Profile photo for Christian M. Connell, Ph.D.
faculty CMT32 Primary Mentor

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Director: Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

Christian M. Connell, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, the Director and a faculty member with the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State University. Dr. Connell received his Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina and completed pre- and postdoctoral training in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. His research focuses on the experiences of youth who have been maltreated, as well as those who become involved in the child welfare system and other child-serving systems (e.g., mental health, juvenile justice). His research examines individual, family, and contextual risk and protective processes that impact child behavioral health and wellbeing following incidents of maltreatment or child welfare system contact, as well as community-based efforts to prevent or treat the negative effects of maltreatment and other traumatic experiences in children and adolescents. Dr. Connell’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Administration for Children and Families, and State and local contracts.
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2001 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine

2000 Predoctoral Fellowship, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine

2000 Ph.D., Clinical-Community Psychology, University of South Carolina

1993 B.S., Psychology, Pennsylvania State University


child welfare outcomes, administrative data systems, community-based research methods, program and service system evaluation

Research Interests

individual, family, and contextual risk and protective processes that impact child behavioral health and wellbeing following incidents of maltreatment, child welfare system contact, or other traumatic experiences; evaluation of community-level evidence-informed efforts to prevent or treat the negative effects of maltreatment and other traumatic experiences in children and adolescents; use of administrative data systems to inform child welfare system practice and policy initiatives



CMAS 466

Community and System Response to Child Maltreatment

HDFS 503

Human Development Intervention: Analysis of Theories and Approaches

HDFS 553

Child Maltreatment: Policy, Administrative Data Systems, Prevention and Treatment


Christian M. Connell, Ph.D.
Maternal Opioid Misuse and child welfare system involvement (MOM-CWS)

This study will examine the link between prescription opioid misuse on risks of maltreatment and foster placement through creation of a statewide birth cohort of mothers enrolled in Medicaid at the time of delivery. Study aims include creating a statewide birth cohort of mother-child pairs enrolled in Medicaid at the time of delivery, and integrating the cohort with child maltreatment and foster care record systems (PA Medicaid Birth Cohort, PMBC). This cohort will be used to document maternal prenatal and postnatal prescription opioid use and misuse rates, and examine the relation to a range of maternal and child risk characteristics to misuse, as well as the effect of prescription opioid and other substance misuse on risks of child maltreatment and foster care placement.

Christian M. Connell, Ph.D.
Pennsylvania Child Welfare Intervention Services (CWIS) Study

The primary aim of the study is to investigate the effects of involvement with the general protective services (GPS) system on subsequent contact with GPS or CPS and subsequent out-of-home placement; and to assess the effects of post-GPS services on child behavioral health and well-being outcomes. Pennsylvania’s GPS system represents an alternative or differential response to incidents of maltreatment that do not rise to the level of child abuse, as defined by State statute – primarily comprised of non-serious injury and neglect incidents. The study will leverage a range of existing data sources to examine outcomes within and across the child welfare system and other child-serving systems.

Christian M. Connell, Ph.D.
Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Systems Evaluation Research

This project involves multiple statewide initiatives (Connecticut and Rhode Island) to improve the capacity of child welfare systems to provide trauma-informed care to children and families involved in services. Three separate demonstration grants (funded by ACF and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network) addressed specific populations using comparable methods. Key features of the initiatives included work force development efforts, development and deployment of trauma screening tools and procedures, and dissemination of evidence based treatments (including TF-CBT; Trauma Systems Therapy; and Attachment, Regulation, and Competency (ARC)). Project aims include examining the impact of these efforts at the child/family, workforce, and system levels through a mix of clinical outcome, survey, and administrative data.

Christian M. Connell, Ph.D.
Child & Family Well-Being Study

This community-based intervention study examines the effects of wraparound and other community-based services for children and families who have recently been involved in a child protective services (CPS) investigation. Wraparound is a family-centered, team-based planning process to provide individualized community-based services and natural supports for children and families. The study investigates 6- and 12-month effects of the intervention on child, caregiver, and family well-being, as well as processes resulting in outcomes. A parallel study uses administrative data to investigate child safety outcomes in a multi-year statewide cohort. The research study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Selected Publications

  • Connell, C.M., Kim, H.W., Shipe, S.L., Pittenger, S.L., & Tebes, J.K. Effects of community-based wraparound services on child and caregiver outcomes following child protective service involvement. Child Maltreatment, in press.

  • Crowley, D.M., Connell, C.M., Noll, J.G., Green, L., Scott, T., Long, E., & Giray, C. Legislating to prevent adverse childhood experiences: Growth and opportunities for evidence-based policymaking and prevention. Prevention Science, 23, 181-191, 2022.

  • Connell, C.M. & Strambler, M.J. Experiences with COVID-19 stressors and parents’ use of neglectful, harsh, and positive parenting practices in the Northeastern United States. Child Maltreatment, 26, 255-266, 2021.

  • Lang, J.M., Connell, C.M., & Macary, S. Validating the Child Trauma Screen among a cross-sectional sample of youth and caregivers in pediatric primary care. Clinical Pediatrics, 60, 252-258, 2021.

  • Connell, C.M., Lang, J.M., Zorba, B., & Stevens, K. Enhancing capacity for trauma-informed care in child welfare: Impact of a statewide systems change initiative. American Journal of Community Psychology [special issue: Applied and Translational Research on Trauma-Responsive Programs and Policy], 64, 467-480, 2019.

  • Connell, C.M., Bory, C.T., Huang, C.Y.*, Genovese, M., Caron, C., Tebes, J.K. Caseworker assessment of child risk and functioning and their relation to service use in the child welfare system. Children & Youth Services Review, 99, 81-86, 2019.

  • Vidal, S. & Connell, C.M. Treatment effects of parent-child focused evidence-based programs on problem severity and functioning among children and adolescents with disruptive behavior (2019). Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 48:sup1, S326-S336, 2019.

  • Vidal, S., Connell, C.M., Prince, D.M., & Tebes, J.K. (2019). Multisystem-involved youth: A developmental framework and implications for research, policy, and practice. Adolescent Research Review. Adolescent Research Review, 4, 15-29, 2019.

  • Lang, J.M. & Connell, C.M. (2018). The Child Trauma Screen: A follow-up validation. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 31, 540-548. 

  • Connell, C.M., Pittenger, S.L., & Lang, J.M. (2018) Patterns of trauma exposure in childhood and adolescence and their relation to behavioral well-being. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 31, 518-528.

  • Connell, C.M., Steeger, C.M., Schroeder, J.A., Franks, R.P., & Tebes, J.K. (2016). Child and case influences on recidivism in a statewide dissemination of multisystemic therapy for juvenile offenders. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43, 1330-1346.