Social Relationships Research

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Current Work

Our work group is interested in better understanding and developing interventions to enhance the quality of human relationships. We are especially interested in relationships as people age. One focus of our current work is on promoting the science of person-centered caregiving within nursing home settings. We are developing ways of operationalizing the philosophy of person-centered caregiving, creating interventions, and carrying out research to test the effectiveness of these interventions. A second area of interest is in understanding the social support networks of elderly persons living in community settings and in exploring ways in which technology can be used to enable them to enrich their networks. We are currently investigating the interests of the elderly in using computers to communicate with family and friends.
In this work, we focus on the role of basic relationship processes such as person perception skills, communication skills and relationship maintenance skills. We are interested in learning how these skills are related to the establishment of trust, commitment and interdependence in relationships, and we are also interested in developing methods for teaching relationship skills to a wide variety of persons. We collaborate with community organizations and agencies such as Continuous Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s- e.g. Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America), Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), mental health agencies, and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS).
Our work is being published in nationally recognized journals such as The Gerontologist, and being presented regularly at national and international conferences such as the Society for Community Research And Action (SCRA, Community Psychology), the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI, Social Psychology), the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), and the International Association of Relationship Researchers (IARR).
Our group includes students and faculty from the Community Psychology, Community-Clinical Psychology, and Communication Sciences and Disorders departments.


Current Publications

Coleman, C. K. & Medvene, L. J. (2013). A person-centered care intervention for geriatric certified nursing assistants.  The Gerontologist, 53, 687-698.

Medvene, L.J. & Coleman, C. (2012). Exploring the applicability of interdependence theory to CNA-resident relationships. Journal of Research In Gerontological Nursing, 5, 43- 54.

Lann-Wolcott, H., Medvene, L.J. & Williams, K. (2011). Measuring the person-centeredness of caregivers working with nursing home residents with dementia. Behavior Therapy, 42, 89-99.

Grosch, K., Medvene, L.J. & Walker, D. (2011). Using a measure of person-perception skills to identify outstanding home care workers. Home Health Care Services Quarterly, 30, 24-41.

DiLollo, A., & Favreau, C. (2010). Person-centered caregiving and speech and language therapy. Seminars in Speech and Language, 31(2), 90-97.



Louis J. Medvene, PhD
Professor, Psychology
435 Jabara Hall

Dr. Medvene is a professor of psychology at Wichita State University, and is interested in social relationships and the skills required to initiate and maintain them, as well as processes which promote interdependence, trust and commitment. One focus of his work is on promoting the science of person-centered caregiving in long term care facilities, most especially as this relates to personalizing relationships between caregivers and residents. A second focus is on exploring the potential of computers to enhance the social engagement of persons as they age, either in community settings or in congregate care facilities

Anthony DiLollo, PhD
Associate Professor, Communications and Sciences Department
427A Ahlberg Hall

Dr. DiLollo is an associate professor of speech-language pathology in the Department of
Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University. His interests are in person-centered care and the ways in which communication disorders effect individual’s development and maintenance of social networks.


Amanda Runyan
426 Jabara Hall

Amanda is a fourth year graduate student in the Clinical-Community program. Her clinical
interests are adjustment and psychopathology in older adulthood, and her research interests are aging, caregivers, and person-centered care. Amanda is currently doing a clinical practicum at Prairie View, and is beginning work on her dissertation which will be looking at resident’s interactions with nurse aides within the nursing home setting.

Kari M. Nilsen
426 Jabara Hall

Kari is a third year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. Her main research interest is interpersonal relationships, with a focus on older adults, and how these relationships impact quality of life. She has previously done research on cognitive complexity and person-centered care, and recently finished her second year project entitled “The Social Support Networks of Elderly Home and Community Based Care Recipients”. Kari is currently doing a one year community practicum at Senior Services, Inc. of Wichita.

Rachel Smith
426 Jabara Hall

Rachel is a second year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. Her research interests include aging, development, domestic violence, and interpersonal relationships. She recently finished her second year project entitled “The Impact of Social Support Networks on Mental Health Outcomes of Elderly Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Customers”. Rachel is currently doing a one year community practicum at the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging.

Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, MPH, MA
426 Jabara Hall

Samuel is a second year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. His research interests focus on how lifestyle choices and environmental factors influence human health and development and how effective programs impact the needs and abilities of people of all ages. He is currently looking at computer mediated communication in the elderly.

Jeff Swails
404 Jabara Hall

Jeff is a second year graduate student in the Clinical-Community Psychology program. His research interests span clinical and community psychology including mindfulness, psychological flexibility, cognitive complexity and person-centered care. He is currently looking at cognitive complexity and its relationship with person-centered care.

Jessica Drum
433 Jabara Hall

Jessica is a first year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. Her main research interest is in relationships and how people socialize including the use of social-networking websites. She has previously done research on how Facebook is used during the grieving process, and is currently looking at relationships between nursing home residents, especially in regards to close friendships.



We also have several outstanding undergraduates as part of our workgroup: Allison Sutton, Chelsea Cortez, and William Huynh. Please contact us if you are interested in working with us also!


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From left to right: Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, Rachel Smith, Amanda Runyan, Anthony DiLolll, Allison Sutton, William Huynh, Louis Medvene, Jessica Drum, Kari Nilsen, and Jeff Swails. Not pictured: Chelsea Cortez.