Researchers to study why some children endure abuse, violence in the home better than others

Megan R. HolmesThe Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University received a two-year, $200,000 grant to study why some children thrive, achieve and develop despite being abused and witnessing violence in the home.

Megan R. Holmes, assistant professor of social work and the study’s lead investigator, believes the research could potentially help victims of abuse and neglect by learning why some children are more resilient to it. By understanding child resiliency, social workers and policymakers can implement interventions and programs that focus on protective factors that promote resiliency in maltreated children.

Holmes said such mistreatment is a prevalent public health concern that has both immediate and long-term consequences on a child’s behavior and academic performance. In 2012, Child Protective Services’ national report, “Child Maltreatment 2012,” found that 686,000 children suffered maltreatment, defined as abuse and neglect.

The training grant provides support for three studies: one by Holmes and two dissertations by Mandel School doctoral students Julia Kobulsky and Susan Yoon, who Holmes will mentor. The researchers will study children from 3 to 17 years old.

Kobulsky will examine the use of substances in children up to age 17, with a particular interest in those who begin using before age 13. Yoon will study the development of behavioral problems of children 4 to 13. Holmes’ study will focus on how witnessing domestic violence in the home impacts the academic performance from preschool to middle school.

The grant is provided by U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Fellowships for University-Based Doctoral Candidates and Faculty for Research in Child Maltreatment from the Administration of Children, Youth and Families’ division of the Children’s Bureau.

The Mandel School was among five nationally to receive the federal grant.

The researchers intend to share what they learn with social workers and policymakers who work with and address children’s issues. They expect to present their findings during a symposium in 2016 with the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services.