Infant/Child Mental Health, Early Intervention
and Relationship-Based Therapies


CONNIE LILLAS 626 577 9332



Using Systems Science Methodology to Inform the Development and Efficacy of the Neurorelational Framework (NRF)

Infant mental health has identified dynamic systems (DS) theory as foundational to guiding clinical practice. While DS theory is used in Infant Mental Health and Early Intervention, the research methodologies for growing “evidence” in these fields has relied upon traditional, linear methodologies. In addition, research for “evidence-based” treatments is often conducted in laboratories, based upon specific and narrow diagnostic categories. Unfortunately, these treatment models may then be minimally effective when they are applied to complex cases seen in high-risk community settings.

The Neurorelational Framework (NRF) is a dynamic systems theory and innovative comprehensive clinical framework. Through the arm of the Interdisciplinary Training Institute, evidence is now being gathered through the use of systems science methodology in a community-based participatory context. The goal of the NRF’s research is to link up three well-defined clinical steps to systems science modeling and real-time data collection.

Systems science approaches (e.g., system dynamics, agent based modeling, discrete event simulation, and social network analysis) are useful in developing and refining theory based upon simulating real-world feedback loops. The NRF’s three clinical steps are discerning: 1) adaptive versus toxic stress, 2) age appropriate versus delayed socio-emotional milestones, and 3) coordinated brain networks versus delays in brain functioning. Two causal loop diagrams depicting the NRF’s three steps in the context of brain functioning and relationships will be highlighted. The research protocol includes the use of physiological data collection for tracking dyadic states of arousal or toxic stress patterns. Computer models will be available for viewing. These models will depict the feedback loops of self and co-regulation between parent and child in the context of arousal regulation and risks for allostatic load (toxic stress).

NRF research illustrates the potential for informing dynamic systems research methodology, matching theory and clinical practice using real-world, real-time data collected in community based settings.

Please note: In research contract relationships the Interdisciplinary Training Institute does not pay for indirect costs for University Research.