Research

Research

 

Our research projects focus on the foundations and pathways of positive development and mental health in children and adolescents of all backgrounds. For a full list of our publications, click here.

 

Supporting Prosociality and Resilience in Newcomer Transitions (SPRINT)

 

Supporting Prosociality and Resilience in Newcomer Transitions (SPRINT)
Supporting Prosociality and Resilience in Newcomer Transitions (SPRINT)

With many refugees arriving in Canada, it is important to understand how to best help refugee children and families meaningfully integrate and resettle. What are refugee children’s and caregivers’ experiences surrounding support, positive development, and challenging situations during and after their transition? What personal characteristics, interpersonal experiences, and social settings make the transition easier for some and harder for others? How do these factors affect refugee children’s healthy development? SPRINT is a community-based project that collects information on emotional and social development, mental health, and protective factors using a multi-method, multi-informant approach. With the knowledge gained from this research and the help of our community partners, we are developing and implementing a training initiative for refugee caregivers and practitioners who work with refugee families to promote the mental health and development of refugee families. This includes culturally sensitive training from our team of clinical and child development specialists to promote caregiving strategies and support, coping skills, and positive child development within the context of a resettlement experience. We are also implementing a community-focused knowledge development and exchange strategy to ensure that our findings reach families in need. 

 

Research and Practice Partnership: Building Awareness and Increasing Social-Emotional Capacity in the Early Years (RAISE)

 

 Building Awareness and Increasing Social-Emotional Capacity in the Early Years (RAISE)
Research and Practice Partnership: Building Awareness and Increasing Social-Emotional Capacity in the Early Years (RAISE)

Child emotional and behavioural challenges are significant health issues in Canada. This project aims to address these challenges by promoting children’s social-emotional development and mental health (e.g., emotion regulation, sympathy, and self-reflection) using a clinical-developmental and trauma-informed approach. RAISE is part of a multidisciplinary collaboration between our research team and community partners in the Early Years sector in the Peel region (e.g., practitioners, service providers, and policymakers) and nationally. The goals of the project are to describe and evaluate: 1) the current mental health, social-emotional development, and needs of children and caregivers living in the Peel region and 2) the efficacy of a research-based training initiative using online videos and virtual live group sessions delivered to caregivers and Early Years sector practitioners. The training is aimed at supporting caregivers’ and practitioners’ ability to promote social-emotional capacities and mental health in young children, the caregiver–child relationship, and caregiver mental health. The overarching objective is to show that our research-informed social-emotional and clinical training approach can be adapted to diverse settings with impact. This interdisciplinary, boundless partnership also provides an innovative venue to increase communication and collaboration between research, practice, and policy leaders, and to assess the strengths and challenges related to the implementation of our research-based training initiatives in the Peel region and nationally.

 

Adversity and the Development of Affective and Prosocial Trajectories (ADAPT)

 

Adversity and the Development of Affective and Prosocial Trajectories (ADAPT)
Adversity and the Development of Affective and Prosocial Trajectories (ADAPT)

How do kind emotions and behaviours develop across the early years? Do early emotional experiences affect behaviour trajectories? How does exposure to adversity, such as poverty, family conflict, and community violence, affect pathways of kindness? These are the core questions of ADAPT. They are timely because our understanding of the origins and antecedents of kindness is limited. Simultaneously, we live in times of increasing adversity, such as exposure to conflict, disagreement, and violence. The development of kindness is foundational for children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing and positive relationships, and thus peace in our communities. Our previous research has shown that kind, prosocial emotions, such as sympathy, motivate kindness. For this study, we adopt a longitudinal design to track the trajectories of kind emotions and behaviours in children 2 to 6 years of age and understand how pathways and their relations differ for children facing adversity in the family (e.g., parental conflict) and/or in the community (e.g., neighborhood violence). We use a multi-method, multi-informant approach including observations, behavioural tasks, physiological assessments, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. Ultimately, this study will help us understand the emergence and predictors of kindness across varying contexts of adversity. Working in partnership with community leaders and practitioners, findings from our research will inform developmentally sensitive strategies that will nurture kindness in children with diverse needs.

 

Longitudinal Study of Emotions, Aggression, and Physiology (LEAP)

 

Longitudinal Study of Emotions, Aggression, and Physiology (LEAP)
Longitudinal Study of Emotions, Aggression, and Physiology (LEAP)

The emotions that children feel after treating others unfairly or causing others harm have important implications for how they interact with their peers. For example, feelings of guilt and sympathy make children less likely to act aggressively. However, we know relatively little about why some children, but not others, feel bad or sad after harming others. Children’s physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate reactivity) and regulation during social conflicts may help explain differences in their emotional and behavioural experiences. Drawing from a large community sample of 4- and 8-year-olds, this 4-year longitudinal study is examining children’s physiological activity and self-reported emotions in response to hypothetical social conflicts to understand how changes in emotions and physiology across childhood and early adolescence contribute to the development of kind emotions and aggressive tendencies. This work also includes clinical samples of children from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Centre for Community Mental Health who struggle with behavioural and emotional challenges to better understand the aggressive pathways of children with different needs. Our ultimate goal is to reduce childhood aggression by informing new treatment strategies targeting physiological and emotional processes that are age appropriate and tailored to the unique and diverse emotional and behavioural needs of children.