Our research is frequently cited in news media and our lab team regularly presents and publishes their research in journals and conferences. Read about our most recent news, including publications, media and research awards.

Recent News

Research News: Summer 2022

The DU Pregnancy Study just completed enrollment of their pregnancy wave of data collection, which spanned five years of continuous recruitment from Spring 2017, through the COVID-19 pandemic, to Spring 2022. This study has enrolled 252 Denver families, including 240 pregnant individuals and 150 non-gestational caregivers. The study team is currently wrapping up data collection at the three-month postnatal visit, with retention of more than two-thirds of total families. Looking ahead, we will continue to finish the 12-month postnatal visit during the 2022-2023 academic year and gear up for a new wave of data collection beginning this Fall 2022 with the earliest-enrolled families who now have children finishing preschool and starting kindergarten!

Student News: Summer 2022

Congratulations to PROTECT Lab alum, Vicky Atzl, who just completed her APA-accredited predoctoral internship at Rutgers University and began a clinical research postdoctoral position at Mount Hope Family Center at the University of Rochester!



News Archive

  • Media


  • Research
    • March 2022: Along with her staff, students, and collaborators, Dr. Narayan just published a new paper on the effects of childhood peer victimization as a distinct form of childhood adversity, above and beyond the effects of childhood maltreatment and exposure to family dysfunction, on several mental health problems in young adulthood. This paper, published in Children and Youth Services Review, is titled, "Childhood adversity subtypes and young adulthood mental health problems: Unpacking effects of maltreatment, family dysfunction, and peer victimization."

    • March 2021: Dr. Narayan published a review paper, "Intergenerational Transmission and Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)" along with her predoctoral mentor, Ann Masten, and her postdoctoral mentor, Alicia Lieberman, in Clinical Psychology Review. This paper articulates that more comprehensive prevention of ACEs in children should include consideration of the enduring role of parents' adverse and benevolent childhood experiences, as well as the mediating role of parental traumatic stress.

    • March 2021: Fourth-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, Laura River, just published a review paper in Family Process, along with fellow doctoral student Maggie O'Reilly-Treter, her mentor Galena Rhoades, and Angela Narayan. This systematic review, titled "Parent-child Relationship Quality in the Family of Origin and Later Romantic Relationship Functioning: A Systematic Review," synthesized the literature on the legacy of maternal sensitivity and parent-child attachment for dyadic romantic relationship functioning. Congrats, team!

    • November 2020: Congratulations to fifth-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, Vicky Atzl, who just published a paper in Maternal and Child Health! This paper is titled "Maternal Pregnancy Wantedness and Perceptions of Paternal Pregnancy Wantedness: Associations With Perinatal Mental Health and Relationship Dynamics" and used a novel coding system of pregnancy wantedness. Findings showed that compared to pregnant women who perceived the fathers of their babies as wanting the pregnancy more than women did, pregnant women who perceived wanting the pregnancy more than the fathers of their babies had significantly higher prenatal and postnatal depression symptoms, and were rated by independent coders to also have higher levels of prenatal relationship conflict with and lower support from fathers of the babies. Pregnant women's perceptions that the fathers of their babies want the pregnancy (perhaps even more than women themselves want it) may be protective against perinatal maladjustment. Congrats, Vicky!

    • July 2020: Congrats to Jill Merrick, rising fourth-year clinical doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, for publishing a policy brief in the Journal of Children and Poverty titled "Assessment and Screening of Positive Childhood Experiences Along With Childhood Adversity in Research, Practice, and Policy." This paper articulates the advantages of including assessment of positive childhood experiences in large-scale research studies, community mental health practice and primary care screening to better understand how favorable early experiences counteract the long-term effects of childhood adversity.

    • May 2020: Angela Narayan, PhD, and two PROTECT Lab doctoral students, along with colleagues from San Francisco, just published the first empirical paper linking adverse and benevolent childhood experiences to ghosts and angels in the nursery. This paper is titled "Developmental Origins of Ghosts and Angels in the Nursery: Adverse and Benevolent Childhood Experiences" and it will be published in the inaugural volumes of the new peer-reviewed journal Adversity and Resilience Science.

    • May 2020: Congrats to Jill Merrick, third-year PROTECT Lab clinical student, who just published her master's thesis in Children and Youth Services Review! The paper is titled "Type Versus Timing of Adverse and Benevolent Childhood Experiences for Pregnant Women's Psychological and Reproductive Health." This study finds that higher levels of childhood maltreatment predict higher levels of PTSD during pregnancy, higher levels of BCEs and lower levels of family/household dysfunction predict fewer stressful life events during pregnancy, and higher levels of BCEs predict lower levels of women's risky reproductive planning.

    • April 2020: Congrats to Jill Merrick, third-year PROTECT Lab clinical student, who just published a new measure, the Child Life Challenges Scale (CLCS), a novel instrument that is both brief and valid, and efficiently assesses parents' perceptions of their children's cumulative exposure to life stressors and adversity. Her paper, "The Child Life Challenges Scale: A Promising Brief Measure of Cumulative Childhood Adversity," was published in Children. Congrats, Jill!

    • November 2019: The PROTECT Lab just completed the 500th BE SAFE Pregnancy Study interview! This includes 160 families and more than 100 fathers, with approximately 70% retention at 3-months and 12-months postnatal (almost 100 babies!). We are thankful for all the students and staff that have helped us connect with all of these families and honor their stories about pregnancy and parenthood.

    • November 2019: Doctoral students in the PROTECT Lab attended ISTSS in Boston and presented work on angels and ghosts in the nursery, and BCEs.

    • November 2019: Third-year PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Laura River, just published a paper in Psychology of Violence, titled "Past Made Present: The Legacy of Childhood Maltreatment for Romantic Relationship Quality and Psychopathology During Pregnancy." This study found that relationship support and conflict with the baby's father partially mediates the link between pregnant women's childhood maltreatment and their PTSD symptoms during pregnancy and fully mediates the link between maltreatment and depression symptoms during pregnancy.

    • September 2019: The PROTECT Lab just enrolled the 100th father-to-be in the BE SAFE Pregnancy Study! We are honored to have had 100 unique fathers-to-be share their stories about life experiences, relationships, mental health and plans for fatherhood with us.

    • August 2019: Congrats to PROTECT Lab fourth-year doctoral student, Vicky Atzl, and to Maddie Sayyah for coauthoring the chapter titled "Intimate Partner Violence and Severe Psychopathology: Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder" in the forthcoming edited book Intimate Partner Violence: Dangerous Behavior in Clinical and Forensic Psychology.

    • June 2019: The PROTECT Lab doctoral students and Angela Narayan, PhD, celebrated another successful year of clinical research, with two-thirds of the target sample of families enrolled during the pregnancy wave!

    • May 2019: Senior undergraduate in the PROTECT Lab, Miriam Castillo, presented a poster, "Pregnant Women’s Narrative Coherence About Their Babies’ Fathers in a Low-Income, Ethnically-Diverse Sample," at the DU Undergraduate Research Showcase.

    • April 2019: Congrats to second-year PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Laura River, for publishing the paper "Romantic Partner Support During Pregnancy: The Discrepancy Between Self-reported and Coder-rated Support as a Risk Factor for Prenatal Psychopathology and Stress" in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships! This study found that using the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) to assess romantic relationship support identifies participants who may idealize support on self-reported instruments, and in turn, may be at risk for mental health problems and intimate partner violence victimization.

    • March 2019: Several members of the PROTECT Lab are presenting our work at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) biennial conference in Baltimore! Jill Merrick is giving a talk on type versus timing of ACEs and BCEs as part of the symposium "Intergenerational Risk and Resilience: Continuity, Discontinuity, and Mechanisms of Transmission." Vicky Atzl, Maddie Schmidt and Laura River are presenting posters on the association of unwanted pregnancies with perinatal mental health and relationship dynamics, the convergent validity of the ACEs scale and the CTQ for assessing childhood maltreatment, and the mediating role of PTSD symptoms in the link between childhood maltreatment and pregnant women's Narrative Coherence (NC) about their babies' fathers.

    • February 2019: PROTECT Lab third-year doctoral student, Vicky Atzl, just published a systematic review paper in Child Abuse & Neglect titled "Perinatal Promotive and Protective Factors for Women with Histories of Childhood Abuse and Neglect" along with coauthors, Leah Grande (clinical doctoral student), Elysia Davis (developmental faculty) and Angela Narayan. This paper reviewed the extant literature on factors that support pregnant women and infants' wellbeing, and buffer effects of childhood adversity on perinatal maladaptation. Congrats, Vicky!

    • January 2019: Congratulations to second-year PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Jill Merrick, on her in press paper "Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) in Homeless Parents: A Validation and Replication Study." This is the second empirical study on the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale and found that higher levels of BCEs predicted lower odds of psychological distress in parents experiencing homelessness. This article is forthcoming in the Journal of Family Psychology.

    • December 2018: The PROTECT Lab has been extremely productive in 2018, with two grants awarded, four talks delivered, six posters presented and eight manuscripts submitted! (And a partridge in a pear tree; happy holidays!)

    • December 2018: Congrats to PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Vicky Atzl, on publishing her master's paper, titled "Adverse Childhood Experiences and Prenatal Mental Health: ACEs Type and Age of Maltreatment Onset," which is in press at the Journal of Family Psychology. This study found that adverse childhood experiences characterized by childhood maltreatment, as opposed to family dysfunction, predicted PTSD, but not depression symptoms during pregnancy, and that maltreatment that began in early childhood is a particularly potent predictor of prenatal PTSD symptoms.

    • Fall 2018: Angela Narayan gave a talk, titled "Empirically and Culturally Informed Clinical Tools to Assess Pregnancy Wantedness and Relationship Dynamics as Predictors of Perinatal Depression and PTSD," at the annual Zero to Three conference in Denver as part of the Infant and Perinatal Mental Health Preconference that also featured speakers Joy Osofsky, Catherine Monk, Arietta Slade and Alicia Lieberman.

    • Fall 2018: At the annual Zero to Three conference in Denver, current PROTECT Lab doctoral students had the opportunity to meet with Alice Lieberman, the BE SAFE Pregnancy-San Francisco study PI and funder, and Bill Harris, son of infant mental health philanthropist Irving Harris.

    • Fall 2018: Congrats to PROTECT Lab alum, Maddie Schmidt, on leading the in press paper titled "Childhood Maltreatment on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Scale versus the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) in a Perinatal Sample," forthcoming in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma. This study elucidated the nuanced construct validity of five maltreatment subtypes across two of the most-commonly used instruments that assess childhood maltreatment. Way to go, Maddie!

    • Summer 2018: PROTECT Lab second-year doctoral student, Laura River, gave a talk, "Assessing Romantic Partner Support during Pregnancy with the Five-Minute Speech Sample: Validity and Concordance with Self-Reported Partner Support," at the International Association of Relationship Research (IARR) in Fort Collins, CO.

    • Spring 2018: Senior honors student in the PROTECT Lab, Maddie Schmidt, presented two posters at the annual DU Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium. The first poster reflected her honors thesis, “Pregnant Women with Histories of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Stress, and Trauma, and Attributions about their Unborn Child.” The second reflected her recently submitted manuscript, “Childhood Maltreatment among Low-Income Women across the Perinatal Period: Convergent Validity of the Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaires."

    • Spring 2018: First-year PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Laura River, presented her research at the biennial Developmental Psychobiology Research Group (DPRG) retreat. Her project was titled "Social Support from the Baby's Father during Pregnancy: The Discrepancy between Mothers' Self-Reported and Observed Support as a Risk Factor for Antenatal Psychopathology and Stress." This study contributes to the PROTECT Lab's core emphasis on methodological development in family systems and traumatic stress research.

    • Summer 2017: Second-year PROTECT Lab doctoral student, Vicky Atzl, presented findings from the BE SAFE San Francisco Pregnancy Study at the Developmental Neurotoxicology Society, held in Denver. Her poster was titled "Identifying Predictors of Intimate Partner Violence during Pregnancy to Deter Intergenerational Transmission of Maternal and Fetal Risk."

    • Spring 2017: Angela Narayan gave a talk on PROTECT Lab research at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) biennial meeting in Austin, TX. The talk was titled "Benevolent Childhood Experiences as Deterrents of Prenatal Programming of Maternal and Infant Stress" and it was part of the symposium "Prenatal Origins of Developmental Health in High-Risk Contexts: From Intergenerational Transmission to Early Intervention."


  • Awards
    • May 2022: Vicky Atzl received the Harry Gollub Award for the best first-authored student publication in 2022 for her paper titled, "Maternal Pregnancy Wantedness and Perceptions of Paternal Pregnancy Wantedness: Associations With Perinatal Mental Health and Relationship Dynamics," published in Maternal & Child Health.

    • January 2021: Congratulations to Jill Merrick, who received the DU Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for her upcoming dissertation thesis titled, "Risk and Promotive Factors for Perinatal Mental Health Problems: Adverse and Benevolent Childhood Experiences and Contemporaneous Support and Stress."

    • May 2020: Several awards from the DU Department of Psychology went to PROTECT Lab members during the annual Spring awards ceremony. Laura River received the Harry Gollub Award for the best first-authored student publication in 2020. Laura River and Jill Merrick each received both the Service Award and the Teaching Award. Congrats, Laura and Jill!

    • May 2020: Congrats to first-year PROTECT Lab clinical student, Cassie Svelnys, who received the two-year Inclusive Engagement (IE) Fellowship from the University of Denver!

    • June 2019: PROTECT Lab member, Rachel Peña, led a poster presentation titled "The DU Pregnancy Study: A Partnership with Denver Health to Promote Resilience in Diverse Mothers- and Fathers-to-Be during the Transition to Parenthood" with Angela Narayan, PhD, and PROTECT doctoral students that won first place in Scientific Research at the Denver Health Days of Celebration. Peña and Narayan presented the findings, which summarized the first 101 families who are part of BE SAFE Denver (the "DU Pregnancy Study"), to Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein.

    • May 2019: Second-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, Jill Merrick, has received the two-year DU Inclusive Engagement Fellowship, which recognizes and supports her contribution to inclusive excellence in research, clinical work, teaching and service, and promotion of diversity within the profession. Congrats, Jill!

    • Summer 2018: Angela Narayan is the 2018 recipient of the Early Career Award for Ethnic Minority Psychologist in Trauma Psychology from APA Div 56: Trauma Psychology.

    • Spring 2018: Several members of the PROTECT Lab were honored at the annual DU Psychology Department Awards Ceremony. Second-year doctoral student, Vicky Atzl, received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant (TA) award, and third-year doctoral student, Thania Galvan, received the Outstanding Service to the Department award. Additionally, senior undergraduate student, Maddie Schmidt, was recognized for her outstanding research in the psychology Honors Program.

    • Spring 2018: Vicky Atzl and Laura River, both doctoral students in the PROTECT Lab, received the 2018–2019 Doctoral Fellowships for Inclusive Engagement (IE) from DU for their diversity-related research, teaching/mentorship, and service to the department and the community.

    • Spring 2018: Angela Narayan's doctoral alma mater, the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development, has recognized her with the 2018 Rising Star Alumni Award. Check out the Institute of Child Development's blog post!

    • Spring 2018: Angela Narayan, PhD, was named a University of Denver Public Impact Fellow, to be part of a two-year fellowship program on community-engaged scholarship.

    • Winter 2017: Vicky Atzl, a first-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, was awarded the Doctoral Fellowship for Inclusive Engagement from DU. This award recognizes her contributions towards enhancing the University's mission of inclusive excellence. Congrats, Vicky!

    • Spring 2016: Vicky Atzl, a first-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, was awarded the Graduate Studies Doctoral Fellowship from DU. This award recognizes her outstanding research and academic achievement as an incoming first-year student to the clinical child PhD program. Congrats, Vicky!


  • Grants
    • March 2022: Angela Narayan, PhD, received a PROF (Professional Research Opportunities for Faculty) grant, from the University of Denver to extend the DU BE SAFE Pregnancy Study to a fourth and fifth wave, which will follow families to the last year that the target child is in preschool/childcare (Wave 4) and to the year that children begin kindergarten (Wave 5)!

    • March 2022: Angela Narayan, PhD, received a grant from the University of Denver's Public Good Fund to further update and refine the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale, which is currently used in at least 25 countries and translated into 10 languages!

    • April 2019: Angela Narayan, PhD, received a PROF (Professional Research Opportunities for Faculty) grant, from the University of Denver to extend the DU BE SAFE Pregnancy Study by increasing the overall sample size and also including as many second caregivers (i.e., biological fathers and non-gestational caregivers) as are interested in participating.

    • April 2019: Laura River, second-year doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab, has received the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP) for the 2019–2022 cycle! Laura's proposal is titled, "Effects of Chronic Prenatal Stress on Infant Developmental Trajectories: Testing the Protective Capacity of Postnatal Caregiving." A big congrats, Laura!

    • Fall 2018: Angela Narayan received a research grant from the Guardian of Angels Foundation for a new study titled, "Pathways from Toxic Stress and Benevolent Childhood Experiences to Risky Behavior and Resilience."

    • Spring 2018: Angela Narayan received a 2018 Early Career Grant from the Society in Research in Child Development (SRCD) for an upcoming study titled "Child Adversity and Benevolent Childhood Experiences as Predictors of Mental Health Problems in Ethnically-Diverse, Low-Income Fathers Expecting a Baby."

    • Spring 2018: Miriam Castillo, a junior undergraduate student in the PROTECT Lab, received the DU Summer Research Grant for her project titled, "Pregnant Women's Narrative Coherence about their Babies' Fathers in a Low-Income, Diverse Sample." This project will advance understanding of Spanish- and English-speaking women's relationship representations about the fathers of their babies. Congrats, Miriam!

    • Spring 2018: Congratulations to PROTECT Lab doctoral students Laura River and Vicky Atzl for each receiving the Lawrence Miller Fellowship from the DU Department of Psychology!

    • Spring 2017: Congratulations to PROTECT undergrad, Maddie Schmidt, who received a Summer Research Grant from the DU Undergraduate Research Committee for her upcoming senior honors project, "Maternal Trauma History and Mental Health as Predictors of Prenatal Affect and Attributions about the Baby."

    • Spring 2017: Incoming first-year doctoral students in the PROTECT Lab, Jill Merrick and Laura River, were both awarded the Graduate Studies Doctoral Fellowship from DU. This award recognizes their outstanding research and academic achievements leading up to their matriculation in the DU clinical child psychology PhD program. Congrats, Laura and Jill!

    • Fall 2016: Angela Narayan received a small grant from DU for multicultural and methodological developments in the BE SAFE Pregnancy Study. This grant will enable Spanish-speaking pregnant women's transcripts of positive childhood memories to be coded by a Spanish-speaking research assistant.


  • Events
    • August 2019: Robert Emde, MD, visited DU and the PROTECT Lab to discuss the historical legacy of the Department of Psychology.

    • April 2019: At the Psychology and the Public Good Event hosted by the DU Department of Psychology, Angela Narayan gave a talk, "Leveraging the Perspectives of Fathers," that highlighted the recent achievements of the DU BE SAFE Pregnancy Study. These achievements included recruiting both pregnant women and fathers-to-be from two-thirds of enrolled families and retaining approximately 80% of eligible families at the first postnatal follow-up. Fathers' perspectives on their life experiences, relationships, mental health and plans for parenthood invaluably enhance our understanding of how to support family wellbeing and promote resilience during the perinatal period.

    • April 2019: PROTECT LAB members gathered at the Psychology and the Public Good Event, Tackling the Earliest Beginnings with Research and Clinical Practice in the Prenatal Period, to celebrate SEED Science!

    • Spring 2018: Ann Masten, PhD, of the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development visited the PROTECT Lab to hear about our ongoing longitudinal study on intergenerational transmission of risk and resilience in pregnant women and fathers-to-be. She shared wisdom on how to assess competence, resilience and age-salient developmental tasks gained from her expertise in conducting the 20-year Project Competence longitudinal study in Minneapolis, MN. Thank you for joining us, Ann!

    • Fall 2017: The PROTECT Lab presented the first preliminary findings from the BE SAFE Denver Pregnancy Study at the "Psychology and the Public Good" event, co-hosted by the Stress, Early Experiences, and Development (SEED) Center and the MotherWise project.


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