Biobehavioral Risks

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Research Focus

  • Child Maltreatment
  • Prenatal Drug Exposure
  • Prematurity and Perinatal Trauma
  • Paternal Factors


Computer-Based SBIRT for Marijuana Use in Pregnancy: Planning a Stage II Trial
Steve Ondersma, PI.  –  A three-year, $684,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Use to develop and test a brief computer-delivered intervention to reduce marijuana use during pregnancy. SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment.  

Screening and Brief Intervention for High Risk Alcohol Use in Women of Childbearing Age
Steve Ondersma, PI. – This four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control awarded $399,396 to refine and optimize the delivery of computer-based interventions that reduce alcohol use. 

High Tech, High Touch (HT²)
Steve Ondersma, PI. – This $500,000 Michigan Health Endowment Grant involves the use of electronic messaging to help pregnant women struggling with substance use and mental illness. The project tests the feasibility and acceptability of personal, private and non-confrontational interventions delivered via smart phone, tablet or PC in the obstetrician's waiting room. The team includes MSU and U-M. 

Prenatal Substance Use Screening: Validation and Comparison of Promising Measures
Steve Ondersma. PI. – This $156,764 grant funds a three-site study led by Yale University, with additional sites at Harvard and WSU. The project will provide a head-to-head comparison of the best available screenings for prenatal substance use to better indentify women in need of help.  


Period of PURPLE Crying: Ann Stacks is Principal Investigator of a project funded by the Children's Trust Fund (CTF) of Michigan dealing with Shaken Baby Syndrome, the leading cause of abuse-related death among infants. The CTF is working with DMC hospitals to implement the Period of PURPLE Crying, the only evidence-based prevention program. Dr. Stacks is evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of the program and training community professionals to effectively teach parents about normal infant crying, consequences of shaking, and healthy ways to cope with and soothe crying.  

Assessment and Intervention for Perinatal Drug Use: Steve Ondersma is Principle Investigator of a  4-year, $1.73 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to test the effectiveness of his novel screening and intervention tool in reducing drug use in new mothers. The tool is low-cost, easy to administer, and designed to be effective even if the mother never confesses to drug use.  

Impact of Violence on Teen Risk Behaviors.  Stella Resko leads research studying how domestic violence, dating violence and youth community violence exposure affect substance abuse treatment and prevention in adolescents, as well as sexual risk-taking behaviors among adolescents and adult women.

Wayne County Baby Court: Ann Stacks is the University Partner and Program Evaluator for this project that was initially funded by the Centers for Disease Control and now funded by the Flinn Foundation.  Baby Court is a systems integration approach to child welfare where parent-infant dyads receive services from a collaborative team informed by the science of child development.

Computer-based Interventions to Reduce Alcohol Use in Pregnancy: Steve Ondersma is Principal Investigator on a 3-year pilot clinical trial funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to investigate how a screening and brief intervention delivered through a hand-held computer can change drinking behavior.  Dr. Ondersma uses the SBIRT (screening, brief intervention and referral for treatment) approach via smart phones and tablets to interact with high-risk mothers and help motivate them to change.

Teens at Risk: Prenatal Cocaine and Postnatal Challenges: John Hannigan is one of the Co-Investigators working with Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D. (Principal Investigator; Pediatrics) on a longitudinal 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 funded this project.

Developmental Impact of Prematurity.  Sarah Raz's leads a research project assesses the effects of adverse events occurring during pregnancy and delivery on cognitive, behavioral and neuropsychological outcome of the newborn.  Researching the impact of birth asphyxia, intrauterine growth retardation, neonatal respiratory distress, and other early insults on long-term outcomes provides knowledge about brain vulnerability and resilience during early developmental periods.