Child Development and Violence.


Joseph Murray



New studies at the Centre for Epidemiological Research are examining novel aspects of children’s psychosocial development, and the development and consequences of violence through the life-course.

Early parenting practices and child psychosocial development

Around 250 million children in low- and middle-income countries fail to achieve their developmental potential by age five years, with major costs to lifelong health, wellbeing, and human capital. Early nurturing care is considered vital to improve children’s life chances and reduce intergenerational poverty. In the 2015 Pelotas Birth Cohort Study, novel observational measures of parent-child interactions are being made to identify the social and biological (cortisol stress indicator) determinants of different caring practices (stimulating versus non-stimulating, warm versus harsh, different communications about moral rules), and the consequences for child school readiness and psychosocial development (language, executive functioning, emotion recognition and aggression). This project is funded by the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Holland) and the Wellcome Trust (England).

The PIÁ trial: Evaluation of Parenting Interventions in Early Childhood

The Pelotas Parenting Interventions for Aggression (PIÁ) Trial is a randomized control trial conducted in collaboration with the Municipal Government of Pelotas, aiming to evaluate the impact of two early parenting interventions on child aggression, cognition, socio-emotional functioning, and parenting practices. The interventions are 8-week, group-based parent-training programmes. The first is a dialogic book-sharing programme (DBS), which is designed to promote child cognitive and socio-emotional development. The second is “ACT Raising Safe Kids Program”, which is designed to reduce harsh parenting. 369 mother-child pairs in the 2015 birth cohort were randomly allocated to one of three groups (DBS, ACT, Control) when children were 3-years old, and follow-up assessments are made 4-weeks and 6-months post-intervention. Since the two interventions are brief and, with modest levels of training, readily deliverable in low-resource settings, a demonstration that they are of benefit to parenting and risk factors for the development of violence would be of major significance. The PIÁ trial is supported by Fondation Botnar (Switzerland), the Wellcome Trust (England) and the Pelotas Municipal Government (Brazil).

Causes and consequences of violence

Violence is a major social, justice and public health problem, especially in Latin America, the Caribbean and in southern Africa. Since the first Pelotas birth cohort study was started in 1982, rates of violence in the city, as well as in Brazil generally, have escalated enormously. A 7-year programme of research (2018-2025) funded by an Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust will investigate time trends in violence, and the determinants and consequences of violence through the life-course, in the four Pelotas Birth Cohorts. The project includes new assessments of child and adolescent psychosocial functioning, cortisol levels assessed in hair samples, parenting practices, and wider social environments that may influence the development of violent behaviour, as well affect consequences for lifelong health and social functioning.


Epidemiology Postgraduate Program- Centre of Epidemiological Research