Melinda Kavanaugh, Ph.D., LCSW

Center Scientist
Social Work

Associate Professor
Helen Bader School of Social Welfare,
Department of Social Work

Interests & Expertise:
Dr. Melinda Kavanaugh’s research focuses on families where children and youth serve as caregivers to an ill family member. She is particularly interested in the impact of caregiving on youth physical, emotional and social development, and assessing how family context influences the reliance on youth as caregivers – including racial and ethnic differences in socioeconomic status and health care access across disease states. With the lack of programs and services for young caregivers, Dr. Kavanaugh’s practice focused, translational research is used to develop programming, supports, and inform policies targeting young caregivers and their families.
To see Dr. Kavanaugh’s full profile, click here. To see Dr. Kavanaugh’s CV, click here.

Current Projects:
Dr. Kavanaugh’s current studies include an evaluation of an inaugural 4-day respite camp for youth who have a family member with Huntington’s Disease; a national survey of social workers who serve families dealing with Huntington’s Disease; and a study of families across the US with ALS and their young caregiver, assessing the relationship between caregiving, family characteristics and support for youth as caregivers. Dr. Kavanaugh is also working with the ALS/MND Association in South Africa to develop pilot studies of youth caregiving in South Africa. Each of these studies is designed to examine the effects of caring on young caregivers’ social and emotional development, as well as effects of these dynamics on the family members who are being cared for and on the service providers working with these families.

Most Recent Publications:

Dondanville, D. S., Hanson-Kahn, A. K., Kavanaugh, M., Siskind, C. E., & Fanos, J. H. (2018, November). “This could be me”: exploring the impact of genetic risk for Huntington’s disease young caregivers. Journal of Community Genetics.

Kavanaugh, M., Howard, M., & Banker-Horner, L. (2018, January (1st Quarter/Winter)). Feasibility of a multidisciplinary caregiving training protocol for young caregivers in families with ALS. Social Work in Health Care57(1), 1-12.

Kavanaugh, M., Cho, C., Maeda, H., & Swope, C. (2017, August). “I am no longer alone”: Evaluation of the first North American camp for youth living in families with Huntington's disease. Children and Youth Services Review79, 325-332.

Kavanaugh, M. (2017). Families and ALS: A Guide for talking with and supporting children and youths.


Kavanaugh, M. (2017). Young caregivers need to be recognized. Vision, the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.