Harvard Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar program alum Margaret A. Sheridan, PhD, has co-authored a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development that explores how genetic susceptibility interacts with extreme differences in the early caregiving environments (institutional vs. non-institutional) to predict distinct outcomes of neurodevelopment at age 8.
Last Spring, RWJF alums Katie McLaughlin and Margaret Sheridan were in the middle of a study on trauma that, like so many of its kind, relied upon artificial situations created in a lab. But in the middle of this study, a real-life trauma occurred: the marathon bombing. As McLaughlin told New England Public Radio, this provided a unique opportunity to look at how children and adolescents who had experienced previous trauma and stress responded to a new trauma. The study ultimately found that early exposure to violence makes someone more, not less, sensitized to violence later on. McLaughlin and Sheridan also made another important discovery: the more that a young person watched coverage of the bombing and subsequent manhunt, the more likely he or she was to feel unsafe or under threat, and to develop mental health problems afterwards.