Helping nurses identify and report sentinel injuries of child abuse in infants

Cleek, E. A., Totka, J. P., Sheets, L. K., Mersky, J. P., Haglund, K. L. (2022). Sentinel injuries (SIs) are some of the earliest and most readily identifiable red flags of child abuse. SIs are unexpected bruising or intra-oral injuries in premobile infants and highly correlated with child abuse. However, SIs are not always recognized and reported as red flags of child abuse. Infants are left at risk for continued harm when SIs are not identified and reported. Although increasing nurses’ knowledge of SIs is important, child abuse researchers and behavioral theorists have identified that knowledge alone does not predict nurses’ behaviors when identifying and reporting suspected child abuse.

Advancing research on perinatal depression trajectories

Choi, C., Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E., & Goyal, D. (2022). The current study aimed to describe and predict perinatal depression trajectories in a sample of low-income women from the first trimester of pregnancy to six months postpartum. The study sample consisted of 899 women in Wisconsin who received home visiting services. Eligible participants were screened for depressive symptoms by home visitors using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at least three times across four time periods from the first trimester of pregnancy to six months postpartum.

Intergenerational effects of mothers’ adverse childhood experiences on children’s social-emotional development

Zhang, L., Mersky, J. P., & Plummer Lee, C. (2022). Despite the persistent hypothesis that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have intergenerational implications, empirical research documenting the effects and the mechanisms of transmission remains underdeveloped. This study examined the intergenerational effects of mothers’ adverse childhood experiences on their offspring’s social-emotional development and whether the association was mediated by mothers’ mental health, adult adversity, and perceptions of paternal involvement.

Assessing polyvictimization in a family justice center: Lessons learned from a demonstration project

Romain Dagenhardt, D., Mersky, J.P., Topitzes, J., Schubert, E., & Krushas, A. (2021). There is a growing interest in developing comprehensive assessments that measure intimate partner violence (IPV) alongside other adverse events that correlate with IPV and compound its effects. One promising line of research in this area has focused on the impact of exposure to multiple types of victimization, i.e., polyvictimization. The purpose of this study is to examine the experience of administration of a polyvictimization tool from staff and client perspectives in order to inform future tool developments and assessment procedures.

A brief measure of workplace environment for health and human service professionals

Janczewski, C. E., Mersky, J. P., & Plummer Lee, C. (2021). Organizational characteristics are important predictors of workplace outcomes, but the length and complexity of validated instruments restrict their use in research and practice. This study tested a brief Measure of Work Environment (MWE) using data from 718 child welfare and 349 home visiting professionals.

A mutual process of healing self and healing the community

Mueller, D., Bacalso, E., Ortega‐Williams, A., Pate Jr, D. J., & Topitzes, J. (2021). Journal of Community Psychology.

Residents of urban American neighborhoods facing economic hardship often experience individual and collective adversities at high levels. This study explores how racially diverse adults experience stress, adversity, and trauma, and how they cope and heal in the context of their environment.

Prevalence and correlates of vaccine hesitancy in a sample of low-income mothers

Gilbert, R., Mersky, J. P., & Plummer Lee, C. (2021). Preventive Medicine Reports.
The US is facing a rise in vaccine hesitancy, delay, and refusal, though little is known about these outcomes in socio-economically disadvantaged populations. This study examines the prevalence and correlates of vaccine attitudes and behaviors in a diverse cohort of low-income mothers receiving home visiting services.

Toward the Assessment of Adverse Adult Experiences: An Initial Validation Study of the Adult Experiences Survey

Mersky, J. P., Plummer Lee, C., & Janczewski, C. E. (2020). Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
The current investigation is a validation study of the Adult Experiences Survey, a seminal assessment of adverse adult experiences. Data were collected between July 2015 and June 2019 from a sample of 1,747 low-income women as part of a longitudinal study in Wisconsin, United States. Analyses of 10 adversities were conducted to assess item prevalence and internal consistency in the full sample and test-retest reliability in a subsample of 90 participants.

Validity of an expanded assessment of adverse childhood experiences: A replication study

Choi, C., Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E., Plummer Lee, C., Davies, W. H., & Lang, A. C. (2020). Research has shown unequivocally that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are prevalent and consequential, but the field lacks consensus around how they should be measured. This replication study reexamined the construct and concurrent validity of the Childhood Experiences Survey (CES), an expanded assessment of 10 conventional ACEs and seven novel childhood adversities.

Adverse childhood experiences and psychological well-being in a rural sample of Chinese young adults

Zhang, L., Mersky, J. P., & Topitzes, J. (2020). International interest in adverse childhood experiences (ACE) is on the rise. In China, recent research has explored the effects of ACEs on health-related outcomes, but little is known about how ACEs impact the psychological functioning of rural Chinese youth as they make transition to adulthood. This study is aimed to assess the prevalence and psychological consequences of ACEs among a group of rural Chinese young adults.

Bidirectional Relations between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Children’s Behavioral Problems

Zhang, L., & Mersky, J. P. (2020). Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase the risk of poor health and well-being, yet less is known about the pathways through which these life outcomes emerge….Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to explore bidirectional relations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and children’s behavioral problems in a sample of low-income children.

Childhood polyvictimization and marijuana use trajectories

Plummer Lee, C., Mersky, J. P., Marsee, I., & Fuemmeler, B. (2020). Despite public sentiment to the contrary, recreational marijuana use is deleterious to adolescent health and development. Prospective studies of marijuana use trajectories and their predictors are needed to differentiate risk profiles and inform intervention strategies. Using data on 15,960 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, variable-centered approaches were used to examine the impact of childhood polyvictimization on marijuana onset, marijuana use from age 15 to 24 years, and marijuana dependence symptoms.

Home Visiting Effects on Breastfeeding and Bedsharing in a Low-Income Sample

Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C.E., Plummer Lee, C., Gilbert, R.M., McAtee, C., and Yasin, T. (2020). Research suggests that home visiting interventions can promote breastfeeding initiation, though their effects on breastfeeding continuation are unclear. No known studies have assessed the impact of home visiting on bedsharing. This study aims to test the effects of home visiting on breastfeeding and bedsharing in a low-income, urban sample in the United States.

Translating and Implementing Evidence-Based Mental Health Services in Child Welfare

Mersky, J.P., Topitzes, J., Janczewski, C.E., Plummer Lee, C., McGaughey, G., & McNeil, C.B. (2020). Children in the child welfare system with mental health difficulties seldom receive evidence-based treatment (EBT) despite the abundance of validated interventions that exist. This manuscript describes two projects aimed at increasing access to EBTs. The first is a completed field trial of an adapted parent–child interaction therapy intervention with foster-parent child dyads…

Trauma-responsive child welfare services: A mixed methods study assessing safety, stability and permanency

Topitzes, J., Grove, T., Pangratz, S, Meyer, E. E., & Sprague, C. M. (2019). Trauma-informed or trauma-responsive programming has spread across many service sectors including child welfare. However, only a few evaluations of such child welfare programs have been published. The current mixed methods study assessed a trauma-responsive child welfare program implemented within a private agency located in the Midwest region of the U.S. The intervention combined specialized training, assessment, case planning, and case consultation into a trauma-responsive case management model…

Brief, group-based parent-child interaction therapy: Examination of treatment attrition, non-adherence, and non-response

Blair, K., Topitzes, J., & Mersky, J. P. (2019). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) has been shown to reduce challenging child behavior and improve parenting skills, yet treatment attrition, non-adherence and non-response remain matters of concern. This study analyzes rates and factors associated with attrition, non-adherence, and non-response using data from a randomized controlled trial of foster parent-child dyads who received brief, group-based PCIT…

Implementing Trauma Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (T‐SBIRT) within employment services: A feasibility trial

Topitzes, J., Mersky, J. P., Mueller, D. J., Bacalso, E., & Williams, C. (2019). Implementing Trauma Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (T‐SBIRT) within employment services: A feasibility trial. Research suggests that low‐income adults accessing employment services have experienced high levels of trauma exposure and associated consequences. Moreover, the health‐related effects of trauma undermine employment and employability. A trauma‐informed protocol—trauma screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment or T‐SBIRT—was therefore implemented within employment service programs serving low‐income urban residents…

Applied and translational research on trauma-responsive programs and policy: Introduction to a special issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology

Herrenkohl, T. I., Mersky, J. P., & Topitzes, J. (2019). Applied and translational research on trauma-responsive programs and policy: Introduction to a special issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology. The special issue highlights work across systems that include child welfare, education, juvenile justice and health, as well as agencies serving adults who are at‐risk for high levels of childhood and adult trauma exposure. While articles appearing in the special issue are not divided equally across these systems, they cover important and overlapping concepts within each…

Promoting evidence-based, trauma-informed social work practice

Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Britz, L. (2019). Given the human costs of psychological trauma, social workers should be well versed in trauma-informed care (TIC). This framework helps guide the efforts of systems, organizations, and practitioners toward reducing trauma or mitigating its effects…

Client and provider discomfort with an adverse childhood experiences survey

Mersky, J. P., Plummer Lee, C., & Gilbert, R. M. (2019). Many service providers report concerns that questions about adverse events may upset clients. Studies indicate that most survey respondents answer sensitive questions without experiencing distress, although little is known about the prevalence or correlates of clients’ discomfort when they are asked similar questions by direct care providers, such as home visitors…

Do parents’ adverse childhood experiences influence treatment responses to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy? An exploratory study with a child welfare sample

Blair, K., Topitzes, J., & Mersky, J. P. (2019). This exploratory study of 23 parent–child dyads receiving child welfare services examined the association between the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) parents reported and their children’s externalizing behaviors. We also assessed whether the effects of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) on externalizing behaviors varied by parents’ ACE histories…

Those who disappear and those who say goodbye: Patterns of attrition in long-term home visiting

Janczewski, C. E., Mersky, J. P., & Brondino, M. J. (2019). Most evidence-based home visiting models are designed to support families from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, though programs often struggle to retain families for this long. Previous research on client and program factors that predict attrition has produced mixed results, which may be partly because attrition is typically conceptualized as a homogeneous phenomenon…

Adverse childhood experiences and postpartum depression in home visiting programs: Prevalence, association, and mediating mechanisms

Mersky, J. P., & Janczewski, C. E. (2018). Adverse childhood experiences and postpartum depression in home visiting programs: Prevalence, association, and mediating mechanisms. Maternal and Child Health Journal. Objectives In this study, we examined the prevalence of postpartum depression (PPD) and its association with select demographic factors and antenatal conditions. We also investigated whether greater exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is associated with PPD, and if antenatal conditions mediate the ACE-PPD relationship…

Mediational pathways of meditation and exercise on mental health and perceived stress: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Health Psychology

Goldstein E, Topitzes J, Brown RL, et al. (2018). This study investigated the effects of mindfulness and exercise training on indicators of mental health and stress by examining shared mediators of program effects. Community-recruited adults, (N = 413), were randomized into one of three conditions: (a) mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), (b) moderate intensity exercise, or (c) wait-list control.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences: Findings from a Low-Income Sample of U.S. Women

Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E. (2018). Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences: Findings from a Low-Income Sample of U.S. Women. Child Abuse and Neglect.

Despite great interest in adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), there has been limited research on racial and ethnic differences in their prevalence. Prior research in the United States suggests that the prevalence of ACEs varies along socioeconomic lines, but it is …

Translating Evidence-Based Treatments into Child Welfare Services Through Community-University Partnerships: A Case Example of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Blair, K. (2017). Children served by the child welfare system count among society’s most vulnerable members given their history of abuse, neglect, and other potentially traumatic experiences. Once they enter the system, however, these children seldom receive empirically validated interventions to mitigate the effects of trauma. This article highlights the promise of parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based treatment (EBT) for trauma-exposed children in the child welfare system…

Complementing SBIRT for Alcohol Misuse with SBIRT for Trauma: A Feasibility Study

Topitzes, J., Berger, L., Otto-Salaj, L., Mersky, J.P., Weeks, F., Ford, J. (2017). Reducing alcohol misuse is a priority for U.S. health officials considering that misuse of alcohol is a leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality. Consequently, health centers are routinely integrating Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for alcohol misuse within usual care. Although SBIRT is well validated among general patient samples, results have not generalized to drinkers …