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Notre Dame researchers looking for new parents to take part in extensive study

Notre Dame researchers are about to embark on a massive study that looks at babies and their parents. This study is unique because it will include dads.

Bringing a baby home, is both equal parts exciting and exhausting.

"During infancy is one of the highest stress times for couples," says Professor Julie Braungart-Rieker, the director of the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families.

Notre Dame researchers want to help. Through a $3-million National Institutes of Health grant, they will be working with babies and their parents.

"Infancy is such a critical period for children's social and emotional development, says Braungart-Rieker.

Researchers will work with babies living with married or co-habitating parents. Parents will go through a program designed to encourage health parenting and better communication. The study will then look at the parents relationship with the babies, with each other, and how those relationships affect the baby as it grows.

This study though is unique because it includes dads.

"Dads have often been left out of family research in general. Especially during infancy. Our program does teach moms parenting skills and how to read their babies emotional signals more effectively -- but also dads," says Braungart-Rieker.

"We go into homes and video baby and father and then go back and document different thing like sensitive behavior and then watch their child community with them in subtle ways," explains Braungart-Rieker.

Here is how one session might go: We used my son Jack as an example since the study is so new.

My husband interacted with him in different ways. Then researchers went back and reviewed the video looking at how Jack reacted.

"We look for signals from the child that maybe a parent might not notice right away. It helps them to better understand what their child may be needing at that time," says Geri Sult, a Parent Assistant.

Parents in the study will learn ways their baby is trying to communicate and how to better interact. The idea is parents form a stronger bond with their baby and researchers learn more about how those bonds impact children.

This Notre Dame Families and Babies Study is a five year study. The researchers will work with babies for a year from age 6 months through 18 months.

Families with babies 6 months and younger can apply. Families can live in this area or in Fort Wayne.

Participants will have to make some visits to the Shaw Center and researchers will make some home visits. The first visit will be scheduled when the child is between 5 and 7 months old.

For more information about the study or to apply email ndfabs@nd.edu or call (574) 631-0950.

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