Current Projects

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

The Pregnant Moms’ Empowerment Program Studies

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.

Pilot Trial. The objective of the proposed project was 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 aimed to meet both pregnant women’s specific developmental needs (e.g., improve birth outcomes, success with breastfeeding and early parenting) and 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) and includes N=137 women and their children, approximately half of women received the PMEP and half of whom were in a no treatment control group. The pilot study at the South Bend Site is generously supported through a grant from Help for Children, Chicago. We are currently done with four waves of data collection, and wave 5 of data collection is in process.

Randomized Clinical Trial.  Given promising results emerging from our pilot trial, we are currently in the midst of a randomized clinical trial comparing the PMEP's effectiveness to a contact-equivalent social support group. This RCT, supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development is a multi-site study being conducted in partnership with the REACH Lab (Dr. Kathryn Howell) at the University of Memphis. We are currently enrolling women in the study and anticipate that data collection will continue through 2024. With the support of Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns and the Mental Research Institute, we are also collecting intensive longitudinal data on women's pandemic-related stressors and the pandemic-related impacts on mother-child relational quality.

PMEP: 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) we have adapted the Pregnant Moms' Empowerment Program for use in Perú. Data collection on the PMEP will begin when local health circumstances permit in person groups, but as a bridge support for women, we are currently delivering information via Whatsapp as part of a longitidudinal data collection effort examining maternal mental health and infant development. This project is supported by the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies

PMEP: Monterrey, Mexico. We are working with Dr. Cecilia Martinez-Torteya (Universidad de Monterrey) and Dr. Kathryn Howell (University of Memphis) to adapt and implement a pilot version of the PMEP program in Monterrey Mexico. We are currently synthesizing qualitative focus group data designed to inform the adaptation and are planning for a virtual open trial of the PMEP in early 2021. This work has been supported by Notre Dame International Mexico Faculty Research Grant.

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.