Supporting New Mothers: Factors Affecting Parenting Self-Efficacy


by Darien “Penny” McElwee,  20C Psychology
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

In May 2019, I traveled 22 hours to Cape Town, South Africa to investigate maternal health in conditions of high social adversity. I was drawn to South Africa because of the country’s unique history of Apartheid and its subsequent effect on the socioeconomic status of black mothers today. Through the generous support of the Halle Institute, I studied under Dr. Mark Tomlinson, a professor at Stellenbosch University studying maternal health. I also worked as an intern for the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) under Dr. Simone Honikman. The PMHP advocates for the integration of maternal mental health services with the healthcare system at large.

I began my research by attending the 9th Annual Rural Health Research Day at the Stellenbosch University Worcester Campus. At this conference, I viewed presentations on recognizing newborns with high-risk of perinatal HIV transmission, the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders across the lifespan, and theories of inequality in health. These presentations informed my research interests by highlighting the unique challenges faced by mothers with sexually transmitted diseases and other health concerns. On the mountain-lined drive back from the conference, Professor Tomlinson discussed how greater interest is being placed on the effects of social inequality on maternal health. Without the Halle Institute, I would not have been able to learn one-on-one from a South African professor studying my same research interests.

I also spent much of my time working with Dr. Honikman at the Perinatal Mental Health Project. Alongside other international PMHP interns, I traveled to a clinic in Hanover Park, one of South Africa’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I viewed first-hand the under-sourced conditions that mothers in low-income community’s experience. Many mothers go to public hospitals to receive cheaper care. However, there are many patients and only a few doctors, and thus quality of care may suffer. My experience as a Halle Global Fellow allowed me to not only learn more about South African healthcare, but also learn in the hospitals first-hand.

Darien “Penny” McElwee is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in quantitative sciences. She is currently writing an honors thesis on environmental factors that affect parenting self-efficacy. During the summer, she traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to investigate how parenting ability is affected by factors such as living in a rural community and refugee status. Through her exploration of factors affecting parenting confidence, she hopes to contribute to a better understanding of factors that affect parenting self-efficacy and subsequent child development.

Neighbors against Neighbors: Historical roots of the Donbas War, 1985-2014

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by Daniel Thomas, 20C History and International Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

I am currently researching a very contentious issue in not only Ukrainian politics, but world politics: the roots of the Donbas War, Europe’s bloodiest quagmire since the Yugoslav Wars. While I was in Kyiv, many Ukrainians were eager to tell me that native Donbasians were not responsible for the war; rather, culpability lies directly in the hands of Putin and his “bloodthirsty oligarchs.” Their concerns are justified; the Russian Federation did supply Donbasian separatists with crucial hardware and manpower during the conflict’s later stages. However, it is reductive to state that the Donbas War’s sole origins are in Russia. Pro-separatist political organizations, such as the Kornilov Brothers’ Interfront Donbassa or the popular Party of Regions, were instrumental in sowing the seeds of separatism in the post-Soviet Donbas. Moreover, the economic privations that ravaged the Donbas’ coal-mining and manufacturing industries gave credence to these organizations’ viewpoints. Needless to say, the feedback that I received from Ukrainians made me reconsider my research approach. Perhaps I would find more information talking to people directly affected by this conflict, rather than perusing the paragraphs of some bureaucrat’s memos or party-affiliated newspapers.

The greatest challenge that I encountered whilst in Kyiv had to do with the availability of archival materials. Early on in my five-week trip, I went into the Central State Archive of Public Organizations, expecting to find documents pertaining to the Party of Region’s 1998 pro-autonomy campaign in the Donbas. Unfortunately, the titushky (i.e., hired thugs employed by the Yanukovych administration to stomp out dissidents) got to these documents before I did. The thugs burned nearly all of the party’s documents, save for a few inconsequential minutes and memos. As a result, I had to reshape a significant portion of my research methodology. This upcoming winter, I will travel to Kyiv in order to conduct interviews with individuals who lived in the Donbas during the late 90s and early 2000s.

My thesis advisor, Prof. Matthew Payne, mentioned this opportunity early last Spring. Seeing that I needed funding for my research abroad, I applied for the fellowship as soon as I could. This project has already evolved significantly since the start of this semester. At first, I thought that my argument would rely primarily on archival materials. However, given the aforementioned “issues” that I ran into whilst conducting my research, I have come to realize that this thesis will have to rely on not only archival materials, but the oral historical accounts of native Donbasians.

Daniel Thomas is a senior on a pre-law track, double majoring in History and International Studies.  He is currently writing an honors thesis on the history of Russian separatism in the Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine. Daniel conducted his research in Kyiv, Ukraine during the summer of 2019, using archival documents, periodicals, and oral history techniques in order to chart out the various social problems and economic privations that gripped post-Soviet Ukraine. Through the usage previously unused archival documents and personal first-hand accounts of daily life in Eastern Ukraine, Daniel hopes to both contribute to the limited historiography on post-Soviet conflict zones and shed light on the tumultuous history one of the world’s least-discussed conflicts. 

Institutions and Marginalization: Defining Voting Behavior in 21st Century Brazil

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by Aleksei Kaminski, 20C African Studies and Economics
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

My research question was originally to understand why 29% of the LGBTI+ and 45% of black and pardo (multi-racial) communities voted and support President Jair Bolsonaro. Elected in October of 2018, President Bolsonaro has vowed to end racial quotas, decrease funding on social welfare programs, and repeatedly stated vicious and violent homophobic and racist comments. To investigate this phenomenon, the Halle Institute for Global Research funded my time living in Rio de Janeiro and traveling to São Paulo, Brazil.

In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, I interviewed conservative members of the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities in Portuguese and collected survey data from Brazilian university students which include social demographics, political opinions, voting behavior, and the impact of violence on respondents’ lives. However, my research came with certain challenges while spending my days meeting community members and academics in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Many potential interviewees from the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities were afraid to speak on their behalf. This challenge led me to interview only four percent of the identified participants. Fear and opposition are now a central component of understanding conservative voting behavior in the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities of Brazil. On the other hand, this challenge led me to further examine the life stories of marginalized Brazilians who voted for President Bolsonaro.

As my research evolves, I hope to explain the fundamental role that news broadcasters and leaders in the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities can have in relieving political tensions and addressing mutual hopes and political concerns of polarized individuals within such communities.

Aleksei Kaminski is a senior on the pre-law track majoring in African Studies and Economics. He is currently writing senior honors thesis, “Institutions and Marginalization in Brazil – A Discourse in Shifting Voting Behavior”, the discourse in shifting political attitudes towards populism and authoritarianism amongst marginalized communities in Brazil. Aleksei conducted his research during the summer of 2019 in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil creating online survey polls and interviewing academics and conservative members of the LGBTQ+ and Afro-Brazilian communities. His thesis explores the context of  inequality, sexuality, religion, and racism in 21st century Brazilian politics following the election of current President Jair Bolsonaro.