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), senior centers, 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, Gerontology), and the International Association of Relationship Researchers (IARR, Relationships).

Our group includes students and faculty from the Community Psychology, Community-Clinical Psychology, Human Factors Psychology, Aging Studies, and Communication Sciences and Disorders departments.


Current Publications

Ofei-Dodoo, S., Medvene, L. J., Nilsen, K. M., Smith, R. A., and DiLollo, A. (In press). Exploring The Potential Of Computers To Enrich Home And Community-Based Services Clients’ Social Networks. Educational Gerontology.

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.


Graduate Students

Amanda Runyan
426 Jabara Hall

Amanda is a fifth 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 one-year clinical internship at L.A. Center for Aging Resources in Pasadena, CA, and is continuing work on her dissertation titled “Exploring the Applicability Of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation to the Goals of Nursing Home Residents”.

Kari M. Nilsen
426 Jabara Hall

Kari is a fourth year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. Her main research interest is interpersonal relationships, with a focus on social support networks of older adults, and how these relationships impact social isolation. She recently completed a one-year community practicum with Senior Services, Inc., of Wichita, in which she completed a survey and needs assessment project to help the organization plan for the future programming and marketing needs of their senior centers. Kari is currently working on her dissertation titled “The Social Support Networks of Continuous Care Retirement Community Residents”.

Rachel Smith
433 Jabara Hall

Rachel is a fourth year graduate student in the Community Psychology program. Her research interests include quality of life in older adults, development through the lifespan, domestic violence, and interpersonal relationships. Rachel recently completed a one-year community practicum with the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging in which she worked with the Wichita/Sedgwick County Hoarding Coalition (developing program assessments, informational brochures, grant templates, program services tracking database), the Nutrition Network for Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler Counties (developing and implementing a quantitative survey instrument to gather feedback on nutrition program outcomes and effectiveness), and Senior Centers in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler Counties (developing a survey for quality assurance and program development to administer to members of the 18 senior centers in the area). Rachel is currently working on her dissertation titled “The Determinants of Quality of Life in a Sample of Older Adults Living in Independent Living Communities.”

Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, MPH, MA
433 Jabara Hall

Samuel is a third 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. Samuel is currently doing a one-year community practicum at the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging.

Jeff Swails
404 Jabara Hall

Jeff is a third 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. As a part of the SRRWG, he is currently looking at cognitive complexity and its relationship with person-centered care.

Jessica Drum
433 Jabara Hall

Jessica is a second 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 working on her second year project titled “Subsidized Senior Housing: A Study of Social Convoys and Computer Use”.


Other Students

Andrew Miranda and Sarah Fouquet from the Human Factors Psychology program are also currently assisting with our research, as well as community psychology alum Dr. Carissa Coleman, and Ashley Albers, Courtney Rhodes, and Leah Ross from the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. Jacie Green, Allison Sutton, William Huynh, and Chelsea Cortez are all graduates of Wichita State who we have been fortunate to have as a part of our research group for the past several years. We also have Hannah Maine, an outstanding undergraduate, as part of our workgroup, and have a need for more motivated students to help us with our research. Please contact us if you are interested in working with us!


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Pictured from left to right. Back row: Jessica Drum, Dr. Anthony DiLollo, Dr. Louis Medvene, Jeff Swails, William Huynh, Samuel Ofei-Dodoo. Front row: Rachel Smith, Amanda Runyan, Kari Nilsen, Hannah Maine. Not pictured: Dr. Carissa Coleman, Andrew Miranda, Sarah Fouquet, Ashley Albers, Courtney Rhodes, Leah Ross, Jacie Green, Allison Sutton, and Chelsea Cortez.