UW-Madison - Department of Counseling Psychology - People - Faculty Research Teams - Dr Valdez's Research Teams

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Counseling Psychology

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Carmen Valdez' Research Home Page

Fortalezas Familiares | Keeping Families Strong | Social Capital


image of the Fortelezas Familiares Research Team


Research Mission

Dr. Carmen Valdez’ research is guided theoretically by Developmental Psychopathology and Culture-Centered models. Of special interest to her are family and community influences on children’s development. Her research with families is based on the premise that children’s adjustment greatly takes place within the family and that family functioning and health are shaped by dynamic, process-oriented experiences of support, risk, and resilience. Although the role of individual differences on children’s development cannot be overlooked, a model that emphasizes family and community influences offers a more complete understanding of children’s development, and informs the design and conduct of preventive and therapeutic interventions that aim to prevent risk and build resilience.  Emphasis on the cultural context is not only relevant to understanding ethnic minority groups, but to increasing awareness of our own cultural influences and interactions with others.

The integration of models described above to the study of coping across the lifespan and contexts, has been Dr. Valdez'’ research focus. In particular, her five areas of study are predictors of depression, family stress and child and family coping and development, clinic- and community-based intervention development for vulnerable populations, effects of sociocultural processes (e.g., immigration policy, parent social networks, socioeconomic disadvantage) on child adaptation, and promotion of culture-centered educational, and health and mental health practice. Her research interests in depression began with the study of mechanisms of depression and associated behavioral and academic risks among children and youth. An understanding of the processes of depression has provided the foundation for her subsequent work in intervention research.


Previous Projects
As part of her post-doctoral training, Dr. Valdez was actively involved in the development and implementation of Keeping Families Strong (KFS), a NIMH-funded prevention program designed to reduce the impact of parental depression on children, particularly the increased risk of depression and other negative outcomes. Prior to her appointment at the UW-Madison, Dr. Valdez was the clinical director of KFS and the lead developer of the parent protocol of the intervention. She also evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of KFS as a sustainable adjunct service to individual treatment in mental health clinics. 

At UW-Madison, Dr. Valdez adapted the KFS Program to Latino families in Wisconsin (see current projects). In preparation for the cultural adaptation, she interviewed medical and mental health providers’ about their culturally-centered recognition and treatment of depression in Latinos. She and her research team also focused on understanding the literature on Latino mental health, mental health disparities, intervention development and adaptation, and facilitated focus groups to further inform their adaptation.

Consistent with her research on culturally-competent provision of services in the community, in 2007-2008 Dr. Valdez evaluated the effectiveness of a teen depression video (It's Time!) on teachers’ recognition of depression. With CTSA funds from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) and matching funds from the Morgridge Center for Public Service, both at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Valdez piloted the adapted KFS program for Latino families in Madison. The adapted program, "Fortalezas Familiares" (Family Strengths) was conducted in a community health center and evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention in these settings.

Current Projects
Dr. Valdez is also an Investigator on an NICHD-funded study, Children, Families, and Schools, that began in the Spring of 2008, to evaluate the effects of parents’ social capital on Latino children’s social and cognitive development. This study is being conducted with 3,000 Latino families in San Antonio, TX and Phoenix, AZ. Social capital is being manipulated through random assignment to a comparison group and to an intervention group. The intervention used is Families and Schools Together (FAST). She is currently preparing manuscripts on the effects of acculturation on families' social capital, the effects of anti-immigrant climate on Latino families' social capital, and on the applicability of culturally-sensitive research in randomized clinical trials.

Future Projects
Dr. Valdez is planning to investigate the efficacy of the expanded Fortalezas Familiares program on a large scale. As a follow-up to the Social Capital Study, she plans to follow children in Arizona into adolescence, with particular attention to the effects of immigration climate and policy changes on youth development.


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