With a commitment to optimising outcomes for children and families in the first 2000 days (conception to school entry), we conduct clinically focused and translational research in the areas of perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health.

Our goals

We work in close collaboration with clinicians and consumers to conduct research that 1) enhances understanding of mental health in infancy and early childhood, and the role of parent-child attachment relationships and parenting in early childhood development/wellbeing, and 2) supports the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based perinatal and infant mental health services. We work in partnership with the Australian early parenting organisation, Karitane, and are co-located at their head site in Carramar, South Western Sydney.

Our current projects include:

  • The Karitane Families Study – a study that aims to 1) validate a suite of parent-report outcome tools for use in early parenting services, and 2) examine outcomes of the virtual and face-to-face formats of the Karitane Residential Unit program intervention
  • ForWhen evaluation – a mixed-method evaluation of the ForWhen program, a federally funded perinatal mental health navigation program, funded by the Australian Federal Government and led by Karitane and the Australasian Association of Parenting and Child Health
  • Emotional connection and contagion – An evaluation of an arts-based and biofeedback professional development program for child and family health nurses and midwives at the Karitane Residential Unit
  • The ‘My Toddler and Me’ study – a randomised controlled trial testing outcomes of two attachment-based early parenting programs for toddlers with early onset disruptive behaviours, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy – Toddler (PCIT-T), and Circle of Security – Parenting (COS-P)
  • PCIT-T as prevention pilot study – a pilot study testing outcomes of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy – Toddler (PCIT-T) delivered as a preventative intervention for toddlers with psychosocial risks
  • ‘Keeping the Infant in Mind’ - a longitudinal study investigating links among parental sensitivity and mentalization, child temperament factors, and callous-unemotional traits in early childhood.
  • Evaluation of the Pre-Admission Midwife Appointment Program at the Mater – an evaluation of antenatal psychosocial assessment and depression screening program at a private hospital, conducted in collaboration with the Mater Hospital and Gidget Foundation Australia
  • The neurobiology of Disruptive Behaviour Disorder subtypes in early childhood and parenting sensitivity – an Australian Research Council funded study investigating the role of the oxytocin receptor gene in the development and treatment of disruptive behaviours in toddlers

Our results

Selected recent publications:

  • Kohlhoff, J., Lieneman, C., Cibralic, S., Traynor, N., McNeil, C. (2022). A critical review of studies evaluating attachment changes following parenting interventions for parents of children aged 12-24-months. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-022-00405-4
  • Kohlhoff, J., Tooke, S., Philipov, M., Hickinbotham, R., Knox, C., Roach, V., Barnett, B. (2022). Antenatal depression screening and psychosocial assessment program in an Australian Private Hospital: An evaluation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1-10. DOI: 10.1111/ajo.13550
  • Kohlhoff, J., Cibralic, S., Hawes, D., Eapen, V. (2022). Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphisms and social, emotional and behavioral functioning in children and adolescents: A systematic narrative review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 135, 104573
  • Kohlhoff, J., Karlov, L., Dadds, M., Barnett, B., Silove, D., Eapen, V. (2021). The contributions of maternal oxytocin, maternal sensitivity, and recollections of adverse early parenting experiences to infant attachment security. Attachment and Human Development, Dec 28;1-16. doi: 10.1080/14616734.2021.2018472
  • Kohlhoff, J., Cibralic, C. (2021). The impact of attachment-based parenting interventions on externalizing behaviors in toddlers and preschoolers: A systematic narrative review. Child & Youth Care Forum, 2 (2)
  • Kohlhoff, J., Cibralic, S., Tooke, S., Hickinbotham, R., Knox, C., Roach V., & Barnett, B. (2021). Health professional perspectives on an antenatal mental health screening program in a private hospital. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 61(6):891-897
  • Kohlhoff, J., Tooke, S., Cibralic, S., Hickinbotham, R., Knox, C., Roach, V., Barnett, B. (2021). Antenatal psychosocial assessment and depression screening in an Australian Private Hospital setting: A qualitative examination of women’s perspectives. Midwifery, Aug 25;103:103129 10.1016/j.midw.2021.103129
  • Kohlhoff, J., Morgan, S., Briggs, N., Egan, R., Niec, L. (2021). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Toddlers: A community-based randomized controlled trial with children aged 14-24 months, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 20, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2020.1723599
  • Cibralic, S., Kohlhoff, J., Wallace, N., Eapen, N., McMahon, C. (2020). Treating Externalizing Behaviors in Toddlers with ASD Traits Using Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Toddlers: A Case Study. Clinical Case Studies, 1-20 https://doi.org/10.1177/1534650120969854
  • Kohlhoff, J., Cibralic, S., Wallace, N., Morgan, S., McMahon, C., Hawkins, E., Eapen, V., Briggs, N., McNeil, C. (2020). A Randomized Controlled Trial comparing Parent Child Interaction Therapy - Toddler, Circle of Security– ParentingTM and Waitlist controls in the treatment of disruptive behaviors for children aged 14-24 months: Study Protocol. BMC Psychology 8, 93.

Our experts

Chair, Infant and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Valsamma Eapen
Chair, Infant and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Sophia Harris
Research Officer


Nicole Traynor
Research Officer


Vivian Chau
PhD student


Key collaborators

Karitane https://www.karitane.com.au