Walsh’s research focuses on understanding and improving health and wellbeing in multi-stressed families, with an emphasis on pregnancy and early parenting in contexts of risk. Overarching themes in Walsh's work include identification of barriers and facilitators of strong parent-child relationships, disruption and repair of early relationships, and technology-delivered parenting support. Walsh examines the parenting support needs of underserved groups including new fathers and military-connected parents, and develops and tests interventions to meet their needs. Walsh provides trainings and webinars for child and family service providers on strategies to more effectively engage fathers, serves on research and advisory committees connected to the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health and ZERO TO THREE, and works with scholars from across disciplines and around the country on research and translation to promote the wellbeing of asylum-seeking children and families.
Notes that a substantial proportion of US fathers attend at least one prenatal ultrasound during their partner’s pregnancy, including unmarried fathers. Finds the ultrasound visit may be a “magic moment” to engage fathers and provide any needed support in preparation for parenthood.
Finds mothers of young children face distinct challenges surrounding military deployment. Shows existing services are insufficiently responsive to their needs and circumstances.
Examines the mDad (Mobile Device Assisted Dad) app, which was developed to augment existing social work practices by providing a father-friendly tool to help new fathers learn about and engage with their infants and toddlers. Discusses the process of developing the app content and conducting usability testing of the mDad app, lessons learned from the mDad project, and the challenges of implementation and dissemination of technology-based interventions in community contexts.
Finds that mothers had a greater repertoire of techniques for soothing their infant than did fathers, and change patterns of soothing differed over time by gender. Finds that in couples who shared responsibility for soothing, fathers felt more efficacious in parenting and mothers were less upset by infant crying.
Addresses the emergence of protective factors and resilience as a focus of practice and research. Addresses the growing evidence of the importance of focusing on protective factors and resilience in child maltreatment prevention Finds examples of innovative programming and research efforts that specifically focus on strengthening families by promoting protective factors and enhancing resilience. Addresses how these types of promotional approaches can be taken to scale. Explores research and policy initiatives with the potential to inform program planning.
Finds that fathers of young children reported significant levels of parenting stress and identified specific challenges in the period following a military deployment, including difficulty reconnecting with children, adapting expectations from military to family life, and coparenting. Examines results that demonstrate the need for support to military families during reintegration and demonstrate that military fathers are receptive to opportunities to engage in parenting interventions.