Theresa S. Betancourt, ScD, MA, is Associate Professor of Child Health and Human Rights in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health and Director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity (RPCGA). Her central research interests include the developmental and psychosocial consequences of concentrated adversity on children and families, resilience and protective processes in child and adolescent mental health, refugee families, and applied cross-cultural mental health research. She is Principal Investigator of a prospective longitudinal study of war-affected youth in Sierra Leone and has developed and is evaluating the impact of a Family Strengthening Intervention for HIV-affected children and families in Rwanda. She has written extensively on mental health and resilience in children facing adversity including recent articles in Child Development, The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Social Science and Medicine, and PLOS One.
Linking Developmental Science and Prevention Research to Intervene More Effectively in Child Development
Despite important strides forward in global efforts to improve opportunities to promote early childhood development (ECD) and initiatives to prevent violence against children (VAC) these two fields have largely operated in isolation of one another. In reality VAC is a risk factor for ECD and poor family conditions and parenting give rise to greater risk for violence against children. Preventing VAC and promoting ECD share many common elements, including important risk and protective factors and programmatic and policy responses. A greater awareness is needed of the overlap between poor ECD and risk of VAC with attention to opportunities for shared understanding in approaches and efforts to reduce violence and promote ECD. Important links between these conditions and outcomes will be presented along with preliminary efforts on the development of a family-based preventive intervention to promote healthy parenting, reduce conflict and promote ECD among families facing multiple adversities in Rwanda. A family home visiting model, originally developed and evaluated for families affected by HIV/AIDS is now being adapted to focus on families in extreme poverty raising children ages 0-3 which with support from the World Bank and the Rwandan government is being integrated into the Social Protection System. Such integrated programs hold tremendous promise for advancing a joint agenda for prevention of VAC and the promotion of ECD. The presentation will conclude with recommendations for research, policy and practice.