Mikayla Paolini ’16 studies factors leading to child maltreatment as a John C. Young Scholar

Posted by Centre News in Academics, John C. Young Program, News, Philosophy, Research 07 Jun 2016

Mikayla PaoliniBefore she even graduated this past May, Mikayla Paolini ’16 was doing important research with real-world applications as a John C. Young (JCY) Scholar.

For her JCY project, Paolini—a philosophy major—analyzed the relationship between child maltreatment and single parenthood.

“My project aims to unpack the statistic overrepresentation of single mothers as perpetrators of child maltreatment by providing a new conceptual framework by which to understand this data,” she explains.

In her statistical evaluation, Paolini looked to alternative variables that might explain these high numbers.

“I argue that child maltreatment is not an exclusive byproduct of the single-mother household dynamic, but it is instead magnified and influenced by systemic environmental factors, such as the implied burden of motherhood, the feminization of poverty and a history of violence toward the mother,” Paolini says.

Paolini has long been intrigued by this subject and has studied it in the past, but the JCY scholarship allowed her to adapt her research.

“My interest in the topic began two summers ago with a grant from the Mellon Foundation and originally focused on combating child maltreatment through changes in public education policy,” she says. “However, as with all research, my trajectory and focus changed countless times before ending with the current thesis.”

To make her research as complete as possible, Paolini worked with doctors, social workers, attorneys and others in the field.

“One component of my research was a series of interviews with professionals in the realm of child maltreatment, and my interactions with them were invaluable,” she says. “It was truly inspiring to meet so many people who share my passion and who have committed their lives to the wellbeing of children.”

Paolini’s JCY project advisors—Associate Professor of Philosophy Eva Cadavid and Assistant Professor of History Stephen Dove—are both impressed with the initiative and enthusiasm Paolini maintained during her research.

“Mikayla is very creative, self-motivated and passionate about child welfare and social justice,” says Cadavid. “The way that she has gone about her research is truly amazing. Her work is well informed, and I look forward to seeing where she takes it in the future.”

“Her curiosity and determination really drove this project,” adds Dove. “Mikayla is a model for student-generated undergraduate research and how far our students can go on their own with a little guidance from faculty on issues of method and research tools.”

Paolini, who will pursue a dual graduate degree in law and bioethics at Emory University this fall, is glad her JCY project gave her the ability to prepare for her life’s work.

“I think every Centre student, to some extent or another, wants to change the world. For me, bringing about that change comes by investing in the lives of children,” she says. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to further explore my passions and sharpen my academic skills so that I am better equipped to serve others in the future.”

by Elizabeth Trollinger
June 7, 2016