Each year students in the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University spend countless hours, days, and weeks perfecting their dissertations. This year, two unique dissertations focused on the early impact on a child’s environment in completely different ways – one on the impact of the security of growing up in an area of armed conflict, the other on the need for support of parents in the neonatal intensive-care unit.
Prior to attending Widener, Dr. Andrea Perelman, ’14, worked in early childhood education. At Widener she quickly developed an interest in the school psychology program and began a research project with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where she examined the provision of mental health care for families with an infant in the NICU.
Perelman received the Excellence in Empirical Dissertation Award for her research that included a survey examining a number of variables in NICUs around the country. The survey focused on what services were offered and how well these services were meeting the needs of families.
“Looking at the concordance between these two variables led to findings that fill a gap in research and answer questions on how improvements can be made,” she said.
Perelman is currently serving as a part-time post-doc at CHOP continuing to assist on the research and working for a private practice.
Dr. Paola Munoz, ’14, came to Widener on a search to discover who she was. Born in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar, Munoz grew up in a war zone. She did not move to the United States until she was 10.
“I have always tried understanding how that experience shaped me,” Munoz said. It was not until she took Dr. Hal Shorey’s class on attachment theory that she realized the connection.
Munoz’s dissertation topic explored the use of attachment theory to understand the plight of families and children living in areas of war. Her findings prove that a measure needs to be created using attachment theory to study this population and determine outcomes.
Munoz, who received the Excellence in Theoretical Dissertation Award, hopes to continue this research, while working at the James T Vaughn Correctional Facility.