Our team brings together internationally regarded clinical researchers in child development to reduce the impact of social problems, autism, disruptive behaviour, emotional problems and impulsivity/hyperactivity.
Our clinical researchers specialise in developing innovative assessments and treatments for child mental health. At the same time, we work to identify the mechanisms that contribute to vulnerability, resilience and development in children and their families.
Led by internationally regarded child psychologists, our team takes a novel, transdiagnostic approach to child mental health.
Rather than working within rigid diagnostic categories (such as autism, conduct disorder, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), we assess children who present with a broad range of emotional and social development concerns and design the most effective intervention based on the unique needs of each child.
We recognise that there is significant overlap among many mental health conditions in childhood, so our approach provides a more effective way to prevent and manage mental health concerns in children.
Our work is informed by investigating key neurobiological markers (that is, biological characteristics) of emotional, behavioural and social problems in children.
This knowledge of the biological markers means we can more effectively identify which children benefit from different types of treatments, as well as understand and track how these treatments improve outcomes.
We have developed world-first medical, behavioural and parenting interventions for some of early childhood’s most difficult-to-treat mental health disorders. We have conducted high-impact, independent clinical trials that have changed how clinical trials are carried out internationally.
For example, we have demonstrated the powerful effects of oxytocin on enhancing cognitive processing of social-stimuli such as recognising emotional facial expressions. Since then, we have gone on to show that an oxytocin nasal spray may benefit social impairment in young children with autism.
This will develop our knowledge to determine whether oxytocin could become a potential medicinal therapy in the future.
We are also developing new evidence-based programs for families. We have developed Australia’s first online, nationally available, evidence-based parenting program, ParentWorks. It is aimed at increasing the involvement of parents in improving outcomes for families.
Importantly, the program has been developed to encourage greater participation from fathers as well as mothers – we know that parenting programs are more effective when both parents are involved. ParentWorks is designed to be particularly helpful for assisting parents to manage challenging child behaviours. To find out more or to participate in the program, visit Parentworks.
Similarly, in partnership with Royal Far West, we are implementing and evaluating Australia’s first therapist-assisted e-health treatment for children with conduct disorders.
Our collaborative research is demonstrating how genetics, neurobiological factors and parenting styles interact to influence treatment outcomes for children and their families.