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Video: Psychologist Kristin Valentino on autobiographical memory and child development

Author: Todd Boruff

 

“I'm interested not only in identifying what are the outcomes associated with child maltreatment but also what can we do to intervene and help prevent child maltreatment from occurring in the first place.” 

— Kristin Valentino

Kristin Valentino is the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Associate Professor of Psychology. Her research interests include child development and child psychopathology. More information can be found at her faculty page.


Video Transcript

My research focuses on child development and child psychopathology. A lot of my work focuses on the development of autobiographical memory among children who have experienced abuse and neglect and I'm very interested in understanding how parents influence what their children remember and how they remember it.

Autobiographical memory is really important in socio-emotional development and self-esteem and self-concept and how we understand ourselves and it relates to risk for psychopathology. I'm interested not only in identifying what are the outcomes associated with child maltreatment but also what can we do to intervene and help prevent child maltreatment from occurring in the first place or even, when it has occurred, what can we do to intervene to make sure it doesn't lead to all these negative developmental outcomes.

At Notre Dame I've developed a brief intervention for maltreated preschool aged children and their mothers and we're trying to focus on teaching moms how to ask kids questions about how they're feeling, help kids learn how to identify their emotions, and we spend a lot of time trying to help moms communicate to kids how to feel better and the things that we can do to cope with our emotions that are adaptive and positive.

Initially I got a grant from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at Notre Dame and they funded a small pilot project where I was able to test the intervention. Over the short term we were able to teach our maltreating moms all the skills that we were looking to see if we could teach them, so they became better able at talking with their children, asking them questions about past emotional experiences, and we also saw that children were much better at being able to identify their own feelings.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded a five-year project so that we could evaluate this brief intervention in a randomized clinical trial, so we're studying how the intervention works in the short-term and then we're also following up six months and one year later because we want to make sure that, even if the intervention looks good initially, that its really leading to long-term lasting benefits in both their cognitive and social-emotional development and also in their physical development as well.

I run all of my research out of the Shaw Center for Children and Families and this is a great setup for the type of work that I do because the Center itself is located in the community, just about a mile away from the main campus of Notre Dame, but we're located on a bus line and it's really accessible for a wide range of families. The mission of Notre Dame really fits with wanting to help vulnerable populations, help underserved populations, and when we think about kids who've experienced abuse and neglect, that is a very underserved population, and so in terms of student interest, in terms of faculty support and institutional support, Notre Dame's a great place to do this type of work.