The William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families is a dynamic center for advancing the well-being of children and families through basic and applied research, the dissemination of research findings, and community outreach. The Shaw Center brings together faculty and students from a number of disciplines including anthropology, biological sciences, economics, psychology, sociology, the Program of Liberal Studies, theology, marketing, management, and several other centers at the University of Notre Dame whose research focuses on children and families.

Our three major research themes focus on the challenges that children and families confront in today’s society: disparities; developmental disabilities and psychopathology; and optimization of development, education, and learning. All three reflect Notre Dame’s distinctive mission as a Catholic research university. Moreover, all three themes are ripe for conducting translational research, which represents a scientific approach to integrating findings from theory and basic research and effectively implementing these elements into programs that are applicable in the “real world.” Many of the projects are supported by federal grants and foundations.

The Shaw Center provides a unique setting where families from our diverse community can easily take part in cutting-edge research concerning families and child development, participate in outreach activities, and benefit from educational programs promoting a healthy and well-adjusted family life. The center also plays an important educational role for undergraduate and graduate students through coursework and direct training of research and applied skills.

It is the Shaw Center’s goal to continue to expand our research and community outreach, foster interdisciplinary research pertaining to healthy development, use multiple mechanisms to disseminate our findings, and to serve as a model for translating research into prevention and intervention efforts nationally and internationally.

Commitment to the Community

At the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families, we are committed to good stewardship and a mutually beneficial relationship with our surrounding community, in which we both learn and support each other. Acknowledging that community involvement is critical to excellent research, we purposefully listen and involve the community in many ways. We learn from experts in the local community and from our participants’ rich knowledge and in turn create research and interactions that are beneficial to the community, as well as respectful of its diversity and strengths.


The William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families is directed by Julie Braungart-Rieker, a professor in the Department of Psychology. The Shaw Center was established in 2001 by professors John Borkowski and Mark Cummings and, at that time, served as an off-campus research facility for their externally funded research projects. Since 2001, professors Borkowski and Cummings have been competitively awarded significant funding from federal agencies and foundations. Many of their studies are multi-site projects and involve other institutions such as the University of Kansas, Georgetown University, the University of Texas Health Science Center, University of Rochester, University of Minnesota, University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Auburn University. Some of the work is also being conducted internationally, involving colleagues in Northern Ireland (University of Ulster, Queens University), South America, and Israel. In 2009, the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families expanded to include faculty affiliates from across the University of Notre Dame.