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Research

Current Research

  • Child and Family Perceptions and Experiences of Legacy

    • The purpose of this research is to understand how children and their family members describe and understand the concept of legacy as it applies to pediatric health, illness, hospitalization, and bereavement.
  • Facility Dog Intervention in Pediatric Healthcare

    • The aim of this work is to quantify the outcomes associated with facility dog interventions in pediatric healthcare settings and to better articulate the scope of facility dog practice.
  • Retention and Engagement in Certified Child Life Specialists and Students

    • This mixed-methods research explores dimensions of retention, engagement, and burnout in child life students and professionals to describe the resources and barriers associated with career longevity.
  • Parent/Caregiver Experiences of Pediatric Intensive and Acute Care

    • This study looks at parent/caregiver experiences of their child’s transition from pediatric intensive care to acute care, or step-down, unit, in order to identify needs and design multidisciplinary, trauma-informed interventions.

 

Research Overview

In conjunction with faculty, graduate students, and our affiliation with the Child Life Inquiry Collective, our research agenda addresses child development and learning processes through a critical socio-cultural and health-focused lens. Grounded in educational and developmental psychology, we situate education outside of the traditional classroom setting and instead focus on culturally and emotionally laden sites of learning such as the hospital, outpatient clinic, community, and family.  Blending traditional and innovative qualitative methods with established developmental theories, we employ a Certified-Child-Life-Specialist-informed clinical perspective to deconstruct the ways in which children learn about and participate in dominant social binaries such as health/illness, life/death, and childhood/adulthood, and the implications for direct pediatric medical and psychosocial care.  Ultimately, we strive for our research to make space for families, healthcare providers, and policymakers to think differently about both child and family capacities for intentional engagement in their developmental and healthcare experiences.

Our research recognizes and values multiple ways of knowing and being.  Although often drawn to qualitative methodologies and intermingled assemblages of ontology, epistemology, and macro- to mid-level theories, we appreciate what all research paradigms can contribute to improving the experiences of children and families.  Thus, we harness a variety of research designs, from post-structural case study work to collaborative narrative refraction, systematic literature reviews, historical content analyses, survey-based research, retrospective reviews, and prospective intervention research.  Although a broad spectrum, we intentionally practice an approach to research that seeks to balance structure, flexibility, intelligibility, creativity, and improvisation – a scaffolding as described by our lab director, Dr. Jessika Boles, and Dr. Lisbeth Berbary (2014) at the University of Waterloo.

The CHILL lab regards children and families as the foremost experts on their past, present, and anticipated needs and experiences. To address the problematic lack of healthcare research from the perspectives of pediatric patients and their families, our priority is to conduct research using developmentally appropriate, child-centered, and trauma-informed methods (such as narrative or semi-structured interviews, arts-based activities, and group play interventions) to elicit voices typically marginalized by medical research models. Additionally, we view research participation not only as a tool for identifying population needs and evaluating interventions but also as a developmental experience that promotes meaning-making and cultivates a positive outlook on future research participation for our participants.  With each study, we learn more about ways to best support children and families as they navigate illness, loss, and research, improving our ability to generate research that is culturally humble, trauma-informed, and emotionally safe for both participants and research staff.