SOUTH BEND - Research on the effects of poverty or mistreatment on children has resulted in another large grant for a University of Notre Dame psychologist. Kristin Valentino was awarded $2.7 million from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for her work: "Pathways Linking Early Adversity and Support to Behavior and Physical Health." 

Valentino was awarded $3 million from the same institute in 2013 for her work on a new intervention to improve communication between maltreated children and their mothers. 

“It is very exciting to have NICHD fund this research and provide continued support to follow these children and families five years after we first started working with them,” Valentino said. “This grant allows us to determine whether our intervention has led to long-term positive benefits for children’s development and health.”

The intervention taught mothers how to openly interact with their children about emotional experiences, which found that it does improve maternal support and is linked to improvements in cognitive and emotional consequences. 

“This grant will address important research questions regarding the lasting impact of our intervention and the mechanisms that increase or decrease risk for behavioral and physical health among families,” she said. “It will also have important implications for clinical practice and policies to support children and families involved in the child welfare system.”

Valentino's latest 5-year project will involve 240 mother-child groups who were involved in her previous study when the children were between the ages of 3 and 6. The families will partake in follow-up assessments, separated by a year, when the kids are between 8-11. Valentino hopes to understand how the early adversity affects development and then implement new policies to improve their quality of life.