Registered to supervise postgraduate research

PhD projects

Antenatal detection of vulnerable mother-infant relationship quality


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Karen is currently Associate Dean, Research and Research Training, Faculty of Health. She is an experienced interdisciplinary health service researcher, leader, and clinician. As a Registered Nurse with a robust academic and health sector, leadership, policy and service development track record, her scope of practice demonstrates a strong interdisciplinary and research translation focus in the context of diversity. She maintains enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research, teaching and learning, collaboration, and innovation. With near 40 years of real-world mental health experience, she is equipped with a high level of research translation capability. Her area of advanced practice specialisation is perinatal-infant and early childhood mental health, and application of attachment theory.

Karen is an authorised trainer in observational adult-infant and adult-toddler relationship methods and has research capability in observational parent-child relationship methods. She has extensive experience as a clinical/reflective supervisor for interdisciplinary professionals and leading large-scale health system research and evaluation projects.

Her Doctoral research focused on antenatal detection of vulnerable mother-infant relational quality in the context of antenatal depression screening in Australia. More than 300,000 babies are born each year in Australia and given that perinatal mental health (depression) screening occurs both during pregnancy and the postpartum period, there are potentially 600,000+ occasions of screening in Australia each year. If screening can become more accurate in distinguishing transient low mood or distress from more serious maternal mental health problems, and identifying mother-infant relationships at risk, the opportunity for positive child development, optimal attachment pattern and family functioning can be targeted. More accurate perinatal mental health screening will also opportune early intervention to avert maternal and child problems.

Karen was the inaugural recipient of the Elaine Tolley Medal for mental health research, Westmead Medical Research Foundation. Through an Australian College of Nursing research scholarship, her current research is exploring Nurse-Midwife leadership for trauma and culturally sensitive perinatal mental health screening.

Karen is registered to supervise higher degree research.

Research interests

  • Antenatal detection of postnatal mother-infant relationship quality
  • Perinatal/parental infant and child mental health (0-5 years)
  • Early identification and intervention for maternal and infant/child mental health challenges
  • Perinatal/parental and child mental health in priority populations
  • Observational adult-child (<5 years) relationship measures
  • Dynamic Maturational Model (DMM) of Attachment and Adaptation


External positions

Adjunct Lecturer, The University of Sydney


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