Parenting app for mothers being developed at RIT

App can be a resource for mothers seeking information on mental health, nutrition, parenting tips

A. Sue Weisler

Stephanie Godleski, assistant professor of psychology, left; Ammina Kothari, associate professor in RIT’s School of Communication; and Brenda Abu, assistant professor in the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology, are co-principal investigators in a research project to help create an app for young mothers and caregivers seeking information about parenting.

Research is underway at Rochester Institute of Technology to create an app that will serve as a resource to help young mothers answer questions about raising a child, connect them with programs and resources, as well as foster a virtual parenting community.

“Young people today are so connected to their phones and are often looking to them for answers,” said Stephanie Godleski, assistant professor of psychology in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and co-director of the Health and Additions Research Center.

“Cell phones are often the most constant items in people’s lives, especially young mothers who may find themselves in temporary living situations and have multiple jobs to make ends meet,” she said.

Focus groups of young mothers, many in their teens, help determine what information they need before and after their baby is born. The mothers say they want information on resources and services in the community, help with parenting questions such as what to do when their baby starts crying, and nutrition information about what foods to feed their children at various ages.

They’d also like to have a support system to talk about their questions and concerns, such as what may be typical development of a child, or symptoms of post-partum depression. A chat function with the app could allow them to connect with other moms.

“A lot of apps do these things separately, but there’s not one that pulls together all of this in one centralized location targeting Rochester moms and caregivers,” said Godleski, who is the principal investigator of the project. Co-principal investigators are Ammina Kothari, associate professor in RIT’s School of Communication, and Brenda Abu, assistant professor in the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology.

“RIT has such a diverse expertise that allow us to use technology in this way,” Godleski said. “We’re able to combine clinical psychology, nutrition and communication expertise to develop this app.”

James Winebrake, dean of RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, says this project “demonstrates the significant opportunities that emerge when we integrate technology with the liberal arts. Through such integration, our faculty and students are finding creative ways to tackle important problems facing society.”

The study is being funded by a grant from the Rochester’s Child, an initiative of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

“Rochester’s Child is pleased to support this research and the development of new and creative ways to effectively support young mothers,” said Rochester’s Child Coordinator Nancy Kaplan.

The study concludes at the end of the year, but the researchers plan to apply for additional funding to continue the app’s development.

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