Respected pediatrics professor joins Network on Child Protection and Well-Being

Jennie Noll hopes her research and work on child maltreatment will have an impact on policymakers’ decisions to allocate funds for the protection of abused and maltreated children — a population that, she says, is drastically underserved. Noll is joining Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being this fall.

Her work examines long-term effects of sexual abuse on development across childhood and into adulthood. She also studies child maltreatment as the first step in the pathways to teen pregnancy, as well as Internet and social media behavior that can put teens at risk for abuse.

Noll, Chad Shenk and Idan Shalev, are the first of at least 12 network hires that will bolster the University’s research efforts in the area of child maltreatment. The network began in response to a recommendation from the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment in the fall of 2012.

“Dr. Noll is an internationally recognized leader in the study of child maltreatment,” said Douglas Teti, professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics and a member of the Network cluster hire search committee. “She is also recognized as an excellent mentor to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. She is a superb addition to the Network.”

For decades, Penn State has supported researchers who focus on many areas of child and family health and development. Network faculty members will work to build cross-disciplinary collaborations and community-University relationships with the goal of translating research into sustainable, real-world practice.

Noll received her doctorate from the University of Southern California. She joins the Penn State faculty from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where she was a professor of pediatrics for eight years, and director of research, behavioral medicine and clinical psychology. She also worked with the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. for eight years. She brings a unique expertise and skill set to Penn State.

“There’s an enormous opportunity to become a real powerhouse in the nation for research and translation, and make a difference in the lives of children, youth and families,” Noll said. “Our vision is to conduct rigorous and high impact research that addresses child maltreatment and its long term health consequences. We will address many levels of functioning, such as brain processes, development and hormonal pathways, including stress responses, family dynamics and community policies and practices.”

Noll is involved in a number of funded studies that will provide a foundation for Penn State’s contributions to knowledge and practice aimed at protecting children and combating maltreatment. One of the studies Noll will continue when she arrives at University Park in August is a 30-year longitudinal follow-up study of women who were abused as children.

“We’ve been following these women since they were 10, and they are in their 40s now,” she said. “We look at the long-term physical and health consequences of early childhood sexual abuse, as well as the integration of the effects on parent and child well-being.”

Other research includes a longitudinal cohort study that examines the Internet behaviors of girls 12 to 15 years of age, specifically the ways adolescent females are vulnerable to becoming victims online. In January, Noll published a paper on teen pregnancy that found sexually abused girls were five times more likely to become teen mothers than girls who were not abused.

“This project grew out of observational research that looked at child abuse survivors,” Noll said. “We noticed a propensity for victims of child abuse to have a high risk of teen pregnancy and/or high risk behaviors.”

Noll's position is co-funded by the network and Penn State’s Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Department in the College of Health and Human Development.

Teti said Noll’s training as a developmental scientist and methodologist fits well with the HDFS department’s goals. He added that her outstanding record of securing funding and experience collaborating with interdisciplinary teams of researchers will be beneficial to the efforts of the network.

Contacts: 

Jonathan F. McVerry

Work Phone: 
814-865-7011

Communications Manager
Network on Child Protection and Well-Being
Social Science Research Institute

Last Updated August 13, 2013