According to the US Surgeon General, 1 in 10 children and adolescents have a mental health disorder severe enough to cause impairment. Poverty, community and family violence, psychiatric disorders in parents, adolescent parenthood, social isolation, and maltreatment increase the probability of these disorders starting in infancy. Over the past 15 years, scientists and practitioners have accrued a deepened understanding of infant development and the role that caregivers, especially primary parental caregivers, play in fostering healthy emotional and relationship development in young children. These developmental achievements serve as the foundation for socialization, cognitive and educational development, and mental health through adolescence and adulthood.

The field of infant mental health is founded on the principle that serious developmental problems can be seen early in life and that infants develop within the dynamic interacting contexts of the family, society, and culture in which they live. Extending beyond psychiatry and clinical psychology, the field of infant mental health is an increasingly interdisciplinary specialty that is broad based and comprehensive and includes fields such as special education, pediatrics, social work, public policy, and physical and occupational therapy.

As a discipline, infant mental health is firmly rooted in basic research and intervention models derived from developmental psychology and developmental psychopathology. The field embraces the scientist-practitioner model, a model that has served as the foundation for excellence in clinical health and science fields for over a century. As scientists, infant mental health researchers who work within the academy are experimentalists trained in science to address basic and clinical questions; as clinicians, professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, special education professionals, nurses, and doctors) are trained in research methodology in order to understand how empirical research is essential to good practice and developing effective intervention programs.

Infant mental health research at Mills College is conducted in the Early Childhood and Family Research Laboratory.

Early Childhood and Family Research Lab
Contact Information

P: 510.430.3170
F: 510.430.3379
Last Updated: 3/15/18