Catarina Furmark

Catarina Furmark

Phd Student
Visiting address: ALB, Q2:07, 17176 Stockholm
Postal address: K6 Kvinnors och barns hälsa, K6 Neuropediatrik Broström, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • I am a clinical psychologist and graduated 2010 from Stockholm University.
    I teach Developmental Psychology and Attachment and Affect theory at the
    Psychological Department at Stockholm university as well as at the Karolinska
    Institute. I also teach DC:0-3R.


  • Currently I hold a PhD position at the KBH unit of Karolinska Institute,
    where I am a part of the research team for the Small Step intervention for
    infants at risk of developing cerebral palsy and their families.
    SMALL STEP early intervention program
    Children with early brain lesions are at risk of developing cerebral palsy
    (CP). The brain lesions resulting in CP typically appear during pregnancy or
    around birth. This has a drastic impact not just on the infant at risk but
    also on the whole family. There is a lack of evidence whether early
    interventions for infants at risk for developing CP have a positive effect on
    infant development. As the field of neuroscience has demonstrated that there
    is a possible window of opportunity early in development, when high activity
    in the motor system can lead to activity-dependent plasticity, interventions
    for infants at risk for CP aim to make use of neuroplastic mechanisms. The
    Small Step intervention consists of separate blocks of intensive training for
    the infant, focusing on hand use, mobility and communication. The
    intervention also includes family support, coaching and education, as the
    parents’ psychological health and ability to come to terms with the new
    life situation is believed to be of importance. Studies indicate that there
    is a heightened risk for parents to experience high levels of stress as well
    as depressive and anxiety related symptoms following traumatic birth and risk
    for brain injury. Parental depression, anxiety and distress can alter early
    interactions. Fear for the infant’s immediate safety and future
    development, separations caused by the need for extensive hospital care are
    some factors that may impact parental mental health. Optimal development of
    the infant-parent relationship could also be at risk, which in turn may
    hamper infant development. Studies of the importance of early support for
    families with preterm infants at risk have provided valuable insights, but
    this is not sufficiently studied in families with infants at risk for CP. The
    proposed doctoral plan includes two studies on infant development following
    early intervention addressing hand use, mobility and communication and two
    studies mapping parental aspects in families with infants at risk of
    developing CP. The significance of the doctoral studies is expansion of
    current knowledge concerning efficacy of early interventions for infants at
    risk of developing CP. Moreover, the exploration of parental mental health
    and internal representations (i.e. how parents reflect and express thoughts
    and feelings about their child) of infants at risk of developing CP expands
    the knowledge within this field. Thirdly, the doctoral project investigates
    how participation in an early intervention programme may affect parental
    mental health, parent-child interaction as well as parental internal
    representations. The overall aim of the doctoral project is to extend
    knowledge of the effects of participating in an early intervention program
    from both the infants’ and the parents’ perspective in families where the
    infant is at risk for developing CP. More specifically the aim is
  • 1) to
    evaluate the effects of the Small Step intervention on the overall
    development of the infants over time and between study groups, 2) to map
    parental levels of depression, anxiety and stress and 3) to increase
    knowledge of parental representations, parental sensitivity and quality of
    interaction. Data will be compared over time within respective group as well
    as between groups.

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