ASPPH/CDC Fellow Working to Improve Children’s Health
Mrs. Mary Harbert Morgan, MPH, a graduate of Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, has recently completed her first year as an ASPPH/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research fellow. Mary Harbert was placed in the National Center of Injury Prevention and Control in the Division of Violence Prevention. She is a part of their Child Abuse, Neglect, and Adversity team where she works on projects that seek to prevent child abuse and neglect and mitigate the harms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect is highly prevalent in the United States. The CDC estimated that 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in the last year; though, that number is likely higher given that many cases go unreported. There are however evidence–based strategies for primary prevention. One of these strategies is the promotion of positive parenting techniques and skills through the use of behavioral parenting trainings (BPTs). BPTs focus on behavioral modification, relationship enhancement, or a combination of both to train parents and caregivers in the skills and knowledge needed to safely and effectively improve child behavior and increase positive parent–child relationships. Many of these BPTs target parents of younger children ages 0–12 years; but as a fellow, Mary Harbert learned that these BPTs can be translated to help parents of adolescents as well. The CDC is currently expanding its Essential for Parenting tool, which is a digital BPT freely available to the public on CDC’s website. Mary Harbert has been able to assist with the expansion as a subject matter expert and has also conducted, as the lead author, a structured literature review on digital BPTs for parents of adolescents in order to identify and synthesize the existing literature on the subject. Through this review of digital BPTs for parents of adolescents, Mary Harbert and her colleagues learned that many of these digital BPTs are not freely accessible to the public, meaning they are either purchased by the individual parent or they are only available to research participants. This has provided further evidence for the importance of expanding and continuously updating CDC’s Essentials for Parenting tool, so that primary prevention efforts for child abuse and neglect can be maintained. Mary Harbert and her co–authors have prepared a manuscript and are submitting the review to a peer–reviewed journal for publication.
Mary Harbert was also able to co–lead, along with another ASPPH/CDC fellow, an exploratory analysis of parental perceptions and concerns of children’s sexting. This is an understudied topic, but has very real applications in today’s world, as more young children are exposed to and have access to technology than ever before. Results of the study revealed that parents may have misperceptions about what sexting is and the likelihood of their own child sending or receiving texts. There were also significant differences in perceptions and concerns among different demographic groups of parents (i.e., education, race/ethnicity, and classification as the child’s mother/female caregiver or father/male caregiver). An abstract for this paper has been submitted to the SAVIR conference, and if accepted, Mary Harbert and her co–lead plan to present the findings in 2023.
Mary Harbert is continuing her ASPPH/CDC fellowship for an additional year. Planned projects include: continuing to assist on the Essentials for Parenting expansion as well as a new policy cooperative agreement that assesses schools’ child sexual abuse prevention policies. She is also working on a proposal to explore relationships between online sexual harassment and mental health outcomes and in–person experiences of sexual violence among girls and young women in Namibia using the CDC’s Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) data.