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Abigail Palmer Molina

Abigail Palmer Molina

Assistant Professor

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, University of Southern California
  • Master of Arts, Social Work, Social Policy, and Social Administration; University of Chicago
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of California, Los Angeles
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Area of Expertise
  • Maternal, infant, and early childhood mental health
  • Early Childhood programs
  • Parenting
  • Health equity
  • Latinx families
  • Intervention research
  • Community-based participatory approaches
  • Mixed methods
  • Implementation science
Professional Highlights
  • USC Center for the Changing Family and the Parents as Teachers National Center: “Promoting Maternal Mental Health in a Time of Crisis: Examining Depression Screening in the Parents as Teachers Home Visiting Program”. Principal Investigator.
  • F31 NRSA Pre-Doctoral Fellowship: “Effectiveness and Implementation of a Maternal Depression Treatment in a Head Start Setting”. Principal Investigator.
  • USC Center for the Changing Family, School of Social Work, and Translational Science Institute: “COVID-19 Impacts on Maternal Mental Health and Economic Well-Being Among Latinx Families”. Principal Investigator.
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Recent Publications

Published journal articles (peer-reviewed):

  • Hackman, D. A., Suthar, H., Palmer Molina, A., Dawson, W. C., & Putnam-Hornstein, E. (2022). Neighborhood social mobility and early developmental health in a population birth cohort. Health & Place, 74, 102754.
  • Traube, D. E., Palmer Molina, A., Kemner, A., & Henk, J. (2021). Early childhood home visitation to address perinatal mental health support during COVID-19. Prevention Science, 3(2), 260-270.
  • Schneiderman, J. U., Palmer Molina, A., Mennen, F. E., & Negriff, S. (2021). Effect of caregiver depressive symptoms on the concordance between caregiver and youth assessment of youth physical health. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 25(12), 1814-1819.
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Abigail “Abby” Palmer Molina has been drawn to helping children and families from an early age. Her service began in her church community in Southern California, where she learned about the many difficulties facing families, including poverty and homelessness, and the strengths of families from different backgrounds. As a young adult she spent time volunteering with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in Colombia and Tanzania that focused on addressing the needs of young children.

“I saw the amazing work that these organizations were doing, and I wanted to know how we could do even better. I wanted to learn the best ways to address families’ psychosocial and material needs and empower communities. A light went on and I realized I wanted to go back for my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.”

Abby is deeply committed to the social work profession and excited about preparing the next generation of social workers as a teacher and mentor. Abby is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has significant clinical experience in providing services to young children and their families, including a post-MSW fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center and certification in several evidence-based parenting and mental health interventions. As an expert on the importance of early relationships, her goal is to advocate for holistic early childhood interventions that value caregivers and seek to achieve equity for all families.

“As Donald Winnicott famously said, ‘there is no such thing as an infant,’ pointing to the fact that young children grow up in the context of their relationships with their caregivers and the broader social and political environment,” Abby says.

Abby’s research focuses on understanding the effects of ecological risk factors on maternal mental health, parenting, and child development, and supporting historically marginalized families, particularly mothers experiencing depression. She received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for her doctoral dissertation, which used a transformative mixed methods approach to examine the effectiveness and implementation of a maternal depression intervention for predominantly Latina immigrant mothers in Head Start.

Abby is currently working on two projects with the Parents as Teachers (PAT) national home visiting program to promote maternal and child well-being among low-income families – the first explores barriers and facilitators to maternal depression screening and linkage to services in the context of the pandemic, and the second examines the efficacy of virtual versus in-person home visiting services for important child well-being indicators.