Christian  Connell 

photo of Christian Connell

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family; Associate Director, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

Contact Information

217 Health and Human Development Building
University Park PA 16801


(fax) 814-863-7963

Research Interests

Research Interests:
My research program 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). As a clinical-community psychologist, I use applied research methods that engage system leaders, policymakers, and practitioners in research to address critical systems issues, evaluate effects of program and policy initiatives, and promote effective system change. I use a trauma-informed social-ecological framework to examine individual, family, and other contextual influences on the relation of maltreatment to child behavioral health outcomes. My research examines the effects of maltreatment and other adverse experiences on child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing, their system involvement trajectories, and the effects of interventions to reduce negative outcomes of these experiences. I also conduct research on system-change initiatives to improve organizational capacity to meet the needs of children and families.

A central focus of my research is to understand the effects of individual, family, and contextual risk and protective processes on child welfare outcomes for children and their families following maltreatment. Leveraging child welfare administrative data systems, I study child, family, and case-related factors that impact child safety, permanency, and wellbeing. Examples include analysis of factors associated with re-maltreatment among children after system contact (Connell et al., 2007; Connell et al., 2009), as well as foster care outcomes such as placement instability (Connell et al., 2006a) or exits to permanency (Connell et al., 2006b; Vanderploeg, Connell, et al., 2007). I also conduct secondary analysis of existing datasets (e.g., the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD); and the National Survey of Child Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW)) to study contextual influences on child and adolescent outcomes within the child welfare system at a national level and to identify high-risk subgroups within CPS and the broader child welfare system, which may then become the focus of prevention or intervention services.

I also conduct applied research examining effects of prevention and treatment models to improve outcomes for system-involved youth. Youth involved in the child welfare system often have complex histories of exposure to traumatic events including abuse or neglect, as well as myriad of other adverse experiences. This history has a deleterious impact on their behavioral health and wellbeing. It is critical that child welfare research expand the availability of evidence-based interventions to ameliorate the negative effects of these adverse experiences for system-involved youth. One example of my research in this area is a current study, supported by NIMH and ACF, to examine the effects of community-based wraparound services for families who retain child custody following maltreatment. Wraparound is a team-based, family-centered model to facilitate development of formal and informal supports for system-involved children and families in need. Other examples of applied evaluation research studies have included two statewide cohort studies examining the effects of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) to improve behavioral and placement outcomes with child welfare and juvenile justice cohorts. Currently, I am working with child welfare systems in two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island) to evaluate child outcomes associated with community-based trauma-informed services including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT); Trauma Systems Therapy; and Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC). These studies typically examine factors associated with successful training, dissemination, and implementation; treatment fidelity; and child- and family-level outcomes associated with treatment receipt using a mixture of administrative data, clinician and family-level assessment data, and other data sources.

Building on these interests, I collaborate with state partners to study system-level efforts to strengthen capacity to provide effective services for children and families. Examples include an ACF-funded initiative to improve trauma-related outcomes of children involved with Connecticut’s child welfare system through workforce training; development and implementation of trauma screening methods for children in foster care; and dissemination of two evidence-based, trauma-informed models in community-based agencies across the state. A recently funded SAMHSA grant extends this work to young children, ages 0 to 6. I am also lead evaluator of an ACF-funded trauma grant to Rhode Island’s child welfare system to enhance the state’s capacity for trauma-informed care of pre-adoptive youth in state custody, and a third ACF-funded grant in Rhode Island to increase the state’s ability to recruit and retain qualified foster home providers and reduce reliance on congregate care for hard-to-place child welfare populations. These system-level research studies provide important opportunities to study efforts to disseminate evidence based treatment models across child serving systems, provide critical workforce training, and evaluate these efforts on child- and system-level outcomes.



1993, B.S. (Honors), Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
2000, Ph.D., Clinical-Community Psychology, University of South Carolina
2000, Predoctoral Psychology Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
2001, Postdoctoral Psychology Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine

Professional Experience

Professional Experience:
Academic Appointments:
2017-present Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
2017-present Associate Professor (Adjunct), Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
2010-2017 Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
2004-2010 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
2003-2004 Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
2001-2003 Associate Research Scientist, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine

Administrative Positions:
2014-2017 Co-Director, Division of Prevention & Community Research, Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
2004-2007 Coordinator of Pre-doctoral Psychology Training Fellowship, The Consultation Center, Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
2003-2017 Director, Child Development & Epidemiological Research, Division of Prevention & Community Research, The Consultation Center, Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

Selected Publications

Vidal, S.*, Steeger, C.M.*, Caron, C., Lasher, L., & Connell, C.M.# Placement and delinquency outcomes among system-involved youth referred to Multisystemic Therapy: A propensity score matching analysis. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, in press.

Lang, J. & Connell, C.M.# Development and validation of a brief trauma screening measure for children: The Child Trauma Screen. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9, 390-398, 2017.

Lang, J. & Connell, C.M.# Measuring costs to community-based agencies for implementation of an evidence-based practice. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 44, 122-134, 2016.

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

Lang, J.M., Campbell, K., Shanley, P., Crusto, C.A., & Connell, C.M.# Building capacity for trauma-informed care in the child welfare system: Initial results of a statewide implementation. Child Maltreatment, 2, 113-124, 2016.

Cook, E.C.*, Connell, A.M., Pflieger, J.C.*, & Connell, C.M.# Do specific transitional patterns of antisocial behavior during adolescence increase risk for problems in young adulthood? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 95-106, 2015.

Pflieger, J.C.*, Cook, E.C.*, Niccolai, L.M., & .Connell, C. M.#  Racial/ethnic differences in patterns of sexual risk behavior and rates of sexually transmitted infections among female young adults. American Journal of Public Health, 103, 903-909, 2013.

Stover, C.S., Connell, C.M., Leve, L.D., Neiderhaiser, J.M., Shaw, D.S., Scaramella, L.V., Conger, R. & Reiss, D. Fathering and mothering in the family system: Linking marital hostility and aggression in adopted toddlers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 401-409, 2012.

Connell, C.M., Gilreath, T.D.*, & Hansen, N. A multiprocess latent class analysis of the co-occurrence of substance use and sexual behaviors among adolescents. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70, 943-951, 2009.

Connell, C.M., Vanderploeg, J.J.*, Caron, C., Saunders, L., Katz, K.H., & Tebes, J.K. Maltreatment following reunification: Predictors of subsequent CPS contact after children return home. Child Abuse and Neglect, 33, 218-228, 2009.

Curriculum Vitae

.pdf icon Christian Connell vitae

Center Affiliations

  • Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

Strategic Themes

  • Domains of Health and Behavior
  • Contexts and Social Institutions