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Research Associates

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Christie L. M. Petrenko

  • Assistant Professor
  • Research Associate, Mt. Hope Family Center
  • Associate Director of Clinical Training, Mt. Hope Family Center
  • Clinical Instructor, URMC Dept of Pediatrics, Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

University of California, San Diego, Ph.D., 2009

(585) 275-2991

Research Overview

Dr. Petrenko’s research focuses on increasing evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and their families.

Currently, FASD is estimated to impact 2-5% of the US population, and yet most families cannot access appropriate diagnostic and intervention services. Most educators and health care providers have limited knowledge about FASD and have low confidence in serving people with FASD. As a result, an estimated 80% of people with FASD go undiagnosed ore are misdiagnosed. Without proper recognition and services, people with FASD are at high risk for secondary conditions such as mental health problems, disrupted school experiences, trouble with the law, and substance use problems. This risk increases in adolescence and adulthood. The challenges of raising a child with a disability are compounded by these systems barriers, which place a large burden on families.

Guided by a developmental psychopathology perspective, Dr. Petrenko's research aims to understand the interplay of risk and protective factors across ecological levels that influence the development of secondary conditions. This work informs her conceptualization and development of novel interventions to improve outcomes for people with FASD and foster family adaptation. Randomized controlled trials testing these interventions also provide an empirical test of hypothesized mechanisms. Given the lack of FASD-informed care in the community, Dr. Petrenko prioritizes the investigation of both efficacy and implementation parameters to identify the best approaches to improve access and outcomes for people with FASD in the community.

Dr. Petrenko values multidisciplinary collaboration and is involved in several research and training collaborations to address this large international problem. For example, she and several faculty members in Electrical and Computer Engineering developed and tested a mobile health intervention as part of the NIH-funded Collaborative Initiative on FASD ( She has also contracted with the World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization to provide training in FASD diagnosis to professionals in selected member countries as part of a small multidisciplinary team. She is interested in how to overcome practical realities to promote change for families and reduce stigma.

Clinical Training Offered

  • Developmental Disabilities Clinical Externship through URMC Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

          *  FASD Diagnostic and Evaluation Clinic

          *  Families Moving Forward Program

  • FASD Family Night at Mt. Hope Family Center

Selected Publications

Petrenko, C. L. M., Pandolfino, M. E., & Robinson, L. K. (2017). Findings from the Families on Track preventive intervention pilot trial with children with FASD and their families. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 41(7), 1340-1351. PMCID: PMC5534133.

Petrenko, C. L. M., Pandolfino, M. E., & Roddenbery, R. (2016). The association between parental attributions of misbehavior and parenting practices in caregivers raising children with prenatal alcohol exposure: A mixed-methods study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 20, 255-267. PMCID: PMC5159297.

Petrenko, C. L. M. (2015). Positive behavioral interventions and family support for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 2, 199-209. PMCID: PMC4569135.

Petrenko, C. L. M., Tahir, N., Mahoney, E. C., & Chin, N. P. (2014). A qualitative assessment of program characteristics for preventing secondary conditions in individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Journal of Population therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology, 21(2), e246-e259.

Petrenko, C. L. M., Tahir, N., Mahoney, E. C., & Chin, N. P. (2014). Prevention of secondary conditions in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Identification of systems-level barriers. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18, 1496-1505. PMCID: PMC4007413.

Petrenko, C. L. M., Friend, A., Garrido, E. F., Taussig, H. N., & Culhane, S. E. (2012). Does subtype matter? Assessing the effects of maltreatment on functioning in preadolescent youth in out-of-home care. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36, 633-644. PMCID: PMC3445713.

Petrenko, C. L. M., Culhane, S. E., Garrido, E. F., & Taussig, H. N. (2011). Do youth in out-of-home care receive recommended mental health and educational services following screening evaluations? Child and Youth Services Review, 33, 1911-1918. PMCID: PMC3169801.

McGee, C. L., Bjorkquist, O. A., Price, J. M., Mattson, S. N., & Riley, E. P. (2009). Social information processing skills i children with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 817-830. PMCID: PMC2708323.

McGee, C. L., Schonfeld, A., Roebuck, T., Riley, E. P., & Mattson, S. N. (2008). Children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure demonstrate deficits on multiple measures of concept formation. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32, 1388-1397. PMCID: PMC3719981.

Riley, E. P., & McGee, C. L. (2005). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: An overview with emphasis on changes in brain and behavior. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 230, 357-365.