Mary Dozier, the Unidel Amy E. du Pont Chair in Child Development in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, has received the 2016 Francis Alison Faculty Award, the University of Delaware’s highest competitive faculty honor.
The award was established in 1978 by the Board of Trustees to
recognize the faculty members who best demonstrate the combination of
scholarship and teaching exemplified by the Rev. Francis Alison, founder
of the institution that is now UD. The annual award also confers
membership in the Francis Alison Society.
Dozier “is an outstanding faculty member on each of the Alison
criteria,” wrote Robert F. Simons, professor and chair of the psychology
department, in his letter nominating her for the award.
“Her research has changed the field of attachment and child
maltreatment; her classroom teaching is excellent and her in-lab
teaching and mentoring have inspired numerous undergraduate and graduate
students to pursue careers in higher education, research and public
service; her scholarship has been continuously funded for nearly 30
years to the tune of approximately $20 million; and her service to UD,
the scholarly community and the public are truly exceptional,” Simons
A member of the faculty since 1993, Dozier is internationally known
for her work in the development of young children who have experienced
neglect or other adversity. She leads the Infant Caregiver Project at
UD, where she and her team have developed an evidence-based intervention
for parents and other caregivers of these vulnerable children.
The intervention, known as Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up
(ABC), has been used with parents of children at risk for maltreatment
or neglect, as well as those caring for foster children and
internationally adopted children.
ABC is being implemented in an expanding number of locations
throughout the United States and worldwide, with findings that providing
at-risk parents with 10 sessions of the intervention can have long-term
effects on the parents’ responsiveness to their children. That improved
responsiveness, in turn, has been found to help children develop more
secure attachments and to better regulate their behavior and emotions.
“When children have experienced adversity, they really need nurturing
and responsive care,” Dozier said recently about her work. “When
parents are nurturing, children learn to rely upon their parents when
distressed; when parents follow their children’s lead, children develop
The intervention, she said, focuses on helping parents develop three
main skills — to provide nurturing care, to follow the child’s lead and
to avoid frightening behavior. Her research has not only developed the
ABC intervention but has disseminated it and has continued to study its
effectiveness over time.
Currently, she said, ABC is being implemented through child welfare
agencies in 15 states, including widespread implementation in North
Carolina, Minnesota and New York City.
Dozier’s research team has followed children whose parents took part
in ABC when they were infants to assess their development as toddlers
and, in the newest expansion of research, through ages 8-10.
“Dr. Dozier has become the world’s leading scholar on attachment
between children and foster caregivers,” one scientist wrote in support
of the Alison Award nomination. “It is truly remarkable how she has
achieved becoming a highly respected and authoritative scientist in the
field of attachment while at the same doing the hard work of translating
scientific insight into programs and leading teams through the arduous
task of actual implementation.”
Another scholar’s comment included in Simons’ letter of nomination
said that ABC “has the potential to revolutionize child welfare practice
in the United States and beyond” and noted that Dozier “has garnered
the respect and admiration not only of her fellow psychologists but also
of those from many other fields, including genetics, neuroscience,
psychiatry and psychobiology.”
Simons and others also praised Dozier’s teaching and mentoring,
particularly her work with undergraduates in preparing them for graduate
school by helping them develop laboratory skills in designing and
conducting experiments. With 40 undergraduates each semester, Simons
said, Dozier has a large lab and still provides undergraduates with a
great deal of direct supervision.
“Mary Dozier is unlike any other professor I have worked with,” one
former undergraduate wrote. “And I know that she will be a trusted
mentor as I move forward in my academic and professional career…. Mary’s
enthusiasm for her students and her work is never ending.”
Dozier joined UD in 1993 after earning her doctorate in clinical
psychology from Duke University and then serving on the faculty of
Trinity University. She was appointed the Amy E. du Pont Chair in 2004.
She has given more than 25 invited talks over the past three years,
has been asked several times to speak to congressional committees on
child welfare, is a frequent consultant to the National Institutes of
Health on child-welfare issues and served on the prestigious Institute
of Medicine’s Committee on Child Maltreatment. She received the
Bowlby-Ainsworth Award for research, publications and other scholarly
activity in the field of attachment research.
Dozier also has held numerous editorial appointments, including a four-year term as associate editor of Child Development, the premier journal in the field, and currently serves on the editorial boards of Attachment and Human Development, Child Maltreatment and Infant Mental Health Journal.
“The Francis Alison Award is an amazing honor,” Dozier said. “There
are so many talented faculty at the University of Delaware who deserve
this recognition, and I’m just delighted to have been selected.”