Child Development, University of Maryland
Cohort Seven Fellow


Academic Mentor
Natasha Cabrera, PhD
Professor, University of Maryland

Policy Mentor
Jerry West
Senior Research Fellow (retired), Mathematica Policy Research

Areas of Expertise
Low-Income Families and Individuals, Families and Family Systems, Early Childhood Education and Initiatives


Catherine Kuhns is a doctoral candidate in the department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, where she also completed a Certificate in Population Studies from the Maryland Population Research Center. Prior to returning to graduate school, Ms. Kuhns was a Teach For America corps member in New York City, where she became interested in the resilience and strength of families living in poverty. Her time in the classroom shaped her research interests, which include a focus on parenting young children in low-income and ethnic minority populations as well as improving the policies that support these families. Ms. Kuhns received her MS in Teaching English to Speakers of Others Languages (TESOL) from Fordham University and a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University.


The influence of stress and social support on parenting behaviors among low-income families: Mediational pathways to children's cognitive and social development

Maternal stress is robustly linked to mothers’ mental health and parenting, placing children at risk for abuse or neglect and adverse cognitive and socioemotional outcomes. Efforts to understand the contextual factors that may buffer children from the negative effects of maternal stress and depression have shown that social support can be an important protective factor, yet less is know about the specific types of support that are most effective and how they relate to different types of stress. Using the Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES), the current study will examine the direct contributions of unique sources of maternal stress and depressive symptoms to children’s socioemotional and language skills, the indirect effects through parenting quality, and the protective role of various sources of social support. Specifically, the proposed study will identify key areas of intervention for mothers of young children that aim to minimize the use of harsh, punitive parenting strategies that may develop into child maltreatment. Findings from this study can contribute to the development of interventions aimed at building certain types of social support that can easily be incorporated into child welfare visits.