Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life

Objective 3

In seeking to achieve my 3rd objective, I regularly develop and test interventions to promote parents’, and by extension, children’s mental health via randomized controlled trials (RCT) or quasi-experiments. Funded by several sources including ACCFCR and Frontiers of Innovation, I currently lead the Action Team on Triadic Attachment and Child Health (ATTACH) study, pilot testing an innovative intervention to promote reflective function of mothers affected by toxic stress. Our partners are Calgary Urban Project Society and Sonshine Women’s Shelter. On the strength of pilot findings, we intend to submit the full RCT proposal to CIHR this year. I am also working in close partnership with the Province of Alberta’s Child and Family Services and the Infant Mental Health Promotion Program of the Hospital for Sick Children on my Chair-funded Helping Early Adjustment and Relationships to Thrive (HEART) Study. This is an evaluation of a developmental support intervention to promote mental health of children (6 months to 5 years of age) in the foster care system. We are currently seeking ethics approval and anticipate collecting not only standard social-emotional, cognitive and language measures as outcomes, but also hair samples for cortisol assay. I also have a RCT in review at CIHR as Principal Investigator. Called VID-KIDS, this project builds on my successful intervention pilot (funded by CIHR) that promoted high quality mother-infant relationships between mothers affected by postpartum depression and their infants. This is important, as one of the theorized mechanisms for the association between postpartum depression and children’s poor neurodevelopment outcomes is reduced quality maternal-infant relationships, which the intervention addresses.