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Prevention Research Lab

Conducting Research with Schools and Communities in the U.S. and Around the World to Facilitate Positive Adjustment in Youth and Families

A map of South Africa [View Image]

About Project CARE

Based in Durban, South Africa, Project CARE (Community Assessment of Risk and Resilience) is a collaborative study between VCU and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), one of VCU's  International Partnership Universities. Project CARE is a study of risk and resilience in South African youth. Dr. Kliewer designed Project CARE in collaboration with staff (the African term for faculty) in the Department of Behavioural Medicine at UKZN when she was on a Fulbright research fellowship from January-June, 2011.

Launched in the summer of 2011, Project CARE enrolled 324 families from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds with youth either in Grade 7 (the last year of primary school in South Africa) or Grade 10.  Home interviews were conducted with youth and caregivers, and a neurocognitive assessment, stress interview, and physiological measures were collected from a subset of the youth sample.

Young school children in Durban, South Africa [View Image]


The objectives of Project CARE were to:

1. Assess level of cumulative risk experienced by youth living in the greater Durban, South Africa area;

2. Identify linkages between level of cumulative risk and

  • Physiological markers of stress response (basal and reactive cortisol and alpha amylase, C-reactive protein, cellular degradation)
  • Mental health concerns (internalizing and post-traumatic stress symptoms)
  • Externalizing behavior (aggression and delinquency)
  • Risk behavior (substance use, sexual risk taking)
  • Academic performance and cognitive functioning
  • Social competence;

3. Identify physiological and psychological processes linking cumulative risk and outcomes in these youth;

4. Identify factors of individuals, families, and communities that attenuate the relation between cumulative risk and adjustment. That is, identify factors that predict resilience among youth - youth who thrive despite risk;

5. Use this project as an opportunity to foster sustained, collaborative research with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of VCU's  International Partnership Universities;

6. Use this project as an opportunity to engage undergraduate students in the research enterprise, and to provide training to masters- and doctoral-level students and staff/faculty in stress and coping.

We are currently in the process of data coding and analysis. We use both quantitative and qualitative methods in this work, and have a number of transcribing and coding projects underway as part of the study.

Project CARE Research Team at VCU

Principal Investigator

Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D.

Doctoral Students

Nikola Zaharakis

Lena Jaggi

Tess Drazdowski

Alicia Borre Montealegre

Annie Wright

Dave Sosnowski

Kristina Holman

Undergraduate and Post-Bac Lab Supervisors

Hayne Noh

Undergraduate Research Team

Raneem Albouhosn

Chelsea Bailey

Daniaal Chowdurry

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