Maureen Perry-Jenkins Honored by NCFR for Outstanding Scholarship

Faculty member and director of the Center for Research on Families, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Ernest W. Burgess Award by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). This award recognizes an NCFR member's outstanding scholarly achievement in the study of families. Perry-Jenkins is also honored for her design and execution of a research program that has opened new dimensions, contributing important theories and research to the family field.

Perry-Jenkins is nationally recognized for her research examining two important aspects of the individual, family and work. She explores how these subjects intersect in a person’s life, lead to well-being, and shape family systems of parents and children. She is interested in uncovering how economic inequalities affect the mental health and relationships of working-class and low-income families.

The Work and Family Transitions Project (WFTP), directed by Perry-Jenkins and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, is a longitudinal research project that examines how work conditions and policies affect the well-being of new parents transitioning to parenthood. The first WFTP study, “Working-Class Women: Negotiating Jobs and Parenthood,” examines how couples and single mothers cope with becoming new parents and the return to paid employment. The research team is examining how conditions of low-income jobs—such as flexibility, parental leave, and sick time—predict the mental health outcomes of both mothers and fathers as well as their children’s social and cognitive outcomes.

The second WFTP study, “New Parents’ Mental Health in Socio-cultural Context,” explores the effects of work on parents’ mental health, racial and ethnic differences in women’s perinatal depression, linkages between parenting styles and children’s mental health and cognitive functioning, and children’s sibling relationships. The rich data provided from parents, children, teachers, and secondary caregivers has created a unique opportunity to delve into the varied and complex factors that shape the experiences and well-being of parents and their children.

As part of a recent UMass Life Science Moment Fund Award, Perry-Jenkins has partnered with Nancy Byatt from UMass Medical School to conduct a community-based study to adapt and test the feasibility of a group-based intervention aimed at reducing depression and stress among low-income new mothers and their partners early in pregnancy. Currently, there is great disparity between the rates of perinatal depression among low-income and middle-class mothers, with low-income mothers experiencing poorer mental health. One reason for this disparity is due to more parenting stressors, which may be affecting their mothers' and fathers' mental health and the healthy development of their child.

Perry-Jenkins was named an NCFR Fellow in 2014 and served as a member of the NCFR Board of Directors and as program chair of the 2017 NCFR Annual Conference. She is also a member of the Conference Planning Committee for the Work and Family Researchers Network, a new organization aimed at highlighting the cross-disciplinary research on work and family.

Perry-Jenkins will present the Burgess Award Address during the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference held Nov. 7 - 10 in San Diego.