NIH Grant to Study Parent-Infant Relationships

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(photo courtesy University of Notre Dame) (photo courtesy University of Notre Dame)

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3 million grant to the University of Notre Dame. The university says researchers will use the funding for a first-of-its-kind study of the relationships between parents and infants.

The five-year Notre Dame Families and Babies Study will be conducted through the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families on the South Bend campus. The university says the research will focus on babies living with their married or co-habiting parents, studying the stability of the parents' relationship and its effect on the baby's well being. 

Notre Dame says the parents take part in a program "designed to encourage healthy parenting and communication."

"The parent program we are using has been shown to be highly effective, not only in the U.S. but also internationally," said Julie Braungart-Rieker, director of the Shaw Center. "But so far, only mothers have been included in this program. Because we believe that dads are very important to children, we will include dads in our parent program as well as moms."

About 400 couples in the South Bend and Fort Wayne areas will be recruited for the study. The couples must have infants six months old or younger or must be currently pregnant. The study will include the families making trips to the Shaw Center and researchers visiting the couples at home.

"How couples communicate during infancy is not often considered as an important element of children’s well being," said Braungart-Rieker. "However, we know from research that certain kinds of parent conflict can be very stressful to children, even during infancy. So our couples communication program has been redesigned to help couples learn positive communication skills during a time when family life can be somewhat stressful and unpredictable."

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