“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” (Frederick Douglass)
Detroit Family Resilience Project (DFRP)
The Detroit Family Resilience Project is a partnership with Brilliant Detroit, an organization devoted to kid-success neighborhoods. Together, we are investigating mental health needs in Brilliant Detroit's current neighborhoods and seeking to better understand barriers to service utilization. In addition, through this project, we are working with young families to learn more about racial socialization processes as they occur in early childhood. We hypothesize that, just as they do for older children, racial socialization strategies and their precursors support pathways of resilience for young children's mental health.
Community Mental Health
In the Community Mental Health Study, our team partnered the families of Brilliant Detroit to better understand the barriers associated with therapy and mental health support. In addition to interviews and focus group participation, parents also completed questionnaires on depression and PTSD, family cohesion, child behavior, and family routines and rituals. This study demonstrated that certain coping strategies buffer the effects between trauma and perceptions of barriers to mental health treatment.
Racial Socialization in Early Childhood and Associations with Child Emotion Regulation
In the racial socialization in early childhood and associations with child emotion regulation study, our team partnered with families at Brilliant Detroit to learn more about Black mother's perceptions of race and precursors to "the talk" for Black adolescents. We spoke with mothers about their experiences with race and how race relates to their parenting practices. Mother-child dyads completed the Three-Bag Task Assessment (Brandy-Smith et al., 1999) and children participated in three Laboratory Temperament Assessment Battery tasks ( Lab-Tab, Goldsmith & Rothbart, 1991) to measure frustration, persistence, and control. Our findings showed that mothers utilize racial socialization principles and fostered racial identity development in early childhood.
Parenting during COVID-19
In partnership with Brilliant Detroit families, the Family Resilience Lab has been facilitating online virtual workshops for parents during the the COVID-19 global pandemic. Sessions are recorded to both inform future service and supports of the Brilliant Detroit sites, and to investigate the following broad research questions: What does parenting during a global pandemic look like? What are the possible shifts that have occurred? What does coping look like in your family? Workshops are on-going through the fall and cover topics including self-care and wellness, emotion processing, coping with stress, and more.
Brilliant Joy in a Box
Together with Ball State University, Brilliant Detroit, and Great Start Wayne county, the lab launched the Brilliant Joy in a Box project. The purpose of this project is to capture and cultivate joy with Detroit families as we continue to navigate the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. For six months, families receive a monthly Because Of Them We Can Box. Boxes are strategically designed by and for Black families to highlight and teach about historical icons, Black history themes, and capture joy. Broadly, the research questions look to understand: 1) What is the role of joy in family processes and emotion regulation? 2) Is there a relationship between joy and mental health outcomes? 3) How are families using the box contents? This mixed-methods study will employ creative data collection approaches, including Zoom video visits and text messaging.
Toddlers' Emotional Development in Young Families (TEDY)
In the TEDY Study, our team partnered with the Arab American Chaldean Council WIC Offices to meet families of 2-year-old children, their mothers, and coparents (fathers, grandmothers, for example). We invited families into our lab to learn more about them! We were especially interested in emerging toddler emotion regulation in this study. The toddlers complete two Laboratory Temperament Assessment Battery tasks (Lab-TAB, Goldsmith & Rothbart, 1991) eliciting joy and frustration, and our team coded these tasks for emotionality and coping. We also measured child and parent physiology during these tasks. In addition, families participated in three tasks together: one where they played, one where they completed a low-stress task together, and one where they reunited after a separation task. The parents also completed questionnaires on depression and PTSD, family cohesion, child behavior, and family routines and rituals. This study demonstrated that parent and family processes, like family rituals, buffer the association between parental PTSD and child dysregulation.
Creating Connections and the BUILD Projects are partnerships between the Family Resilience Lab and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM). We developed a tablet-based parenting intervention delivered at 2-week-old infants' well visits that emphasizes the role that infant soothing and early booksharing together can play in promoting bonding between parent and child. The parenting intervention incorporates elements of the UWSEM's early literacy program, Little Steps, and the bestselling parenting book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. We boosted the intervention messages for 4 months with tailored text messages to parents. At the end of 4 months, we visited with mothers and infants to learn about the baby's emotional development and observe parent and child together in play and booksharing tasks. Those interactions have been coded for infant-directed speech, or "parentese." This group also pilot tested a cutting edge research procedure utilizing the EAR (Electronic Activated Recorder): 4 month old infants were outfitted with iPods that periodically turned on to record the environmental sounds the baby hears. Our findings show that the intervention was effective: intervention families had more books in the home at the time of the follow-up and engaged in more overall speech and more infant-directed speech with their children.