• asdf
  • Students from Dr. Otten's Lab
  • Psychology Faculty

    Your Psychology Faculty

Holli Tonyan

Holli Tonyan
Assistant Professor
(818) 677-4970
Office location:
ST 322


Dr. Tonyan has been a member of the Department of Psychology since 2007.  This appointment follows three years as a Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at Monash University in Australia and two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Dr. Tonyan has also served as a consultant, conducting program evaluations for higher education and non-profit agencies.



  • Ph.D. 2001, UCLA. Psychological Studies in Education.
  • M. A. 2000, UCLA. Psychological Studies in Education
  • B.A. 1996, Carleton College (MN). Psychology.


Courses Taught

  • PSY 313: Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 301: Pre-Professional Development in Psychology
  • PSY 302: Human Learning in the Formative Years
  • PSY485GT/S: Advanced Inquiry in Research Methods – Grounded Theory & Seminar
  • PSY612: Contemporary Problems in Child Psychology
  • PSY581: The Teaching of Psychology
  • PSY500: Professional Development in Psychology


Selected Publications and Presentations

Bold indicates student author



Tonyan, H. A., Nuttall, J. (in press).  Connecting cultural models of home-based care and childminders’ career paths: An Eco-cultural analysis.  International Journal of Early Years Education

Tonyan, H. A., Mamikonian, A., & Chien, D. (in press).  Do they practice what they preach?  An Ecocultural, multidimensional, group-based examination of the relationship between beliefs and behaviours among child care providers.  Early Child Development and Care.  DOI:10.1080/03004430.2012.759949

Tonyan, H. A., & Auld, G. (in press). What does ‘transformation of participation’ mean in a university classroom? Exploring university pedagogy with the tools of sociocultural theory.  In G. Wells & A. Edwards (Eds.), Pedagogy in higher education: A cultural historical approach, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Tonyan, H. A. (2013).  All by myself? Independence and coordination during distress episodes.  Infant & Child Development, 22, 133-150. DOI: 10.1002/icd.1772

Fleer, M., Tonyan, H. A., Mantilla, A. C., & Rivalland, C. P. (2009). A cultural-historical analysis of play as an activity setting in early childhood education: Views from research and from teachers. In M. Fleer, M. Hedegaard, & J. Tudge (Eds.), World yearbook of education 2009, Childhood studies and the impact of globalization: Policies and practices at global and local levels. New York and London: Routledge.

Fleer, M., Tonyan, H. A., Mantilla, A. C., & Rivalland, C. P. (2008). Play and learning in Australia. In I. Pramling-Samuelsson & M. Fleer, Play and learning in early childhood settings: International perspectives. New York: Springer.


Tonyan, H. A. (2006). Considering the social nature of emotions. Every Child, 12, 9.


Tonyan, H. A. (2006). Using functionalist and sociocultural theories to examine coregulation of distress in mother-child interaction. New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 9, 105-114.


Tonyan, H. A. (2005). Coregulating distress: Mother-child interactions around children’s distress from 14 to 24 months. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 433–444.


Tonyan, H. A., & Howes, C. (2003). Exploring patterns in time children spend in a variety of child care activities: Associations with quality of care, ethnicity, and gender. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 192, 1-22.


Howes, C., & Tonyan, H. A. (2000). Links between adult and peer relationships across four developmental periods. In K. A. Kerns & A. M. Neal-Barnett (Eds.), Examining associations between parent-child and peer relationships (pp. 85-113). NY: Greenwood/Praeger.


Howes, C., & Tonyan, H. A. (1999). Peer relations. In L. Balter & C. Tamis-LeMonda (Eds.), Child psychology: A handbook of contemporary issues (pp.143-157). Philadelphia: Psychology Press



Tonyan, H. A. (April, 2013).  Understanding Home-Based Care as a Culturally Organized Ecological Niche: Cultural Models and the Organization of Daily Routines.  Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society of Research in Child Development, Seattle, Washington.  Handout available at

Tonyan, H. A. (April 2013).  Cultural Models as Mediators of What is Possible in a Day.  In J. Nuttall (Chair), Getting Beyond the Zone of Proximal Development: Further Possibilities for Strengthening Early Childhood Education through Cultural-Historical Analyses.  Roundtable presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Chien, D., Tonyan, H. A., Romack, J., & Squier, L. M. (April, 2012). Mothers overweight status and trajectories of their children’s BMI.  Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.


Research Interests

My research interests examine children's development as part of social and cultural contexts. My interests are quite broad, but my research has focused on infancy through early childhood (before starting school) and social and emotional aspects of development. I have particular expertise in attachment theory, socio-cultural historical activity theory (SCHAT, following Vygotsky's legacy), ethology (drawing on evolutionary biology), mixed-methods, observational methods, and exploratory/graphic data analysis.  Recent projects focus on in-home non-parental child care, specifically licensed family child care, commonly referred to as “home day care”.

Several projects are available for student involvement, but most current efforts focus on family child care providers’ descriptions of their daily routine activities (in-depth qualitative interviews).  Other recent projects have examined parents’ responses to an internet survey of daily transitions between home and child day care settings (e.g., drop-off and pick-up times), a survey of child care providers to better understand the ecology of child day care settings in the San Fernando Valley, and mother-infant interaction among low-income Latino families (archival video or observational analysis).

For more information, please visit: