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Trauma & Family Violence

There is increasing awareness among clinicians, researchers, policymakers, and the general public that psychological trauma and early life adversity have a high prevalence and can also have a profound impact on many aspects of individual functioning. For example, the National Comorbidity Survey indicated that as many as one in two individuals in the general population will experience trauma at some point in their life (Kessler et al., 1995). A significant percentage of children and youth will also experience early life adversity, the effects of which will have impact during development and into adulthood. Research in Traumatic Stress and Early Life Adversity focuses on understanding the impact of traumatic stress and early life adversity on individuals, families, and broader systems as well as on the development and rigorous evaluation of novel prevention and intervention strategies aimed at reducing this potentially devastating impact. Although illness models (e.g., Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; PTSD) are central in this work, our work also emphasizes resilience and healthy development in the face of adversity.


Research in the Traumatic Stress and Early Life Adversity Division involves studies aimed at furthering our understanding of the impact of traumatic stress and early life adversity across the lifespan.  A major focus of research in this Division is on the development and rigorous evaluation of novel prevention and treatment strategies aimed at reducing this impact on individuals, families and broader systems.  Research in this division spans the cognitive, psychological and biological underpinnings of response to traumatic stress and early life adversity.  The overall goal of this research is to improve quality of life and treatment outcomes in individuals affected by traumatic stress and early life adversity.

Example projects include:

Preventing Violence across the Lifespan (PreVAiL) - an international network of 60 researchers working in the areas of mental health, gender and violence, and 19 partner organizations such as the World Health Organization

Nurse Family Partnership Curriculum Study - a multi-site randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of an IPV curriculum embedded in the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP)

British Columbia Healthy Connections Project (BCHCP) - a province-wide randomized controlled trial of the NFP in BC to determine the program’s effectiveness within the Canadian context (funded by the BC Ministry of Health and BC Ministry of Children and Family Development)

MEPP (Maternal Executive Processes & Parenting) Study – a longitudinal study examining the impact of maternal cognitive function on parenting processes and infant cognitive and emotional development (funded by SSHRC)

Healthy Foundations Study – an adjunct study of the British Columbia Healthy Connections Project (BCHCP), examining the impact of a preventive home visitation intervention – the Nurse Family Partnership, on biological outcomes in infants across the first two years of life (funded by CIHR)

Postpartum Depression Biological Study (PPD – BioStudy) – examining biological factors (immune and stress system markers and oxytocin) in relation to postpartum depression and parenting processes in new mothers (funded by NARSAD)

The efficacy of Group Cognitive Processing Therapy for veterans with PTSD. In partnership with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic, Parkwood Hospital London.

Neural and behavioural correlates of autobiographical memory for highly traumatic events in patients with civilian and combat-related PTSD (funded by CIHR and CIMVHR)

Social cognition in patients with civilian and combat-related PTSD

A longitudinal examination of the dissociative subtype of PTSD (funded by CIHR)

A randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of cognitive remediation in the treatment of PTSD among military members and civilians (funded by the Bickell Foundation)

Use of rTMS to treat PTSD and co-morbid MDD, including use of machine learning and biological data to predict treatment response.

Feasibility of group Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to treat PTSD among individuals participating in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) who have been diagnosed with co-occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD; mediators and moderators of treatment response to CPT.

Identification of interventions that can increase motivation to start PTSD treatment and to decrease drop out.

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