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Susan Talley

Susan Talley, PhD

Associate Professor

Curriculum Vitae


Susan Talley received her BS degree in Recreation Administration from Brigham Young University. Upon graduation, she began working in the field of recreation and found herself evaluating the impact of recreation programs for families in the community. Further, she noted that many of the recreation programs for children didn’t seem to fit with what she felt was age appropriate. This brought her to USU for a Master’s Degree in Families and Human Development. She fell in love with the study of Human Development and was encouraged to move on for a Ph.D. at the University of Toledo, OH due to one of her mentors, Dr. David Lancy.

Studying families and children had become a passion. Her research led her to evaluate the quality of early education environments and child care facilities throughout northern Ohio. She also became interests in attachment research through the lifespan including what makes children nice? Her dissertation was an exploration of a behaviorism model hoping to link attachment with later prosocial behavior. Portions of her dissertation have been published in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

Susan is currently the Director of the Family Impact Seminars for the State of Utah. Each February, she hosts a seminar about a variety of issues surrounding families and the policies Legislators enact. The hope is that the Legislators are able to take away some of the information to influence their decision-making process. Summaries and evaluations of each seminar are then sent to the National Family Impact Institute at Purdue University where they are housed for other legislators and Family Impact investigators. Previous seminars have included topics such as Divorce and Utah Laws, Rural Mental Health education, Childhood Trauma, and Alzheimers Research.

Her current research interests include investigating the Separation Anxiety Test and it’s uses and scoring methods. She is also planning a study to investigate the value of Attachment theory when deciding custody issues for caseworkers and the children’s justice system. Finally, she is currently searching for funding to investigate the issue of Generational Trauma and Attachment issues for Native Americans who were taken to boarding schools as children. She encourages undergraduate and graduate students to participate with her in any aspect of her investigations.

Susan was raised in Southern California, but claims Los Alamos, NM as her home (although she no longer glows in the dark). She loves reading, gardening (truthfully—killing plants), traveling, biking, and eating out!

Susan teaches a variety of courses in Human Development (FCHD 1500, 3520, 3570) as well as courses in Family Policy and Families and Cultural Diversity.


  • PhD, The University of Toledo, Educational Psychology, 2000
  • MS, Utah State University, Family and Human Development, 1994
  • BS, Brigham Young Unviersity. Recreation Administration, 1984

Research Interests

Families and Social Policy, Prosocial Behavior, Attachment, Science of Teaching and Learnng, Early Adolescents, School Age children, school configuration, Cross-Cultural Research (specifically African American and Native American).

Past and Present Research Projects

Knowledge of Attachment theory in Custody Conflicts involving Guardian ad Litem in Utah- We are formulating a survey for all state employees and CASA Volunteers to help us understand the processes in place for understanding the key relationships in a child’s life and how those relationships are evaluated during custody decisions once a child is assigned a Guardian ad Litem.

Family Impact Seminars- I will be hosting a conversation with all legislators after the election to discuss and evaluate the questions about family policy that we can provide research-based information in order for the legislature to develop healthy family-based policy.

Circles of Care- The Northern Ute Tribe was involved in a SAMHSA promoted evaluation of the mental health capacity of the Native American populations in the US. I served as the evaluator of the project and helped them to develop a program of care that included their traditions and culture into their mental health services. This program ended in a conference sponsored by SAMHSA that helped to disseminate tribal traditions. A copy of the conference results can be found here.

The Great Self-Mystery- An intervention program for Adolescents that focuses on the child’s strengths. We conducted a pilot study at Vernal Middle School and conducted the actual study at West, Jr. High. Students chose to do something to give back to their School and developed a garden area to beautify their school. They wrote for grant money to pay for new trees to be planted, and worked with the community to build a new basketball court.

Quality of Center-Based Child Care in the Uintah Basin- We evaluated the quality of child care in the Eastern Utah area around the Uintah Basin. From this, we developed a 5-year-plan for encouraging improvement in child-care facilities around the Uintah Basin.