$3.7 million grant to enable KU research on how Kansas City children respond to trauma

A Kansas University researcher has earned a $3.7 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to lead a project designed to explore how children deal with traumatic life events, KU announced Monday.

Yo Jackson, professor in the clinical child psychology program and the psychology/applied behavioral science departments, will lead the research. KU described it as a “gold-standard” study supported by KU’s Life Span Institute.

Jackson hopes to help answer, scientifically, how some children cope well with exposure to trauma while others carry lifelong scars.

“Kids exposed to same events react very differently,” Jackson said, in KU’s news release. “As a clinician in grad school, I worked with brothers in Atlanta who grew up in a crackhouse — with all that comes along with that — and then in foster care. One was barely functional with five psychiatric diagnoses, but the other was a good speller, liked going to soccer practice and was a fairly typical 9-year-old.”

The study will look at how trauma affects emotions and thinking, focusing on hundreds of children aged 3 to 5 who are clients of social services agencies in Kansas City, according to KU.

Jackson’s goal is to provide “first-time empirical evidence of the complicated process from exposure to outcome,” according to KU, with the ultimate goal of formulating evidence-based protocols that will help kids achieve better outcomes.

Jackson’s co-primary investigators are Jane Roberts of the University of South Carolina and Kathy Grant of DePaul University in Chicago and Lesa Hoffman of KU’s Child Language Program and the Life Span Institute.