Projects in Progress
Stress, Parenting, and Child Emotions (SPACE) Study
The goal of this study is to better understand factors that affect young children's mental health and development following exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) , in order to provide better support to children and families experiencing IPV . The effects of IPV exposure in preschool-age children can be severe and long-lasting, as this is a period of rapid development across multiple areas (brain, behavior, emotions). We also know that caregiver's emotions and behaviors have a strong influence on children during the preschool period; however, optimal caregiver functioning is often compromised by IPV. Therefore, we are aiming to examine how caregivers experiencing significant stress manage their children’s emotions, especially their fears and worries around violence. We are especially interested in how this parent-child process affects preschoolers' self-regulatory capacities and early symptoms of mental health problems. The results of this research will help uncover novel parent-child processes that affect child outcomes in the context of IPV that can potentially be the target of interventions to disrupt the effects of IPV exposure in early life.
Community recruitment is ongoing. If you are a caregiver of a child between the ages of 4-6 and interested in participating and want to learn more about this study, please contact us at (413) 577-0381 or fill out our contact form and someone from our team will contact you (click the link here or press the button below)
IPV & Social Support
The goal of this project is to assess how different aspects of social support buffer the potentially negative effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on health and well-being in young adult women. Young women (ages 18-25) are at especially high risk for experiencing IPV; and these experiences can have lasting impacts on the emotional well-being and behavior. Evidence suggests that factors in the social ecology are especially important for reducing the negative impacts of IPV. We are specifically interested in examining how support from different sources (e.g., communities, families, friends), and of varying types (e.g., emotional, instrumental) collectively buffer against the effects of IPV. We are also exploring the extent to which negative social experiences, including negative reactions to disclosure, social rejection, and interpersonal hostility and discrimination, may potentially worsen the impact of IPV on health and well-being. This study will provide greater insight into how young women’s social ecologies contribute to their health following IPV. Data collection for this study was completed in Summer 2022 and data analysis is underway.
Women’s Health & Trauma
The goal of this study is to examine specific mechanisms linking posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with comorbid depression and substance use in young adult women. Women experience interpersonal violence (e.g., sexual assault, intimate partner violence) at exceptionally high rates; much of this violence first occurs prior to age 25. PTSD is one of the most common consequences of experiencing interpersonal trauma. Yet, PTSD rarely occurs alone – it is most often experienced in conjunction with depression and substance use. We will be exploring the differential impact of a number of individual factors (e.g., emotion regulation, irritability) and social factors (social support, discrimination) in promoting, maintaining, or preventing this co-occurring posttraumatic psychopathology while determining how the trajectories of PTSD and other comorbid conditions (e.g., substance use, depression) fluctuate over time. This project will help identify specific intervention targets to ameliorate the negative effects of interpersonal violence on women’s health. Participants (college women) will be completing three surveys over 8-10 months. Baseline, wave 2, and wave 3 data collection is complete; data are currently being cleaned. This project is being completed in collaboration with Dr. Colin Mahoney (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs).
ACEs & Mental Health Disparities
The goal of this study is to investigate factors that help explain disparities in mental health in individuals with histories of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs; e.g., child maltreatment, peer victimization, community violence). ACEs are linked to increased risk for mental health problems in adulthood, and previous research has demonstrated that certain coping behaviors can either increase or decrease the effects of ACEs on mental health. Research has also found that individuals with marginalized identities (including racial/ethnic minorities, women, sexual and gender minorities) are at greater risk for developing mental health problems in this context; however, the reasons for this are not well understood. the current study aims to fill that gap by examining how social factors (e.g., climate, discrimination, social support) influence the effects of ACEs on coping and mental health. The results of this study may provide new pathways for addressing disparities in adjustment following childhood adversity. Data collection for this study was completed in Spring 2020 and data analysis is underway.
COVID-19 and Mental Health
COVID-19 has killed millions of people worldwide, including more than 600,000 people in the United States. Ethno-racial minorities have been disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic, including experiencing higher rates of illness and death, and greater social and economic losses than White people. Emerging evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has had broad, negative impacts on well-being, as well as aggravated existing racial/ethnic mental health disparities. In this study, we followed-up with approximately 100 participants from the ACEs and Mental Health Disparities Study in July/August 2020. We assessed experiences around COVID-19, as well as current mental health. Data analysis for this project is underway.
* This project is an offshoot of the ACEs & Mental Health Disparities Study.
IPV, Parenting, Temperament, and Mental Health
The goal of this study is to investigate possible child and family-level factors that might mitigate the impact of parental IPV on young children’s psychological outcomes. Specifically, we aim to examine the longitudinal relation between early exposure to IPV and children’s later internalizing and externalizing problems and to examine parenting as a mediator and child temperament as a moderator of ‘IPV - Child mental health’ relation. Although exposure to IPV appears to escalate the likelihood of both internalizing and externalizing problems among children of all ages, preschool-age children experience especially high rates of exposure. However, few studies have longitudinally investigated the effects of IPV on preschool-age children. Moreover, there is substantial variability in children’s outcomes following IPV exposure, but the reasons behind this are unclear. The data was shared by Dr. Lisa Harvey (UMass Amherst) and participants were drawn from a longitudinal study of 189 children (82 girls) whose mothers and fathers participated at the first time point of the study (T1) when the children were 3 years old. This project is underway in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Harvey and Sugnha Kang (UMass Amherst).