Pilot and Feasibility Studies

The goal of the LCIRN Pilot and Feasibility Program is to support researchers to conduct preliminary research and data collection that will help them to secure external funding for life course intervention research. Each year, the LCIRN provides funding for ~5 pilot research projects. In addition to advancing the field of life course intervention research, these projects also support the work of our research nodes. 

Projects are required to meet the criteria for life course intervention research developed by the LCIRN steering committee, including being: optimization-focused, longitudinally-focused, strategically-timed, multi-level or holistic, and horizontally and vertically integrated.

2021-2022 Pilot and Feasibility Studies

  • The preferences and experiences of adolescents with ADHD for a virtual behavioral health system: a life course intervention pilot study of ChangeGradients, Marianne Pugatch, UCSF

ADHD affects almost 10% of school-aged children, with a major impact on public health due to the association of asolescent ADHD with alcohol use, related harms, and the persistence of a risky trajectory into adulthood. Yet, little is known about how to protect adolescents with ADHD from this critical trajectory. The overall goal of this study is to gather preliminary data for life course intervention research examining the impact of a virtual health behavior change system, ChangeGradients, on alcohol use outcomes for adolescents with ADHD. The primary aim of the pilot is to examine the feasibility and acceptability of engaging youth with ADHD in the ChangeGradients environment to characterize this population’s unique interface with the gaming platform. 


The goal of this research is to understand the role of immigrant fathers and influences of migration on parent and children’s health and well-being over the life course, as they age within multi-generational families. Using the life course health development model for families, this interdisciplinary and multi-site collaboration will examine how fathers in immigrant families support their own, their partner’s, and their children’s physical and mental health over time; how families cope with challenges of acculturation, economic setbacks, discrimination and criminalization, and constrained educational opportunities; and which gaps, barriers, and opportunities promote or constrain long-term health of men and their families. 


  • Examining the process and impact of parent affiliate stigma on raising a child with ASD in African-American Families, Allysa Ware, Catholic University of America

There is a marked gap in research for understanding the association between child ASD stigma and parental affiliate stigma in relation to child rearing in African American families. This study aims to close this gap by determining whether there is a significant relationship between African American parents’ affiliate stigma and their difficulties in raising a child with ASD. Substantiating this effect could lead to further development and testing of interventions to reduce the negative effects of stigmatization in parents’ and children’s health outcomes and for reducing racial health disparities. 


  • Assessing the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of the Family Health Scale-Short Form among English- and Spanish-speaking caregivers of young children in primary care pediatrics, Nomi Weiss-Laxer, The Research Foundation for SUNY on behalf of U. at Buffalo

Families provide a critical environment for child development. Primary care is a trusted resource for families of young children, but lacks tools to screen for family health. The Family Health Scale-Short Form (FHS-SF) is a holistic family health measure with preliminary screening cut-offs for low, moderate, and excellent family health. The tool has not been validated in clinical settings. This mixed-methods study examines the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of the FHS-SF for families with children ages 0-3. Methods include caregiver and pediatric staff focus groups and analyzing health records. Outcomes include caregiver and child health and prevention services engagement. 


  • Engaging families of pre-term babies to optimize thriving and well-being: exploring facilitators and barriers for scaffolding parenting across health, home, day care, and early childhood education, Michael Msall, U Chicago, Ben Van Voorhees, U Illinois – Chicago

Pre-term infants who require neonatal intensive care are at increased risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. Early detection is critical to ensuring timely intervention and activities to promote school readiness. The objective of this project is to proactively engage families in partnerships with health professionals and community supports in the first five years of life so as to maximize detection of early delays and provide evidence-based interventions to optimize child functioning. The project will explore parental supports and barriers through focus groups and community forums, and will test how existing smartphone apps and interventions support scaffolding for parents. 

The purpose of this pilot study is to understand which emotional well-being domains are impacted by YPAR in the context of COVID-19 and racial injustice. Across three sites, we will explore virtually, using arts-based methods and multiple qualitative sources, the impact of COVID-19 and racism on youth of colors’ emotional well-being domains and perspectives on what is necessary for racial healing.

2020-2021 Pilot and Feasibility Studies

In summer 2020, the LCIRN awarded its first round of funding to support researchers to conduct preliminary research and data collection that will help them to secure external funding for life course intervention research. The release of the RFA in March 2020 coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so funding opportunities were expanded to include pilot studies around the impacts of COVID on children and families, to support the development of future interventions in that field.


  • Monitoring of youth experiencing homelessness in California during the COVID-19 ear and post-COVID-19 era, Coco Auerswald, UC Berkeley

Youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) are not only at greater risk of being infected by COVID-19 than their peers, but are also more likely to have their developmental trajectory to adulthood be affected by COVID-19 and its social and economic sequelae. To meet the need for a feasible, scalable and sustainable, as well as youth-engaged approach to monitor youth wellbeing and inform policies that will support their transition to adulthood, we will pilot and evaluate a youth-engaged approach. All study activities will either be informed by, conducted with or conducted by members of a team of youth community interns who will be recruited from the population of youth experiencing or exiting homelessness in San Francisco or Alameda Counties.


  • Population-wide integration of multi-tiered, evidence-based interventions to promote early childhood and parent mental health and development: two-generation strengths-based approach in an early childhood education center, Erica Coates, Georgetown (Completed)

The Family Wellbeing Program (FWP) is a multigenerational, multi-tiered, early childhood education center-based intervention strategy offering a range of trauma-specific evidence- based and evidence-informed practices to families in under-resourced communities to promote mental health for young children and their parents. Using a population- based approach at an early childhood education center, we will investigate whether participation in the FWP is associated with 1) promotion of emotional and behavioral wellbeing in children and parents, 2) prevention of mental health problems in children and parents exposed to trauma, and 3) effective treatment of trauma-exposed children and parents with clinical distress or impairment.


  • Families of children with disabilities during COVID-19: exploring issues of service utilization and access, Priyanka Fernandes and Denise Nunez, UCLA (Completed)

Children with developmental disabilities depend greatly on receiving appropriate services during crucial developmental stages to maximize their learning, health and independence during their life-course. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges in safe and effective delivery of services and high stress levels in families, highlighting the importance of emergency planning for this population. Our study aims at 1) understanding the service and health burden among families and children with disabilities, and 2) understanding best practices from local experts during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Results will inform programmatic adaptation, allowing decision makers to plan for emergencies like the pandemic.


  • A Life Course Health Developmental Perspective to Develop Trauma-Informed Care for Obesity, Janet Rich-Edwards, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Completed)

The prevention of obesity and care for people with obesity would be improved by a life course health development perspective that incorporates an understanding of the roles of trauma and stigma in obesity. To brainstorm and develop such a Trauma-Informed Care for Obesity (TICO) approach, we propose to convene diverse groups that have yet to engage with each other: fat activists, domestic violence advocates, academics, and the weight loss/wellness industry. The preliminary data will inform novel TICO programs and new funding applications.


  • The Impact of COVID-19 on economic adversity, parent mental health, parenting self-efficacy, and child development, Adam Schickedanz, UCLA (Completed)

Low-income, socially marginalized communities are at greatest risk not only of being exposed to COVID-19 infection but suffering disproportionately under the economic fallout of the pandemic as a result of structural economic inequalities. We propose a detailed study of short-term trajectories of harms to family financial, health, parenting efficacy, and developmental outcomes in the rapidly-evolving epidemic’s first year, with subsequent longer-term follow-up measurement of these trajectories into the end of early childhood leveraging a study of an existing cohort of low-income, racially minoritized dyads of parents and their infants and young children. We will also examine resilience factors in each of these domains and time windows that could form the basis for targeted interventions to help socially marginalized families weather the economic and social storms of the post-COVID era.

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