Many children are exposed to potentially traumatic events such as car crashes, the sudden loss of a loved one, disaster, and violence. While most children recover well, between 15 and 20% of those exposed to severe stressors develop persistent posttraumatic stress symptoms.
The Trauma Recovery Lab within University of Melbourne’s Child Health and Wellbeing Program aims to understand and facilitate children’s and families’ recovery from traumatic stress. We use a mix of research methods with an emphasis on quantitative, observational approaches (e.g., the EAR, a device to sample sounds in participants’ daily lives), combined with qualitative, interview research and an interest in young people from around the globe.
The Lab’s research has 4 focus areas: 1) the role of emergency professionals in trauma & recovery; 2) the role of family members in trauma & recovery; 3) the consequences of fatal domestic violence; and 4) psychosocial care for children and families in post-conflict areas.
Emergency professional – child interaction We study how emergency professionals provide ‘psychological first aid’ to children, what their views on psychological aspects of their work are, and which questions they have. Based on an interview project with staff of the Emergency Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and contacts with other groups of emergency professionals, we currently conduct a global study of professionals’ knowledge and use of psychological first aid principles when caring for children and their families.
Parent – child interaction We conduct studies to a) describe the nature and correlates of parental communication with children in the aftermath of a traumatic event; b) identify differences between parent-child communication after trauma and in normal situations; c) understand how patterns of parent-child communication shortly after are related to children’s long-term recovery. Data collection takes place at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and in general population samples.
Fatal domestic violence We investigate the circumstances, care trajectories and outcomes of children who have been bereaved by parental intimate partner homicide. We also study predictors of fatal child maltreatment, and how professionals may be able to intervene. The basis of our studies lie in the Netherlands, but we are extending these to Australia and the UK as well.
Psychosocial care in post-conflict areas We are developing this new area with the goal of testing and improving the evidence base for psychosocial care programs in post-conflict areas. We are currently conducting a literature review and consulting with professionals in the field to develop further projects.
Our research and support for research translation is both national and international (the US, UK, South-Africa, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories, India, the Netherlands and Switzerland are some of the countries where we’ve worked).
We would love to extend our team! There are a number of opportunities, e.g.:
- Honours/PhD research projects: Honours, PhDs with a focus on mental health, child development, communication, social media, statistics/methodology, etc.
- International Postdoc projects: develop your Marie-Curie, Fullbright, Endeavour or equivalent proposal with us
- Internships: we welcome interns from any discipline (from history to industrial design and from engineering to journalism)
- Research translation & communication projects: we collaborate with communities and professionals who want to improve children’s mental health by gathering, translating and/or communicating research findings.
Interested? Please get in touch by sending your CV and a short description of your motivation/ideas to Eva Alisic (initial+lastname as one word at unimelb dot edu dot au)
Looking for other ways to help? Let us know what you would like to do!