Applied Child Development, Tufts University
Cohort Five Fellow

Academic Mentor
Ellen Pinderhughes
Associate Professor, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University

Policy Mentor
Francine Sherman
Clinical Associate Professor and Director, Juvenile Advocacy Project, Boston College of Law

Research Interests
Child Maltreatment, Trauma, Mental Health, Culturally Diverse Children, Preventive Intervention Development

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs, Families and Family Systems, Home Visiting and Maltreatment Prevention, Mental Health and Well-Being, Program Evaluation, Youth Development, Latent Class Analysis or Cluster Analysis, Regression Modeling, Case Study Research, Ethnography, Grounded Theory, Mixed Methods, Phenomenology, Adolescents and Young Adults, Low-Income Families and Individuals, Preschool-aged Children, Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups, School-aged Children

Judith C. Scott is a student in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. Currently, she is evaluating a Boston organization’s nonprofit management and leadership certificate programs. She is also co-teaching a course on cultural diversity in child and family services. Previously, Ms. Scott worked as a social worker in a Massachusetts urban community; her responsibilities included providing counseling to children and adults, facilitating social skills groups for girls, providing mental health consultation to Head Start, co-leading psycho-educational groups for divorcing parents, and collaborating with community agencies to develop and administer a measure that explored girls’ experiences with violence. She also has experience with adults in a mental health supported living program. Ms. Scott has an M.S.W from Boston College School of Social Work, and an M.P.P. in urban and environmental planning and policy and a B.S. in clinical psychology and computer science from Tufts.


Raising a Hand Against Young African American Children: The Effects on Mental Health Outcomes and Consideration of Moderating Cultural Factors

Physical discipline and physical child maltreatment, two types of home-based violence, are linked; both are associated with increased risk of psychopathology. Among African Americans, maltreatment occurs early, with high rates and a disproportionate number of African American children are in child welfare systems. The consequences of physically punishing African American children during early childhood are unclear and there are mixed results regarding mental health outcomes. Given cultural acceptance of physical discipline in African American families, it is important to understand its impact on mental health trajectories in comparison to child maltreatment and whether the relationship is moderated by cultural influences. Using longitudinal data from African American families, the dissertation will investigate: 1) demographic and contextual predictors of physical discipline and physical child maltreatment during early childhood; 2) mental health trajectories across middle childhood and adolescence of children who experienced early home-based physical violence; and 3) how parental warmth, perceived discrimination, preparation for bias messages, and racial identity moderate the relationship between these two types of home-based violence and mental health. The findings could potentially improve the effectiveness of preventive child maltreatment interventions, assist in developing clearer and more nuanced definitions of physical discipline and physical child maltreatment for courts and agencies, and improve the mental health of African American children in state systems.