The forest and the trees: Arts and Letters research provides complementary angles on childhood adversity

Author: Brendan O'Shaughnessy

Sarah Mustillo

“There’s a large body of research on childhood adversity in sociology and psychology and medicine,” said Sarah Mustillo, a sociologist and the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. “But the methods we are using are so basic they inhibit our ability to ask deeper, more meaningful questions about it.”

Kristin Valentino, the director of the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families and an associate professor of psychology, believes that helping kids identify and express their emotions with their mothers helps children to develop emotion regulation and to improve the parent-child relationship. Her research is measuring whether sensitive and supportive discussion of these memories and emotions can be a buffering factor that helps the children overcome the adversity they have experienced, as well as prevent it from recurring.

If Valentino’s project concerns the care of a few hundred trees, then the national study is the 30,000-foot view of the forest. And that is exactly the kind of research done by Sarah Mustillo, a sociologist and the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters.

To read more about how their research is helping children, click or tap here.