December 22, 2010

Psychology professors Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald

Psychology professors Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald make mental health a family affair – they are husband and wife as well as co-founders and co-directors of the Family Research Center in Dedman College. Their research focuses on family violence, children’s responses to marital conflict, developing interventions and assisting victims of violence.

Their newest study finds that mothers who live in poverty and have abused their children can stop if they are taught parenting skills and given emotional support. According to Jouriles and McDonald, there were large improvements when visiting therapists worked intensively with families.

“Although there are many types of services for addressing child maltreatment, there is very little scientific data about whether the services work,” McDonald says. “This study adds to our scientific knowledge and shows that this type of service can actually work.”

The parenting training is part of Project Support, a program developed at the Family Research Center. Project Support has been included in a study evaluating 15 “promising practices” for helping children in violent families.

“Child maltreatment is such an important and costly problem in our society that it seems imperative to make sure that our efforts – and the tax dollars that pay for them – are solving the problem,” Jouriles says.