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Making the race fair for young children at risk: a targeted prevention approach to reducing child emotional and behaviour problems

Principal Investigator:
  • Teresa Bennett, McMaster University
Team Members:
  • Katholiki Georgiades, McMaster University
  • Andrea Gonzalez, McMaster University
  • Ellen Lipman, McMaster University
  • Magdalena Janus, McMaster University
  • Charlotte Waddell, Simon Fraser University
  • John McLennan, University of Calgary
  • Michael Boyle, McMaster University
  • John Cairney, McMaster University
  • James Dunn, McMaster University

Project Overview

One of the largest predictors of mental illness is childhood emotional and behavioural problems (EBP, e.g., aggression, anxiety, depression), which occur in 12-26% of children under age 6 years. There is an urgent need for early interventions that prevent the onset of EBP in young children. For this project, Principle investigator Teresa Bennett and her team will implement and study the Family Check-Up (FCU) as a targeted child mental health prevention program within a Canadian setting. The FCU is a brief, evidence-based intervention that incorporates individualized assessment, motivational interviewing and other services. It has demonstrated improvements in child EBP, parenting and parental depression in US studies. However, it is not known if it will have the same impact in Canada, nor understood how its effects on caregivers’ and children’s brain- and stress responses lead to improved child and family mental health.  In partnership with McMaster Children’s Hospital, the team is implementing and evaluating the effects of the FCU as an evidence-based prevention model that engages families and communities in reducing the burden of childhood EBP. They are developing an innovative clinical research program that studies its effects on children’s developing self-regulation and stress responses as a pathway to improved mental health. This will fill the crucial health services gap faced by children at greatest risk of falling furthest behind due to childhood-onset mental illness.