Children’s Mental Health is a Family Matter
Children’s emotional and behavioural functioning influences—and is influenced by—how families get along. Unfortunately, many families suffer adverse experiences that affect members’ relationships and mental health. These experiences can include physical abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, mental illness, parental incarceration, poverty and divorce. A higher number of such experiences are linked to poorer child outcomes. As well, family relationships tend to be more hostile and less sensitive in such settings.
To date, most research in child and family psychology has focused on one child or relationship system per family. But families are complex, and approaches to understanding and helping must account for this. Dr. Dillon Browne’s research expands the focus of study to entire families.
As Canada Research Chair in Child & Family Clinical Psychology, Browne uses a unique combination of laboratory methods, population surveys, intervention research and community partnerships to deepen our understanding of how adversity affects whole-family relationships and child development. He and his research team are also developing evidence-based treatments for whole families that struggle with the consequences of stress. They are applying and evaluating relationship-based approaches to child psychotherapy and family therapy while adapting existing community mental health interventions to whole families.
This research will have direct clinical benefits for the Canadian families who participate in Browne’s intervention studies. It will also inform policy in early childhood education, community services and children’s mental health care.