Adventures Down Under: Study Abroad in Sydney, Australia

By Mackenzie Wild '16

April 23, 2015

unswThanks to a connection Professor Brady made while on her Fulbright in Cyprus a few years ago, I have had the opportunity to work as an intern with Dr. Eva Kimonis while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Kimonis is a professor at the University of New South Wales—a “Uni” located about 20 minutes outside downtown Sydney, where I live—and has been working on jumpstarting a study on Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). It is with this year-long research project that I am having the pleasure of helping with for the time that I am here.

This project is concerned with children aged from two to eight years with difficult behaviors and how the parent-child relationship can be improved to remedy these behaviors. If eligible for the experiment, the child and at least one of their caregivers work with the team for a number of weeks (based on the needs of the particular family) going through a variety of different testing situations. lab1After completing the eligibility screening, the child and caregiver(s) are invited to one of the Karitane parenting clinics based on the age of the child (ages two to five are in the toddler clinic, and ages six to eight are in the child clinic) for preliminary assessment. Families are then invited to the UNSW lab where the actual PCIT can begin and take place. Caregivers are trained to encourage positive behaviors from the child via reflection, behavior descriptions, and labeled/unlabeled praise while avoiding negative talk, commands, and questions in both the Parent Directed Interactions (PDI) as well as the Child Directed Interactions (CDI). All behaviors are coded and assessed throughout the experiment to quantify progress made by psychologists viewing behind a one-way mirror and by reviewing the tape recordings.

My involvement with this experiment is twofold. One day per week, I go to the UNSW lab to conduct screening interviews with parents/caregivers and to go through the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS) for the tape recordings. Screening interviews are conducted over the phone to ensure that the child’s age, behavioral difficulties, and treatment history (the child cakaritanennot be currently receiving psychological treatment in order to participate) are alight with this study. I then use the DPICS to code videos of PCITs that have already been conducted for the behaviors of interest.

Once a week on a different day, I also work at the Karitane Toddler Clinic in Carramar, NSW, located about an hour outside of the city. Here, I am able to administer tests such as the Dynamic Faces Emotion Recognition Task, Theory of Mind: False Belief Task, the Denver Developmental Screening Test, and a few others in order to assess empathy, cognitive ability, and the developmental level of the child.

For someone who aspires to someday be a clinician and potentially run similar experiments on my own, this internship has already taught me so much of value. Not only that, I also believe that there is no better way to learn about the culture of a new country than to work with local families and professionals. Again, I’m thankful for this opportunity – professors at Saint Anselm are always thinking of how they can support their student's interests beyond the classroom.

Dr. Kimonis’ recent work:

Kimonis, E. R., Bagner, D. M., Linares, D., Blake, C. A., & Rodriguez, G. (2014). Parent training outcomes among young children with callous–unemotional conduct problems with or at risk for developmental delay. Journal of child and family studies, 23(2), 437-448.