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As part of The Family Institute's mission, we are committed to using clinical science to improve the effectiveness of our interventions. Clinical Science Insights, a quarterly publication series, distills our research expertise in a way that is relevant to both clinical practice and everyday life.

In this forum, our postdoctoral fellows, clinical staff and affiliates share their expert knowledge on a variety of topics relevant to families today – from child development, to innovative treatments for depression and anxiety, to best parenting practices, to the latest research on what works in couples therapy – just to name a few. These succinct summaries of the latest empirical research and theory on issues relevant to families are written for professional and lay audiences alike.

Supporting Children in Distress

The tenor of the emotional environment in which children are raised has life-lasting effects for them (Valliant, 2012; Waldinger & Schulz, 2016). This emotional environment influences children’s brain development and their ability to regulate their emotions (Cassidy, 1994; Perry, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Emotion regulation can be defined as “the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially…

Cinematic Psychotherapy Stereotypes

In perhaps the earliest on-screen fictional portrayal of a mental health professional, a young woman was depicted as being controlled by a hypnotist in the 1896 silent film Trilby. Psychotherapists and other mental health professionals have been portrayed in well over 5,000 films (Flowers & Frizler, 2004), and across many genres including drama, horror, musical, western, and even hardcore pornography (Greenberg, 2000). Indeed, 17% of the most popular films of the 1990s…

The Hidden Impact of Adoption

“You’re so lucky.” These three simple words have been heard repeatedly by almost every adoptee. While adoption is often the best solution available to a challenging problem, these words fail to address the emotional difficulties adoptees may experience, including conscious and unconscious feelings of loss, shame, and abandonment. Without help from a mental health professional, these difficulties may impede healthy psychological development (Verrier, 1993).

Navigating the Transition between Childhood and Young Adulthood

Adolescence is often viewed negatively — as a difficult time of transition that exposes youth to a range of risk factors. Indeed, research has demonstrated that children are at increased risk for drug and alcohol use, sexual risk behavior, and physical fights as they transition into adolescence (Brooks, Harris, Thrall, Woods, et al. 2002). However, while adolescents face increased risk factors, most do not succumb to them.

The Importance of Incorporating Siblings in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2009), an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is commonly characterized by severe deficits in social communication and interaction that can be seen in various ways such as poor nonverbal communication, inappropriate social exchanges, or lack of skills in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships (APA, 2013). Along with better awareness and…

Discernment Counseling

One of the most complicated scenarios in couple therapy involves the situation in which one or both partners express uncertainty about trying to preserve their marriage. As described by Doherty (2011), this “mixed-agenda” couple occurs when one partner prefers to save the marriage (“leaning in”), while the other partner wishes to end it (“leaning out”). When couples come to the brink of divorce before they seek professional counseling, their respective agendas for couple…

Talking Badly About Your Co-Parent Backfires

Parental denigration was reported by adult children to occur in married, divorced, and never married families, with greater frequency in divorced and never married families. Across all types of families, mothers were reported to denigrate significantly more frequently than fathers. This finding, which was especially strong in divorced families, may be due to the fact that children generally spend more time in their mother’s care. Alternatively, it may be that mothers are…

Danger Signs in Romantic Relationships

Problems in intimate relationships are associated with a host of negative psychological and physical health consequences, such as depression, anxiety, and heart disease (Hawkins & Booth, 2005; Fincham & Beach, 2010; Whisman, 2007). Researchers have identified several types of interpersonal behaviors among couples that predict relationship distress or break-up/divorce; these are referred to as danger signs. Danger signs can take many forms, from aggressive behavior…