Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Faculty  •   Research Colloquia   •   Child Development Research  •  Trainees   •  WSU Childrens Bridge


Focus of Research

  • Infant Mental Health
  • Impact of Foster Care
  • LIFHE Project
  • Psychosocial Maturation in Adolescence

Current Projects

Teens at Risk: Prenatal Cocaine and Postnatal Challenges: Drs. John HanniganSteve Ondersma and Chris Trentacosta are Co-Investigators with Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D. (Principal Investigator; Pediatrics) on this longitudinal, trans-generational and multidisciplinary project assessing the impact of prenatal cocaine and alcohol exposure, as well as family and community risk factors, on at-risk behaviors – including substance use/abuse and sexual behavior – in older adolescents and young adults. Wide-ranging measures of neurobehavioral outcome, physiological responses to stressors, and social-emotional regulation are integral to this project. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is funding this project.

Visual Thinking Strategies Training: Anna Miller, M.Ed., is Principal Investigator on this project funded by the PNC Foundation to continue professional development, staff training and field trips to the Detroit Institute of Art to assess implementation of the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) adjunct curriculum for preschool children in WSU’s two Early Childhood Centers. VTS uses guided discussions of select works of art to improve children’s verbal, cognitive, observational and critical thinking skills.

Strengthening Mental Health Service Utilization to Reduce Negative Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse: Dr. Valerie Simon leads an NIH-funded project to identify barriers to and increase utilization of no-cost mental health services among families with a newly discovered case of child sexual abuse. At present, few families take advantage of early intervention resources, putting children at greater risk of long-term trauma.

The Emergence of Sexual Risk among Sexually Abused Adolescent Females: Dr. Valerie Simon received two grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development to study the impact of child sexual abuse on the sexual development of girls. The aim is to yield more effective risk-reduction programs for these adolescents. 

Coaching for Excellence in Early Childhood Education Practice in Detroit: Anna Miller, M.Ed., and Sharon Elliott (College of Education) lead this project, with collaborator John Hannigan, implementing on-site expert coaching/mentoring to assist early childhood educators in bringing high-quality teaching practices to their classrooms. This pilot project is funded by the PNC Foundation and is assessing the feasibility and impact of the coaching/mentoring.

Baby on Board! The Wayne State University Early Parenting Study: Dr. Carolyn Dayton is the principle investigator of an early parenting study funded by the Silberman Foundation. This study examines the influence of bio-psycho-social risk and resilience factors on the developing parent-child relationship beginning during pregnancy and across the first four postnatal months of development. A central aim of the study is to gather data that will inform early intervention services to over-burdened families with an emphasis on engaging and providing infant mental health services to fathers.