Cole's research has followed two broad themes. The first focuses on the long term impact of nurse home visitation for poor, first time mothers on the mother's life course and their children's emotional and behavioral development. The second, developed as an outgrowth of one of the important successes of the home visitation program, is a better understanding of medically attended unintentional injuries among young children.
His funded work in this area has explored the role of the environment, children's temperament and mothers' parenting style on the frequency of children's unintentional injury. Hes has been especially interested in whether less controlling parenting styles facilitate the internalization of family safety rules and in general greater self regulated behavior that protects young children from injury in the absence of direct supervision. This work has been informed by both the Health Belief Model and Self Determination Theory.
Most recently his interests have expanded to include the children's level of cognitive development and parents' misunderstanding of their children's capabilities. Virtually all elementary school children have mastered concrete operations and can successfully follow complex sets of instructions once they have been given an appropriate introduction. They have not however achieved formal operations and are therefore unable to anticipate the universe of possible outcomes that extends beyond their direct experience. This inability to anticipate what might happen in any given situation makes them unprepared for unexpected contingencies and vulnerable to injury.
In conjunction with his interest in unintentional injury his is co-owner of a safety training company that conducts fire safety training programs for large national organizations. He is also a board member of a not for profit charitable organization, Prevention1st, dedicated to reducing unintentional injuries among vulnerable populations.
See Robert Edward Cole's curriculum vitae.