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Research Focus

  • Parental Behavior
  • Motivational Therapy
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Prenatal Drug Exposures


Strengthening Mental Health Service Utilization to Reduce Negative Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse: 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.

Coaching for Excellence in Early Childhood Education: Anna Miller, M.Ed., and Sharon Elliott (College of Education) lead this project assessing the feasibility and impact of on-site expert coaching/mentoring to assist early childhood educators bring high-quality teaching practices to their classrooms. This pilot project works with child care centers in the Woodward Corridor Early Childhood Education Consortium and is funded by the PNC Bank and will assess.    

Assessing Prenatal Marijuana Use.  Steve Ondersma is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop and test a technology-based screening and intervention program to decrease marijuana use during pregnancy. This is a Phase I clinical trial with 80 participants. The goal is to create a computerized, single-session screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (i.e., SBIRT) that can be used in any clinic, plus tailored text-message reminders during pregnancy to discourage marijuana use.

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.

Improving In-Pregnancy Alcohol Screening: John Hannigan with colleagues Lisa Chiodo (University of Massachusetts) and Robert Sokol (WSU C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development) are investigating implementation of an efficient screen for fetal risk drinking in pregnancy.  Funded by the WSU-HFHS Institute for Population Studies Health Assessment, Administration, Services and Economics (INPHAASE) and in collaboration with Dr. Shobah Mehta of Henry Ford Health System, the project educates nurses and staff about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and trains them to use the "TACER-3" screen as part of standard prenatal care in clinical settings, and assess its impact on pregnancy outcome.

Period of PURPLE Crying: Ann Stacks is Principal Investigator of this project which aims to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome. The project is funded by the Jewish fund and administered by Children's Trust Fund (CTF) of Michigan. 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 with the assistance of Beverly Weathington, training community professionals to work more effectively in teaching 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.  

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.

Promoting Behavioral Development in Children: John Hannigan and Beverly Weathington, M.S.W., Coordinator of the MPSI Healthier Urban Families outreach program, in collaboration with The Guidance Center, recently completed a project promoting development of social, cognitive, and motor skills in a community-based summer program for children. The project called CHAMPS – for Children Having Adventures through MPSI – had been funded by the Carls Foundation and the Colina Family Foundation.

Interventions for Teen Risk Behaviors.  Stella Resko conducts community-based prevention and intervention research, motivational interviewing and brief interventions to address adolescent violence exposure and perpetration, substance abuse treatment and prevention, and sexual risk-taking behaviors among adolescents and adult women,