Grants Support Research into Ways to Reduce Violence

August 24, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded a total of $2.4 million to two research groups in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center for studies aimed at reducing violence.

 The Deaf Wellness Center received $1.2 million for a study of intimate partner violence affecting the deaf community. The three-year project will investigate the characteristics of perpetrators of violence who are involved in a relationship in which one or both partners are deaf and communicate using American Sign Language. Robert Q. Pollard Jr., Ph.D., director of the Deaf Wellness Center and professor of Psychiatry, will lead the intimate partner violence study.

The CDC also awarded $1.2 million to a group led by Kenneth R. Conner, Psy.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Psychiatry and co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, for a study of factors that lower the risk of suicidal behavior among adolescents and young adults.

“There have been many studies that produced lots of data about what puts kids and young adults at risk for suicide but there is little known about what lowers their risk,” Conner said.

The intimate partner violence project will involve 90 in-depth interviews with individuals who provide services to the perpetrators or victims of partner violence, deaf victims and those who have been violent. The researchers will compare their findings with results of studies of intimate partner violence involving hearing individuals. The group also will examine behaviors associated with a greater risk of injury.

Researchers from the University’s National Center for Deaf Health Research (NCDHR) will serve as partners on the project. Research conducted by the NCDHR has shown that intimate partner violence affecting the deaf community is an important issue. The research will produce recommendations for interventions to reduce and prevent intimate partner violence affecting the deaf community.

For the three-year suicide project, Conner will focus on the extent to which healthy relationships with peers, school, parents and family lowers the risk for a suicide attempt and whether the risk-lowering effects of these connections endures into emerging adulthood. The researchers also will examine whether connectedness and cooperation within a community serves to lower the risk for making a suicide attempt. A goal of the project is the development of strategies to strengthen young peoples’ connections with others in order to prevent suicidal behavior.

Conner will take advantage of data already being gathered for two large national studies of adolescents and young adults that focus on families with a parent with alcoholism. “Kids going up in homes where one or both parents have alcoholism are at increased risk for a range of problems, including suicidal behavior. Nonetheless, many children growing up in these circumstances do quite well, and we will study what factors lead to resiliency, along with factors that contribute to maladjustment,” Conner said.

Conner’s study includes researchers at the University of Connecticut and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The Deaf Wellness Center is a program of the Medical Center, based in its Department of Psychiatry. The center’s staff members provide clinical services, teach and conduct research pertaining to mental health, health care, sign language interpreting, and other topics that affect the lives of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The National Center for Deaf Health Research is one of 37 prevention research centers funded by the CDC through the Prevention Research Centers program. The NCDHR partners with deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to promote health. The center does not study the prevention or treatment of hearing loss. It investigates ways to help deaf and hard-of-hearing communities prevent or reduce health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, depression and other chronic health concerns.

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