Dr. Lenna Ontai

Lenna Ontai

Position Title
Specialist in Cooperative Extension, Department of Human Ecology, Human Development and Family Studies


Research Interests 
My research program focuses on understanding early socialization processes between parents and young children to understand factors that affect parents’ socialization efforts such as income and cultural background, as well as how these processes impact children’s health and development. As a Specialist in Cooperative Extension, I am active in translating and disseminating current research findings in the areas of parenting and health in early childhood.

Diversity Statement 
Family-based programming has a history of pulling from a research base focused largely on dominant cultural processes. In my research and extension activities I strive to understand diversity in family processes in order to effectively translate the research into meaningful programs and materials for diverse audiences. My goal is to create programs and messages that speak to the diversity of family strengths and values. Toward this aim, diverse student backgrounds are included my lab to ensure diverse perspectives are represented in my program of research. As a first-generation college graduate, I also aim to create an environment where students from a non-traditional academic backgrounds have the opportunity to learn about the value of research through active participation.

Selected Publications (*Student co-author)

Ontai, L.L., *Sutter, C., *Sitnick, S., Shilts, M.K., Townsend, M. (2020). Parent food-related behaviors and family-based dietary and activity environments: Associations with BMI z-scores in low-income preschoolers. Childhood Obesity, 16, S55-63. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2019.0105

Ontai, L., *Sutter, C. S., *Sitnick, S., Shilts, M. K., Townsend, M. (2019). My Child at Mealtime Parent Feeding Self-Assessment Tool: Validation with Mealtime Behaviors and General Parenting. Appetite, 136, 62-69. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.01.016

*Sutter, C., *Taylor, J., Nishina, A., Ontai, L. (2019). Parental and family predictors of fruits and vegetables in elementary school children's home-packed lunches across a school week. Appetite, 133: 423-432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.003

*Sutter, C., Ontai, L., Shilts, M., Lanoue, L., Allen, L., & Townsend, M.S. (2018). Associations between school readiness, obesity- and inflammation-related biomarkers in low-income preschoolers within the healthy kids study. Mind, Brain and Education, 12: 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12165

*Sutter, C.S., Ontai, L.L., Nishina, A., Conger, K.J., Shilts, M.K., & Townsend, M.S. (2016). Utilizing the desired results developmental profile as a measure of school readiness: Evaluating factor structure and predictors of school readiness. Early Child Development and Care, 187, 1433-1445. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2016.1174933

Ontai, L.L., *Sitnick, S.L., Shilts, M.K., & Townsend, M.S. (2016). My Child at Mealtime: A visually enhanced self-assessment of feeding styles for low-income parents of preschoolers. Appetite, 99, 76-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.01.016

*Sitnick, S.L., Ontai, L.L.& Townsend, M.S. (2014). What parents really think about their feeding behaviors: Lessons learned from the development of a parental feeding assessment tool. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 2: 84-92. https://www.jhseonline.com/article/view/676

*Sitnick, S.L., Ontai, L.L., Masyn, K., & Conger, K.J. (2014). Mothers’ physical illness in one- and two-parent families. Journal of Family Issues, 5: Online.

Ontai, L.L., *Lipscomb, S.T., *Sitnick, S.L., *Hatton, H., & Lamp, C. (2013). Healthy, Happy Families evaluation: Integrating parenting into child obesity prevention with low-income parents of young children. Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 18(3): Online.

Shilts, M.K., *Sitnick, S.L., Ontai, L., & Townsend, M.S. (2013) Guided Goal Setting: A behavior change strategy adapted to the needs of low-income parents of young children participating in Cooperative Extension programs. Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 18: Online.

Ontai, L. L. & *Virmani, E.A. (2010). Predicting elements of early maternal elaborative discourse from 12 to 18 months of age. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25, 98–111.

Ontai, L., Ritchie, L., *Williams, S.T., Young, T., & Townsend, M.S. (2009). Guiding family-based obesity prevention efforts in children, Part 1: What determinants do we target? International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, 2: 19-30.

Ontai, L., Sano, Y., *Pong, H., & Conger, K.J. (2008) Low-income rural mothers' perceptions of parent confidence: Role of family health problems and partner status. Journal of Family Relations57: 324-334.

Ontai, L.L. & Thompson, R.A. (2008). Attachment, parent-child discourse and theory of mind development. Social Development, 17: 47-60.

Ontai, L.L., *Lipscomb, S., Lamp, C., & Smith, D. (2007). An integrative approach to addressing childhood overweight: Inclusion of parenting information in nutrition education programs. Journal of Extension, 45: Online.