- Assistant Specialist, Early Childhood/Childhood Development
- Assistant Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
- Ph.D. Family Science
- University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, United States
- “It’s like we’re raising that child together”: Parents, center-based child care providers, and the work of creating relationships
- M.A. Human Development and Family Studies
- University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, United States
- Advertising an ideology of motherhood: A content analysis of the promotional materials produced by child care centers
- B.A. Sociology
- Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, United States
- University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona (2016 - Ongoing)
- University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois (2013 - 2016)
- University of Maryland Extension (2011 - 2012)
- University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland (2009 - Ongoing)
My research and outreach focus on early care and education as a setting for health promotion and obesity prevention for young children. I am interested in the feeding practices child care providers use with young children, connections between early care and education settings and the home, and how policy can shape young children’s well-being. My outreach focuses on developing innovative approaches to improving the health and well-being of young children. I am interested in how technology (e.g. text messages) can be used for outreach, program delivery, and evaluation. As an extension specialist I work closely with Arizona’s Family & Consumer Health Sciences extension agents and staff to deliver and evaluate programing and address local needs. I enjoy working collaboratively and believe that we can best address the complex challenges faced by young children and their families through multidisciplinary teamwork.
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Fall 2020)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Spring 2020)
Honors ThesisFSHD 498H (Spring 2020)
Honors ThesisFSHD 498H (Fall 2019)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Spring 2019)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Fall 2018)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Spring 2018)
Independent StudyFSHD 699 (Spring 2018)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Fall 2017)
Directed ResearchFSHD 492 (Spring 2017)
- Speirs, K. E., Jamison, T., Kemp, C. L., Swenson, A., Vesely, C. K., Humble, A. M., & Radina, M. E. (2019). Dialogue about Qualitative Data Analysis Software.. In How qualitative data analysis happens: Moving beyond “themes emerged.”(pp 221-227). New York: Routledge.
- Speirs, K., Vesely, C. K., Roy, K., Humble, A., & Radina, M. E. (2019). Lost in the data: Strategies for analyzing large-scale collaboratively-collected qualitative datasets.. In How qualitative data analysis happens: Moving beyond “themes emerged.”(pp 128-141). New York: Routledge.
- Swartz, R. A., Speirs, K. E., Encinger, A. J., McElwain, N. L., Norris, D. J., & Horm, D. M. (2018). A mixed methods investigation of maternal perspectives on transition experiences in early care and education. In Group care for infants, toddlers, and twos(pp 26-45). New York: Routledge.More infoThis is a reprint of an article by the same name that was published in 2016 in Early Education and Development. RC1 for 2018
- Stephanie, G. K., Ashley, M. L., Speirs, K. E., Vafai, Y., Hilberg, E., Braunscheidel Duru, E., Worthington, L., & Lachenmayr, L. (2019). Predicting attrition in a text-based nutrition education program: A survival analysis of Text2BHealthy. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7(1), e9967-e9976. doi:10.2196/mhealth.9967
- Lessard, L. L., Speirs, K. E., & Slesinger, N. (2018). Implementation strategies used by states to support physical activity licensing standards for toddlers in early care and education settings: An exploratory qualitative study.. Childhood Obesity, 14(6), 386-392. doi:10.1089/chi.2018.0081More infoRC1 for 2018
- Dev, D. A., McBride, B. A., Speirs, K. E., Blitch, K. A., & Williams, N. (2016). "Great job cleaning your plate today!" determinants of child-care providers' use of controlling feeding practices: An exploratory examination. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116, 1803-1809. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.07.016More infoNational early childhood obesity prevention policies recommend that child-care providers avoid controlling feeding practices (CFP) (eg, pressure-to-eat, food as reward, and praising children for cleaning their plates) with children to prevent unhealthy child eating behaviors and childhood obesity. However, evidence suggests that providers frequently use CFP during mealtimes.
- Speirs, K. E., & Fiese, B. H. (2016). The relationship between food insecurity and BMI for preschool children. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 20(4), 925-33.More infoThe literature exploring the relationship between food insecurity and obesity for preschool-aged children is inconclusive and suffers from inconsistent measurement. This paper explores the relationships between concurrent household and child food insecurity and child overweight as well as differences in these relationships by child gender using a sample of 2-5 year old children.
- Speirs, K. E., Grutzmacher, S. K., Munger, A. L., & Messina, L. A. (2016). Recruitment and retention in an SMS-based health education program: Lessons learned from Text2BHealthy. Health Informatics Journal, 22(3), 651-8. doi:10.1080/10409289.2016.1087777More infoWhile text messages or short messaging service programs are increasingly utilized for delivering health education, few studies have explored the unique challenges of recruiting and retaining participants in such programs. This study utilizes survey and focus group data from Text2BHealthy, a short messaging service-based nutrition and physical activity promotion program, to examine barriers to enrollment and facilitators of retention among parents of elementary school students. Results show that participants were hard to reach with recruitment materials, had difficulty with self-enrollment, and were apprehensive about program costs. However, 89-90 percent of participants were retained. Results suggest that providing manual enrollment options, alternative program delivery methods (e.g. email messages), and opportunities to reenroll may facilitate participation in short messaging service-based health education and promotion programs.
- Speirs, K. E., Hayes, J. T., Musaad, S., VanBrackle, A., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2016). Is family sense of coherence a protective factor against the obesogenic environment?. Appetite, 99, 268-76. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.025More infoDespite greater risk for poor nutrition, inactivity, and overweight, some low-income children are able to maintain a healthy weight. We explore if a strong family sense of coherence (FSOC) acts as a protective factor against childhood obesity for low-income preschool children. Families with a strong FSOC view challenges as predictable, understandable, worthy of engaging, and surmountable. Data were collected from 321 low-income mothers and their preschool children in five states between March 2011 and May 2013. FSOC was assessed using the Family Sense of Coherence Scale. A 16-item checklist was used to assess practicing healthy child behaviors (fruit and vegetable consumption and availability, physical activity, and family meals) and limiting unhealthy child behaviors (sweetened beverage and fast food consumption, energy dense snack availability, and screen time). Child body mass index (BMI) z-scores were calculated from measured height and weight. FSOC was significantly associated with practicing healthy child behaviors (β = 0.32, p
- Swartz, R. A., Speirs, K. E., Encinger, A. J., & McElwain, N. L. (2016). A Mixed methods investigation of maternal perspectives on transition experiences in early care and education. Early Education and Development, 27, 170-189. doi:10.1080/10409289.2016.1087777
- Munger, A. L., Lloyd, T. D., Speirs, K. E., Riera, K. C., & Grutzmacher, S. K. (2015). More than Just Not Enough: Experiences of Food Insecurity for Latino Immigrants. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17(5), 1548-56.More infoUndocumented Latino immigrants often struggle to provide food for their families. In an attempt to inform efforts to create effective programs and policies promoting food security, this study explored the experience of food insecurity for low-income, undocumented Latino immigrants. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 24 undocumented Latino immigrants. Modified grounded theory was used to analyze the interview data. The experience of food insecurity was similar to other groups' experiences, as it entailed inadequate amount and quality of food. However, immigration and documentation status presented unique vulnerabilities for food insecurity related to unfamiliar food environments, remittances and separation, employment, and community and government resources. Cultural and structural factors that may shape the experience of and response to food insecurity are discussed along with implications for policy and programming.
- Speirs, K., Vesely, C. K., & Roy, K. (2015). Is stability always a good thing? Low-income mothers’ experiences with child care transitions.. Children and Youth Services Review, 53, 147-156. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.03.026
- Dev, D. A., McBride, B. A., Speirs, K. E., Donovan, S. M., & Cho, H. K. (2014). Predictors of head start and child-care providers' healthful and controlling feeding practices with children aged 2 to 5 years. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(9), 1396-403.More infoFew child-care providers meet the national recommendations for healthful feeding practices. Effective strategies are needed to address this disparity, but research examining influences on child-care providers' feeding practices is limited. The purpose of this study was to identify determinants of child-care providers' healthful and controlling feeding practices for children aged 2 to 5 years. In this cross-sectional study, child-care providers (n=118) from 24 center-based programs (six Head Start [HS], 11 Child and Adult Care Food Program [CACFP] funded, and seven non-CACFP) completed self-administered surveys during 2011-2012. Multilevel multivariate linear regression models were used to predict seven feeding practices. Working in an HS center predicted teaching children about nutrition and modeling healthy eating; that may be attributed to the HS performance standards that require HS providers to practice healthful feeding. Providers who reported being concerned about children's weight, being responsible for feeding children, and had an authoritarian feeding style were more likely to pressure children to eat, restrict intake, and control food intake to decrease or maintain children's weight. Providers with nonwhite race, who were trying to lose weight, who perceived nutrition as important in their own diet, and who had a greater number of nutrition training opportunities were more likely to use restrictive feeding practices. These findings suggest that individual- and child-care-level factors, particularly provider race, education, training, feeding attitudes and styles, and the child-care context may influence providers' feeding practices with young children. Considering these factors when developing interventions for providers to meet feeding practice recommendations may add to the efficacy of childhood obesity prevention programs.
- McLaughlin, M. J., Speirs, K. E., & Shenassa, E. D. (2014). Reading disability and adult attained education and income: Evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study of a population-based sample. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47(4), 374-86.More infoThis study examined the impact of childhood reading disability (RD) on adult educational attainment and income. Participants' (N = 1,344) RD was assessed at age 7, and adult educational attainment and income were assessed in midlife using categorical variables. Participants with RD at age 7 were 74% (95% CI: 0.18, 0.37) less likely to attain a higher level of education and 56% (95% CI: 0.32, 0.61) less likely to attain a higher level of income as an adult than participants with average or above reading achievement at age 7. Attained education was found to mediate the relationship between RD and attained income.
- Speirs, K. E., Liechty, J. M., Wu, C., & , S. K. (2014). Sleep, but not other daily routines, mediates the association between maternal employment and BMI for preschool children. Sleep medicine, 15(12), 1590-3.More infoIt has been established that the more time mothers spend working outside of the home, the more likely their preschool-aged children are to be overweight. However, the mechanisms explaining this relationship are not well understood. Our objective was to explore child sleep, dietary habits, TV time, and family mealtime routines as mediators of the relationship between maternal employment status (full-time, part-time, and no or minimal employment) and child body mass index (BMI) percentile.
- Speirs, K., Dev, D. A., & McBride, B. A. (2014). Head Start and child care providers’ motivators, barriers, and facilitators to practicing family-style meal service.. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29, 649-659. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.07.004
- Speirs, K. E., Messina, L. A., Munger, A. L., & Grutzmacher, S. K. (2012). Health literacy and nutrition behaviors among low-income adults. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 23(3), 1082-91.More infoThe purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between health literacy and nutrition behaviors using a low-income sample. Face-to-face surveys at 11 social services offices generated a convenience sample of 154 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-eligible adults. We assessed health literacy, fruit and vegetable intake, food label use, consumption of healthy foods, and demographic characteristics. Thirty seven percent of the sample had adequate health literacy as measured by the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Race and parenthood were significantly related to health literacy scores. Adequate health literacy, as measured by the NVS, was associated with frying chicken less often and eating the peels of fresh fruit more often. The findings suggest that health practitioners should ensure nutrition-related messages are accessible to all of their clients, especially those with the lowest health literacy levels.
- Speirs, K., Braun, B., Zoumenou, V., Anderson, E. A., & Finkbeiner, N. (2009). Grandmothers’ involvement in preschool-aged children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables: An exploratory study.. ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition, 1, 332-337. doi:10.1177/1941406409349958
- Grutzmacher, S. K., Munger, A. L., Finkbeiner, N., Speirs, K., Zemier, L., Worthington, L., Braunscheidel, E., & Lachenmayr, L. (2016, November). Text2BHealthy: An outcome evaluation for a targeted, text message-based nutrition education program for low-income parents.. American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. Denver, CO.
- Speirs, K. E., & Feld, A. (2016, April). Strategies for increasing home-based providers’ enrollment in the CACFP. National CACFP Conference. Orlando, FL.
- Speirs, K. (2015, December 2015). Effective strategies for talking with parents about childhood obesity. National Head Start Association’s 2015 Parent and Family Engagement Conference. San Diego, CA.
- Speirs, K., Dev, D., & McBride, B. A. (2014, June-July 2014). “Take a no thank-you bite” Head Start and child care providers’ perceptions to avoiding controlling feeding practices.. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference. Milwaukee, WI.
- Speirs, K., Fiese, B. H., Koester, B., & Gordon, R. (2014, April 2014). Family day care providers’ experiences with the CACFP program, resources, and nutrition practices.. Society for Research in Child Development Special Topic Meeting: Strengthening Connections Among Child and Family Research, Policy and Practice. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K., Vesely, C. K., & Roy, K. M. (2014, July 2014). Choosing care? Failed and forced transitions in the child care arrangements of low income mothers.. Head Start’s 12th National Research Conference on Early Childhood. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K., Fiese, B. H., & Team, T. S. (2013, November 2013). Food security and parental feeding practices that impact self-regulation.. 75th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. San Antonio, TX.
- Speirs, K. (2012, June 2012). “It’s like we’re raising that child together:” Parents, center-based child care providers, and the work of creating relationships.. Head Start’s 11th National Research Conference. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K. (2012, October-November 2012). Creating relationships: Parents and center-based child care providers.. 74th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Phoenix, AZ.
- Speirs, K., & Messina, L. M. (2012, October-November 2012). Text2BHealthy: Text-based obesity intervention program.. 74th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Phoenix, AZ.
- Speirs, K., Grutzmacher, S. K., & DiBari, J. (2012, April 2012). Text2BHealthy: Development of a text message-based health promotion program.. Priester National Health Extension Conference. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K., Liechty, J. M., Grutzmacher, S. K., & Braun, B. (2012, October-November 2012). Health literacy & families: Implications for parent and child health outcomes.. 74th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Phoenix, AZ.
- Speirs, K., Ranade, N., Maharaj, A., & Vesely, C. K. (2011, November 2011). What the guidebooks don't tell you about doing a qualitative dissertation.. 73rd National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Orlando, FL.
- Speirs, K., Evans, L., Grutzmacher, S. K., Stevenson, T., & James-Gaskins, I. (2010, November 2010). The influence of household food security on parental feeding practices.. 72nd National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Minneapolis, MN,.
- Speirs, K., Braun, B., Finkbeiner, N., Anderson, E., & Zoumenou, V. (2009, November 2009). Grandmothers: Key to increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables?. 71st National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. San Francisco, CA.
- Speirs, K. (2008, August 2008). Access to flexible work schedules: Differences by gender, education level, and occupation.. American Sociological Association's 103rd Annual Meeting. Boston, MA.
- Speirs, K., Luck, R. G., Super, C. M., Harkness, S., & Blom, M. (2007, March-April 2007). Infant arousal and stimulation in the Netherlands and the United States.. Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting. Boston, MA.
- Speirs, K., Roy, K., & Vesely, C. K. (2007, November 2007). Dynamic family networks and child care arrangements over time: An ethnographic perspective.. 135th Annual Meeting & Exposition of the American Public Health Association.
- Speirs, K., Roy, K., Vesely, C. K., Lein, L., & Burton, L. (2007, April 2007). Children “in good hands”? An ethnographic perspective of cross-city variation in child care and work transitions for low-income families.. University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Conference. Lexington, KY.
- Speirs, K., Luck, R. G., Super, C. M., Harkness, S., & Blom, M. (2006, July 2006). Infant arousal and stimulation in the Netherlands and the United States.. 19th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development. Melbourne, Australia.
- Speirs, K. E., Dahlberg, E., Gonrong, P., Liu, R., & Tepede, A. (2016, Summer). Feeding for the future: Child care providers’ feeding practices and access to training.. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference. San Diego, CA: Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.
- Speirs, K., Feld, A., Sloane, S., Koester, B., & Fiese, B. H. (2016, July 2016). A qualitative exploration of how family day care providers learn about and enroll in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Administration for Children and Families' National Research Conference on Early Childhood. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K., & Fiese, B. F. (2015, March 2015). Do lifestyle behaviors moderate the impact of cumulative risk on overweight for preschool-aged children?. Society for Research in Child Development. Philadelphia, PA.
- Speirs, K., Vesely, C. K., & Roy, K. (2016, March). Keeping it in the family: The dynamics of using a subsidy to pay kin for child care.. Society for Research in Child Development. Philadelphia, PA.
- Speirs, K., Dev, D., & McBride, B. A. (2014, May 2014). From policy to practice: Motivators, facilitators and barriers for the use of responsive feeding in Head Start and childcare programs.. International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. San Diego, CA.
- Speirs, K., Hayes, J. T., Musaad, S., Wozniak, A., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2014, April 2014). The relationship between family sense of coherence, healthy behaviors, and child BMI.. Experimental Biology. v.
- Speirs, K., Hayes, J. T., VanBrackle, A., Musaad, S., & Sigman-Gran, M. (2014, June-July 2014). Does family sense of coherence explain the link between mealtime routines and healthy behaviors?. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference. Milwaukee, WI.
- Speirs, K., Liechty, J. M., & Wu, C. F. (2014, November 2014). Maternal work hours and increased child weight: What are the mechanisms?. 76th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Baltimore, MD.
- Speirs, K., & Grutzmacher, S. K. (2013, August 2013). Lessons learned for enrolling parents in a text message-based nutrition education program.. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference. Portland, OR.
- Speirs, K., & Morgan, L. (2012, July 2012). Feeding for Healthy Eating: A caregiver feeding practices curriculum.. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference. Washington, DC.
- Speirs, K. (2010, November 2010). More than nannies: Child care providers’ perceptions of their role.. 72nd National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Minneapolis, MN.
- Speirs, K., & Shenassa, E. D. (2009, November 2009). Does location matter? Place of work and time spent in housework.. 71st National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. San Francisco, CA.
- Speirs, K., Vesely, C. K., & Roy, K. (2009, April 2009). Choosing care? Failed and frustrated transitions in child care arrangements among low-income mothers.. Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development. Denver, CO.
- Speirs, K. (2008, November 2008). A systematic review of evidence-based programs to address obesity in preschoolers.. 70th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Little Rock, AR.
- Speirs, K., & Weaver, S. E. (2007, November 2007). A content analysis of the ideology of motherhood found in child care advertisements.. 69th National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference. Pittsburgh, PA.
- Speirs, K., Farber, M. L., Salon, R., Sammis, C., Clark, M., & Ortuno, N. (2004, 2004). A Snapshot of a parent coaching intervention for high-risk families with infants receiving well-baby care at an urban primary care health center.. Head Start’s 7th National Research Conference. Washington, DC.