Current Projects

Projects in the United States

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.  Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts has generously supported the collection of sleep data to further explore the risk processes underlying the development of psychopathology following women’s violent victimization.

Identifying processes underlying breastfeeding success in women exposed to adversity.  In collaboration with the South Bend/Mishawaka WIC office, this project seeks to determine how women’s history of exposure to adverse events may contribute to difficulties in initiating and sustaining breastfeeding.  The goal of the research is to identify ways in which breastfeeding support and other forms of care can better address women’s and infants’ diverse needs. This project is supported by the Rodney F. Ganey Collaborative Community-Based Research Grant.

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. Because the negative effects of IPV on infants are evident even during the prenatal period, programs should optimally engage mothers prior to the birth of their children. In this way, the negative infant health outcomes associated with maternal exposure to IPV may be remediated. Further, currently pregnant women are often engaged in health network systems and social services with frequency, making access points for psychological assessment and care more numerous than may be possible in the postpartum period. 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 will be 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.




Global Research

Interventions for families exposed to violence in Palestine. In collaboration with Dr. Mark Cummings and local organizations in Palestine, we are seeking to develop a family-oriented, community-based support for families exposed to political violence in Palestine. This project has 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.