Dr. Perry-Jenkin’s research expertise is in the area parent’s work conditions, parental mental health, parenting and children’s developmental outcomes. Specifically, she is interested in examining how social and environmental stress in the lives of low-income, marginalized families shapes the mental and physical health of mothers, fathers and children. She uses a biopsychosocial model of development to inform her research and is interested in the ways which toxic stress predicts both physiological and behavioral outcomes in parents and children. She has 25 years of experience conducting research with working-class and working-poor families and has been effective in conducting multi-method, longitudinal studies with high participant retention. She has expertise conducting surveys, face-to-face, semi-structured interviews, and qualitative interviews with family members, as well as experience with observational parent-child and mother-father interactional data. Dr. Perry-Jenkins has skill using hierarchical linear modeling, group-based modeling and structural equation modeling; all important techniques for analyzing longitudinal developmental data. She is the director of the Center for Research on Families at UMass Amherst, an interdisciplinary center aimed at conducting and disseminating research focused on supporting families. She has been involved in the development of workplace, state and federal level policies to support working families and is currently developing capacity for a Research-Community Partnership to address the high levels of poverty and risks for maternal and child health in a Springfield MA, a poor, mid-sized city struggling with unemployment, poor schools and violence.
My current research focuses on developing early interventions to prevent prenatal depression and stress among vulnerable, first time parents. Beginning in utero, maternal depression and the associated stress hormone, cortisol, interfere with optimal child development. High levels of cortisol in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy are associated with obstetric complications, such as pre-term birth and low birth weight. Despite evidence that many women develop depression early in pregnancy, and that the second trimester is a particularly sensitive period for fetal neurobehavioral development, most studies have focused on interventions for expectant mothers that occur late in the third trimester of pregnancy or after childbirth. We propose to address this gap in perinatal care by evaluating the feasibility of a community-based, preventative intervention to reduce maternal depression and stress in the second trimester of pregnancy.
- B.S. The University of Massachusetts Amherst Psychology
- M.S. The Pennsylvania State University Human Development and Family Studies
- Ph.D The Pennsylvania State University Human Development and Family Studies