Current Projects

Intimate Partner Violence: Understanding family-wide effects and intervening to support women and children


BRAVE Young Families. We are currently recruiting pregnant women and their young children for participation in a research study on the the types of violence women experience during pregnancy, their specific needs for community services, and the well-being of themselves and their children.  We are recruiting both women who have recently experienced violence in an intimate relationship and those who have not.  The objective of this study is to gain a better understanding of how IPV effects (1) individual factors that may underlie the development of psychopathology (e.g., sleep, threat attenuation), (2) intergenerational processes and parent-child relationship quality, (3) adjustment across sibling groups.  Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts has generously supported the costs of sleep actigraphy. 

The Pregnant Moms’ Empowerment Program: A Pilot Trial.  The lifetime prevalence of IPV victimization for women in the US is 35%, with the highest risk during pregnancy. IPV during pregnancy is not only associated with decrements in maternal functioning, but children born to IPV-exposed women are more likely to have poor birth outcomes and problems in early attachment and adjustment. Despite the serious threats IPV poses to both mother and infant, few effective interventions for this population exist. The dearth of programs for pregnant women has resulted in high risk at the earliest stages of infant development – a risk that is imminently preventable. The objective of the proposed project is therefore to meet the critical need for intervention programs for IPV exposed pregnant women and their infants by adapting an existing effective program – the Moms’ Empowerment Program – and conducting a preliminary investigation of its effectiveness. Our proposed adaptation will aim to meet both pregnant women’s specific developmental needs (e.g., improve birth outcomes, success with breastfeeding and early parenting), address the common mental health problems associated with IPV (i.e., PTSD, depression) that may adversely affect early infant development.  The adaptation and evaluation of this program is being conducted in partnership with Dr. Kathryn Howell at University of Memphis (TN). The pilot study at the South Bend Site is generously supported through a grant  from Help for Children, Chicago. Long-term follow-ups with families (at both the South Bend and Memphis sites) have been supported by the State of Tenneseee.

Empowering pregnant women in Lima, Perú. In Lima, 51% of ever-partnered women report that they have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner (World Health Organization, 2012). In partnership with Holy Cross Ministries (INFAM) in Canto Grande, Lima, the Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, and Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, we are exploring the possibilty of adapting the Pregnant Moms' Empowerment Program for use in Perú. Exploratory work for this project has been supported by the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity.

Interventions to support health and well-being in individuals with chronic exposure to violence


Interventions for families exposed to violence in Palestine. In collaboration with Dr. Mark Cummings and local organizations in Palestine, we have developed a family-oriented, community-based support for families exposed to political violence in Palestine. This development and pilot study of this program have been supported by both the Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and Notre Dame International.

Online support for posttraumatic stress among young adults in Egypt. This project seeks to translate, adapt and pilot a mobile health intervention for treating posttraumatic stress symptoms for use with young adults living in Egypt.  Together with Dr. Kate Ellis (American University in Cairo) and collaborators at Ain Shams University (Cairo), we are preparing for a randomized control trial of the program.  The translation costs for the program content have been supported by Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts.  Translation of the program into Arabic is being done by Nour Zaki. The pilot study is supported by the American University in Cairo.