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Testing Impacts of an Intervention for Refugee Youth

As Principal Investigator of this study, Catherine Panter-Brick led an international Research Consortium to evaluate a humanitarian program implemented with Syrian refugee youth and Jordanian hosts.  For detailed information and outputs to-date, see http://www.elrha.org/map-location/yale-psychosocial-call2/

The study was funded as a partnership between academic and humanitarian organizations to strengthen the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian settings, under a funding call launched by the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme, managed by ELRHA (http://www.elrha.org/map-location/yale-psychosocial-call2) on behalf of Wellcome Trust and DFID.  The partnership involved Mercy Corps, Yale University, We Love Reading, local community-base organizations, local families, and a number of scientific collaborators from Canada, UK, and US.

Our initiative focused on 11-15 year old Syrian refugee and Jordanian youth, living in five urban centers in northern Jordan.  The impact evaluation was a randomized controlled trial, measuring impacts of a profound stress attunement intervention on the mind, body, and brain.



Epigenetics of Transgenerational Trauma in Syrian Refugees

Led by Rana Dajani, Catherine Panter-Brick, and Connie Mulligan.

We work with three groups of Syrian families displaced to Jordan as a result of conflict, with contrasting experiences of war-related violence. Our goal is to increase our understanding the epigenetic signatures of war trauma exposures, and the extent to which they are heritable. This work helps us to understand to extent to which fetal, child, and adolescent development are malleable and impacted by trauma.

This project collected DNA cheek swabs from child, mother, and grandmother.



Men, Masculinities, and Fatherhood

This study, led by Kristen McLean, examines masculinity, fatherhood, and family wellbeing in post-conflict, Ebola-affected Sierra Leone. While existing studies of African men tend to be deficits-focused—recognizing men for the damages they impart via their absence or harmful behaviors—this project provides much needed data regarding men’s roles are caregivers and co-parents. Kristen’s study is supported by funding from the United States Institute of Peace, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Yale MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, and a P.E.O. Scholar Award.

Kristen also collaborates on a research program directed by Professor Theresa Betancourt of Boston College on the intergenerational impact of war in Sierra Leone. For the Boston College program, please visit their site.



Intergenerational consequences of maternal trauma

PhD candidate Kyle Wiley, in collaboration with Professors Helena Brentani, Guilherme Polanczyk, and Euripedes Miguel, at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of São Paulo, investigates the intergenerational consequences of maternal trauma and mental health on infant development in urban Brazil. This project focuses on the regulation of infant stress physiology, methylation, and neurodevelopment at one year of age. Specific biomarkers of interest include hair cortisol from mothers during pregnancy, waking and bedtime salivary cortisol from mother-infant dyads at 12-months, and DNA methylation of stress-regulatory genes (NR3C1- the glucocorticoid receptor, FKPB5- a regulator of glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity, and OXTR – the oxytocin receptor). Kyle’s study is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.



Biosocial Embodiment of Intergenerational Trauma

MD/PhD Candidate Jessica Cerdeña examines the embodiment of intergenerational trauma in Latin American migrant womenand their infants. Her dissertation project interrogates the relationship between migration-related trauma and current mental health symptoms in mothers who have relocated to New Haven from Latin America. This mixed methods study draws on ethnography to assess how resilience and structural vulnerability influence women’s recovery trajectories and employs epigenetic and hormonal markers to evaluate how trauma affects neuroendocrine programming across generations.






SadruddinAging and Social Resilience in Rwanda

In Rwanda, PhD student Aalyia Sadruddin has conducted ethnographic research on perceptions of caregiving and aging in central and northeastern settings since May 2014. She has also worked closely with advisors and colleagues from the University of Rwanda, Laterite (a research firm in Kigali that has conducted large-scale social and economic research in Rwanda since 2010), and the Office of the President of Rwanda, in order to understand how older persons are presented as survivors of the 1994-genocide in Rwanda. For her doctoral dissertation, she aims to examine the experiences of aging and old age in Rwanda, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and where a range of social, demographic, and government driven forces are giving new meaning to old age, kinship, and social transformation in the aftermath of the genocide.

Aalyia’s research is embedded within Yale University’s Department of Anthropology, the Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI), the Program on Stress and Family Resilience, and the Conflict, Resilience, and Health Program.



Biomarkers of Mental Health and Psychosocial Stress 

Former PhD student Dr. Amelia Sancilio evaluated measures of wellbeing in Afghanistan, in collaboration with Drs. Catherine Panter-Brick, Mark Eggerman, Andrew Rasmussen, and Peter Ventevogel. Her work compares the extent to which screening for poor mental health (using a standard WHO scale) maps onto psychosocial distress (using a culturally-specific scale) and physiological stress (using biomarkers such as blood pressure).







Reproductive Effort and Oxidative Stress

This study, conducted by former PhD student Dr. Amelia Sancilio and in collaboration with the Yale Reproductive Ecology Laboratory, investigates the association between reproductive effort and women’s experiences of aging. Biological signatures of aging are being measured via biomarkers of oxidative stress. This work is being conducted in diverse populations, including women from Connecticut, rural Poland, Ecuador, and the Hadza of Tanzania, to understand the cross-cultural variation in women’s response to child-rearing and care.