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 
In my research and extension activities I strive to understand the role culture (e.g. ethnicity, SES, family structure) assumes in these critical processes in order to effectively translate the research into meaningful programs and materials for diverse audiences. As part of this aim, I work to include students from a variety of backgrounds in my lab for research training in an effort to include diverse perspectives in my program of research.

Selected Publications 

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.

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.

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.