daily-level associations, or do less serious students just drink more?” Hannah Allen
  • “Profiles of dysregulation moderate the impact of preschool teacher-student relationships on later school functioning” Benjamin Bayly
  • “Identifying substance use disorders among individuals with spinal cord injury: Using big data Sources via electronic health records” Scott Graupensperger
  • “Effects of a mindfulness training intervention on alcohol use in public school teachers” Natalia Van Doren

Wednesday, May 29

1:15 – 2:45 p.m. Roundtable: Enhancing the reach and impact of drug abuse and behavioral health preventive interventions: Mining existing data for bold new discoveries Stephanie Lanza, Discussant

5:45 – 7:00 p.m. Poster Session II

  • “Approaches to characterizing drinking episodes in college students from wearable alcohol sensors” John Felt
  • “Gender differences in the time-varying association between cigarette use and weight concerns across adolescence” Anna Hochgraf
  • “Drug use patterns among young men of color who have sex with men” Eric Layland

7:00 –8:30 MOST-ly Mingling Join Kate Guastaferro in the Eclipse Kitchen & Bar, located in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, to socialize and discuss issues related to the optimization of interventions.

Thursday, May 30

10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Organized Paper Symposium: Opioid and other nonmedical prescription drug use in the United States: Contemporary trends in use, co-use, and correlates to identify opportunities for prevention Stephanie Lanza, organizer

  • “Contemporary trends in nonmedical prescription drug use as a function of individual and sociodemographic characteristics: Ages 12 to 90” Stephanie Lanza
  • “Age-varying trends in co-use of marijuana and heavy episodic drinking: Implications for nonmedical prescription drug use” Ashley Linden-Carmichael

10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Sloboda and Bukoski Cup Team:  Hannah Allen, Andrew Dismukes, John Felt, Natalia Van Doren, and Adrienne Woods

10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Roundtable Discussion: SPR task force on reducing health disparities and improving equity through prevention Bethany Bray, Discussant

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Individual paper presentations: Prevention related to drug abuse across developmental stage Bethany Bray, Moderator

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Individual paper presentations:Family, individual, and neighborhood risk factors as predictors of long-term behavior and mental health problems 

  • “Constellations of family risk and long-term adolescent antisocial behavior: A latent profile analysis” Emily LoBracio

6:40 – 7:55 p.m. Poster Session III

  • Technology Demonstration: Software, instructional materials, videos, and other resources from The Methodology Center at Penn State Bethany Bray

Friday May 31

8:30 – 10:00 a.m. Organized Paper Symposium: Applying latent class models in prevention science: Practical solutions to everyday problems Bethany Bray, Organizer

  • “Multiple imputation of missing covariate information in latent class analysis: evaluation of a step-by-step approach” John Dziak
  • “Multilevel latent profile analysis for daily diary data: Understanding triadic family dynamics” Mengya Xia
  • “Combining latent class analysis and time-varying effect modeling: Understanding the epidemiology of alcohol use” Bethany Bray

8:30 – 10:00 a.m. Individual Paper Presentations: using mobile health techniques to understand and prevent substance use

  • “Day and within-day trends of drug cravings: Ecological momentary assessment among a sample of patients with prescription opiate dependence” Jamie Gajos

10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Plenary Session III, Mobile health (mHealth) in prevention science: Assessment, intervention, and analysis Stephanie Lanza, Chair

1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Plenary Session III Roundtable: Mobile health (mHealth) in prevention science: Assessment, intervention, and analysis Stephanie Lanza, Chair

2:45 – 4:15 p.m. Organized Paper Symposium: Using time-varying effect models to understand predictors of substance use and depression within-days and across developmental periods Benjamin Bayly, Organizer

  • “Age-varying association between childhood maltreatment and depression and substance use” Yuen Wai Hung
  • “Age-varying effects of parental warmth and closeness on adolescent and young adult substance use and depression” Benjamin Bayly

Video Overview of Latent Transition Analysis (LTA)

April 22, 2019:

Our latest video provides a 15-minute conceptual overview of latent transition analysis (LTA). Methodology Center Investigator Bethany Bray uses an analysis about ex-smokers to demonstrate the types of questions LTA can answer and how LTA differs from LCA.

Latent transition analysis (LTA) and latent class analysis (LCA) are closely related methods. LCA identifies unobservable (latent) subgroups within a population based on individuals’ responses to multiple observed variables. LTA is an extension of LCA that uses longitudinal data to identify movement between the subgroups over time.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Also available:

New TVEM SAS Macro Accommodates Survey Weights and Clusters

April 12, 2017:

TVEMWe are pleased to release the newest extension of our TVEM (time-varying effect model) software. The %WeightedTVEM SAS macro (version 2.6) fits TVEMs on complex datasets that involve clustering (e.g., students are nested within schools) and survey weights (e.g., participants represent different numbers of population members due to systematically unequal probabilities of selection). Before attempting to use %WeightedTVEM, users should familiarize themselves with the %TVEM SAS macro (version 3.1 or higher).

Traditional analytic methods assume that covariates have constant effects on a time-varying outcome. The TVEM SAS macros allow the effects of covariates to vary with time. These macros enable researchers to answer new research questions about how relationships change over time. By accounting for survey weights and clusters, %WeightedTVEM can enable users to potentially avoid biased standard errors and incorrect conclusions.

Read more

Understanding Health Disparities Among Sexual Minorities

March 27, 2019:

Cara RiceStephanie LanzaSexual minorities—people who report sexual attraction to or behavior with members of the same sex and people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual—are at a higher risk for a broad range of health problems at different points in their lives. Previous research has shown that sexual minorities are more likely to experience health problems like substance-use disorders and mood or anxiety disorders. In a recent article in Annals of Epidemiology by Methodology Center Investigators Cara Exten Rice and Stephanie Lanza, the authors used time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) to examine whether the occurrence of problems changed as people aged. The authors found that the odds for anxiety and depression among sexual minorities was highest in their early 20s, while odds for poor cardiovascular health were higher in their 40s and 50s.

When asked about the reason for these disparities, Cara emphasized that this was not a causal study but indicated that disparities may result from increased stress due to discrimination and prejudice. “It’s generally believed that sexual minorities experience increased levels of stress throughout their lives as a result of discrimination, microaggressions, stigma, and prejudicial policies,” she said. “Those increased stress levels may then result in poor health in a variety of outcomes, including health behaviors like substance use and chronic diseases like heart disease .”

Stephanie said the results help shed light on understudied health risks. “Discussions about health disparities often focus on the differences between men and women, across racial and ethnic groups, or between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. However, sexual minority groups suffer substantially disproportionate health burdens across a range of outcomes, including poor mental health and problematic substance-use behaviors.”

For the study, the researchers used data from about 30,999 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. Data included information about past-year alcohol, tobacco and drug use disorders, as well whether the participants had a past-year history of depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or cardiovascular disease.

“We observed that odds of substance-use disorders remained constant across age for sexual minorities, while in the general population they tend to be concentrated in certain age groups,” Cara said. “We saw that sexual minorities were more likely to have these substance-use disorders even in their 40s and 50s when we see in the general population that drug use and alcohol use start to taper off.”

Cara said the findings could be used to develop programs to help prevent these health problems before they start. “A necessary first step was to understand how health disparities affecting sexual minorities vary across age,” Rice said. “These findings shed light on periods of adulthood during which intervention programs may have the largest public health impact. Additionally, future studies that examine possible drivers of these age-varying disparities, such as daily experiences of discrimination, will inform the development of intervention content to promote health equity.”

Sara A. Vasilenko, Syracuse University, and Jessica N. Fish, University of Maryland, also contributed to this research.