Susan J. Spieker, PhD

Susan J. Spieker, PhD
Director, Center on Infant Mental Health & Development
Family and Child Nursing
Box 357920
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-7262


I am a professor in the department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington and director of the Barnard Center for Infant Mental Health & Development. My research focuses on the role of parent-infant relationships in children’s social emotional development and learning. My colleagues and I develop and test prevention and intervention programs related to infant and early childhood mental health. I recently completed a clinical trial R01: Promoting Infant Mental Health in Foster Care, funded by NIH/NIMH. Current projects include collaborations with Monica Oxford on a clinical trial R01: Training Social Work Providers: Intervention for Infants and Toddlers Exposed to Maltreatment; Dmitri Christakis, MD, on a clinical trial R01, Promoting Optimal Parenting; and Karen Thomas, PhD, on a descriptive R21, Contribution of Circadian Rhythm and Maternal Entrainment to Infant; all funded by NIH/NICHD.


In 2015 I will co-teach courses in the Graduate Certificate Program in Advanced Practice Nursing - Infant Mental Health (GCPAPN-IMH). I will also be one of several instructors of a new undergraduate course, NSG 432 Infants and Young Children, Risk and Resilience, that is a foundational introduction to the field of infant and early childhood mental health.

Practice, Service, Community Involvement

I am currently President of the Washington Association for Infant Mental Health (WA-AIMH). WA-AIMH is a chapter of the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH). WA-AIMH is a vital community of professionals coming together from diverse settings on behalf of all of Washington’s youngest children and those who care for them. It focuses on professional development and support for the interdisciplinary workforce that serves young families. In 2015 WA-AIMH is joining 17 other states in adopting a 4-level professional development system, the Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health®.

Current Publications

  • Spieker, S.J., Oxford, M.L., & Fleming, C.B. (2014). Permanency outcomes for toddlers in child welfare two years after a randomized trial of a parenting intervention. Children and Youth Services Review. DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.06.017. PMCID in process.
  • Oxford, M.L., Fleming, C.B., Nelson, E.M., Kelly, J.F., & Spieker, S. J. (2013). Randomized trial of Promoting First Relationships: Effects on maltreated toddlers' separation distress and sleep regulation after reunification. Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 1988–1992. PMC3864747
  • Nelson, E. M. & Spieker, S. J. (2013). Intervention effects on morning and stimulated cortisol among toddlers in foster care. Infant Mental Health Journal, 34, 211-221. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21382 PMC3848956
  • Spieker, S. J., Oxford, M. L., Kelly, J. F., Nelson, E. M., & Fleming, C. B. (2012). Promoting First Relationships: Randomized trial of a relationship-based intervention for toddlers in child welfare. Child Maltreatment. 17(4), 271-286. PMCID: PMC3552521
  • Spieker, S.J., Campbell, S. B., Vandergrift, N., Pierce, K. M.., Cauffman, E., Susman, E.J., Roisman, G. I., and the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2011).  Relational aggression in middle childhood: Predictors and adolescent outcomes. Social Development, 21(2), 354-375. PMCID:PMC3365607

Current Research Projects

  • 2012-2014: Contribution of circadian rhythm and maternal entrainment to Infant regulation, (Karen Thomas, P.I.), National Institute for Child Health and Development, $150,000.
  • 2012-2017: Promoting optimal parenting, (Dimitri Christakis, P.I.), National Institute for Child Health and Development, $428,793
  • 2010-2015: Co-Principal Investigator, Training social work providers: an Intervention for Maltreating families of infants and toddlers, (Monica Oxford, Principal Investigator), National Institute for Child Health and Development, $2,253,000
  • 2009-present: Co-Principal Investigator, Educare program support and evaluation project, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $213,000
  • 2006-2012: Principal Investigator, Promoting infant mental health in foster care, National Institute of Mental Health, $3,200,000
Research Interests: 
Developmental psychology, mother/infant interaction
Student Mentor: 
UW Graduate Faculty: