FORT WAYNE, IND. – JUNE 15, 2021 – The National Institutes of Health (NIH), through the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), has awarded an almost $322,000 grant to Brandon T. McDaniel, Ph.D., a research scientist with the Health Services and Informatics Research team at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, to examine the phone habits of parents of infants and develop programming that encourages healthy digital habits.
McDaniel will conduct this research with co-investigators Jenny Radesky, MD, at the University of Michigan and, at Parkview, Jessica Pater, Ph.D., and Michelle Drouin, Ph.D., both part of the Health Services and Informatics Research team, and Connie Kerrigan, director of Community Support Services at the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute.
“This grant is especially notable as it’s the first NIH grant awarded to Parkview,” said Tammy Toscos, Ph.D., director of Health Services and Informatics Research, Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation. “Only a small fraction of applications for NIH grants receive funding, and we’re extremely excited for the doors this will open for Dr. McDaniel and Parkview as a whole.”
The NIH grant will enable McDaniel and his team to conduct a two-year study of about 250 parents of infants, with the goal of better understanding parents’ phone use relative to their mental health. Research methods will include surveys, measurement of phone use, interviews and focus groups. The study will provide the information necessary to understand the phone use of parents of infants and help parents develop healthier digital habits.
McDaniel said his team is targeting families of infants, due to the need to begin healthy habits early in life, and focusing on phone use due to the prevalence of devices in our everyday lives. Ultimately, the research will support the development of data- and parent-informed programming to assist parents of infants in fostering healthy caregiving.
“Phone use has become quite common during parenting and family interactions, and this can sometimes negatively impact the quality of care and bonding that infants and children experience. This is especially true if parents are often distracted or absorbed by device use during time they are spending with their infant,” McDaniel said. “Infants need their parent’s or caregiver’s responsiveness and sensitivity in order to develop a healthy and secure attachment as well as the ability to regulate their emotions effectively. This development can have important ramifications for children’s mental health, academic performance and relationship quality as they grow older.”
“We need to better understand parents, their phone use, what leads to this phone use, and the good and the bad surrounding it,” McDaniel continued. “Certain types of phone use, such as using late at night so sleep is missed, may have negative impacts on a parent’s mental health. However, there may be other times when the phone use assists the parent and improves the caregiving environment, such as when reaching out for support during stressful parenting moments.
“Our team wants to better understand the good and the bad and hopes to improve these important early caregiving moments, setting up infants and families for healthier and happier lives over time.”
Brandon T. McDaniel earned his Ph.D. in human development and family studies from The Pennsylvania State University. As a family scientist and parent, he cares deeply about improving the lives of others, and he has focused his research on helping families build healthier, stronger relationships. He has published more than 50 research articles, book chapters, and research reports on family relationships and/or technology use. He also regularly engages with local, national and international groups and audiences regarding healthy digital habits and technology use in families.
This project is supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21NR019402. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.