We adopt a life-span and intergenerational perspective to examine the associations between family risks and the development of mental and physical health problems in the next generation.

Our research is organized along the two following themes:

Early determinants of child and adolescent psychosocial development

Over the past decades, research has focused increasingly on the study of mental health problems from a life-span and developmental perspective. This interest comes from the fact that many mental health problems previously thought to be limited to childhood or to emerge only in adolescence are now found to persist across the life-span, and to have their roots in early years of life. Longitudinal studies have provided information on the degree of continuity in the symptoms of mental health problems and identified risk factors that maintain or modify developmental trajectories. It is notable, however, that few large-scale studies include both detailed and yearly measurement of mental health problems in the early childhood years as well as comprehensive assessments in adolescence. This lack of data on the crucial early years has limited our understanding of the role of early childhood and of the timing of early risk factors for mental health across the developmental period. In our team, we aim to elucidate the environmental and genetic mechanisms through which early life factors influence the development and stability of mental health problems in children and adolescents. For example, we modelled group-based developmental trajectories of externalizing and internalizing problems from childhood to adolescence and identified the early life predictors of these trajectories. We are also currently testing competing hypotheses on how risk and protective factors in early and middle childhood interact to influence the severity and intensity of mental health problems in adolescence.

Evaluation of social and experimental programs in child care services

There is much debate about the potential harmful or beneficial effects of child care services. We have developed a research program on the impact of child care services on children’s long-term health and cognitive development. Through this program, we examine the conditions under which child care can lead to differential findings while accounting for a major methodological problem in child care research – the social selection of families into child care services. We found that children of economically disadvantaged families who receive child care services have reduced risk for behavioural problems as compared to those who remain in maternal care, and that the impact is more important if child care services are initiated earlier. We have also shown the importance of the quality of child care services for child development. We recently secured finding to conduct a randomized control trial aiming at improving the quality of educational practices in child care services attended by children living in poverty.

We are grateful to the following past and present funders (will include logos of each funder):

  • CIHR
  • FRQS
  • CHU Sainte-Justine
  • University of Bordeaux INSERM