Skip to Content

College of Nursing

Research Emphasis Areas

Health Systems Research

We focus on processes and their effects on health care results. 

Kate K. Chappell, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing, has seen her share of parenting protectiveness behaviors and risk factors regarding child abuse.  A USC nursing Ph.D. candidate, Professor Chappell has also served as a pediatric nurse practitioner at two of the college’s faculty practice plan sites, the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken and the Dickerson Child Advocacy Center.  In this role, Professor Chappell has conducted numerous forensic medical exams for children involved in child abuse allegations. Her work in this area led her to partner with both practice sites and senior BSN student, Senna Desjardins, to conduct the Caregiver ACE study. 

 The Caregiver ACE study examines relationships between past adverse childhood experiences of caregivers and current child abuse or neglect allegations involving the children in their family.  Caregivers of children who come to the clinics complete a demographic form and a well-validated, 10-question Yes/No tool, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey (ACE Survey). Desjardins submitted a proposal for USC’s Magellan Scholar undergraduate funding to facilitate participation in research with faculty mentors and, once funded, helped organize materials and processes with the recruitment sites for the study.  The study team, which includes Dr. Abbas Tavakoli as data manager, completed initial data collection and early analysis in Spring 2015.  The team is currently planning for a second round of data collection to increase the sample size; this will allow a more in-depth analysis of the relationships between caregiver history and current abuse and neglect concerns in their family. This part of the project will include involving additional undergraduate nursing students as data collectors with the potential for involvement in ongoing dissemination plans.  Initial findings from the first round of analysis were shared at the statewide Sara Schuh Child Abuse Conference in April 2015. 

 The possible impact of this study is a better understanding of how parents’ and other caregivers’ experiences may relate to a family’s current risk for maltreatment.  This is valuable information for building understanding toward more effective prevention and intervention planning with the goal of reducing and addressing child abuse.  


Nathaniel Bell
Katherine Chappell
Joan Culley
Erin McKinney 
Tena Hunt McKinney