Scientific Research Institutes > University Institutes > Early Life Care

Institute for Early Life Care

Director: Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Karl Heinz Brisch

“A securely attached child will give parents great joy,
because such children use language more articulately,
are more flexible and persistent in solving problems,
can better empathize with the feelings of others, enter into more friendships,
and have a greater chance of finding happiness in their relationships.” (K. H. Brisch)

The Institute for Early Life Care is the first of its kind in the world. It was opened in October 2016 and is dedicated to the foundations of life. The research questions that it asks cover a wide range of fundamental issues and interventional approaches with regard to the chronology of development from conception through pregnancy, birth, and early child development. A course of study at Paracelsus University Salzburg was begun in collaboration with the St. Virgil training center in Salzburg. It is aimed at all groups of professionals who look after children and parents before and after birth, including midwives, physicians, psychologists, psychotherapists, nursing personnel, remedial teachers, educators, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and counselors.


An infant’s first years lay the groundwork for a good start in life, for supportive relationships, and for healthy bio-psycho-social development. Studies from all branches of research confirm the importance of this stage of life. We know today, for example, just how important early experiences of relationship are during this time to turn “on” or “off” the genes present during gestation, and how fundamentally the attachment experiences, brain development, stress regulation, and immunology of an infant are affected. However, research into this entire chronology of development has been relatively neglected. It is to be assumed that this developmental arena has a major effect on the physical, psychic, and social development of human beings. The purpose of the Institute is to contribute to research on this time of life.

Areas of research

Many exciting areas of research present themselves because of the long time span from conception through the first year of life, and because of the many different factors that influence the development of an infant. Several factors are of critical importance and require research. These include:

  • How do we best support couples in the transition to parenthood and strengthen parental competences?
  • What support do day nurseries and day care centers need to best fulfill their mission?
  • How do we help adoptive and foster families deal with their challenges?
  • What sorts of training do midwives and other professional personnel need to recognize early developmental disorders that imperil healthy development, and deal with them sensitively?
  • How do we best create an atmosphere in which the early effects of parental psychic disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction can be minimized and the parents supported?
  • How can we break the vicious cycle of transmission of traumatic experiences from generation to generation? What kinds of sensitivity training, counseling, and therapy best help attachment figures to deal with their child?
  • What research questions remain unanswered with regard to artificial insemination, prenatal diagnostics, and the termination of pregnancy?

Concrete research projects

SAFE ® - Basic Trust

Evaluating the efficacy of a mentalization-based intervention

“SAFE ® - Basic Trust” is a short-term, home-based intervention for young families that aims to promote a secure attachment development between the infant and both parents. Mainly, the intervention strengthens the parental ability to mentalize and enhances the co-parenting quality. The accompanying longitudinal study follows the family from pregnancy to the child’s first birthday, whereas influencing factors (e.g. parental mental health, childhood trauma) as well as the physiological underpinnings of attachment will be investigated.


Antonia Dinzinger ( & Theresa Hauser (


Two dissertations on early disorders in the parent-child interaction resulting from use of smartphones and from parental depression are being planned as part of a large-scale investigation of the development of the parent-child relationship.

Mapping of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The research team “Mapping” of the Institute of Early Life Care has elaborated an expertise about the current state of research of childhood adversities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In practice and research, those early affecting risk factors are known as “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACE). The expertise covers the classification of the ACEs according to the origin of the harmful condition. Furthermore, interactions between the different risk factors as well as the following long lasting impairments of the mental and physical development of the affected children are presented. In particular, the cumulation of the risk potentiation for the children is demonstrated. In order to complete the description, ecological, social and spiritual protective and risk factors are pointed out.

As another important section, the ACE expertise demonstrates the impact of primary prevention of adverse conditions in the first years of life. In that way, huge costs caused by those risk factors can be avoided and, as the most important, growing up under the best possible conditions is ensured. Therefore, the expertise examines existing intervention programs, their underlying mechanisms and their effectiveness.

As a conclusion of the mapping, political and social suggestions for adaptions in the field of early childhood development are consolidated.

Contact: Lisa Jakob (, Corinna Priller ( & Leonie Aap (

Workshops & events


1st Early Life Care Conference International und interdisciplinary conferece with workshops 

May 10 to May 12,  2018 in St. Virgil Salzburg

"Familien unter HOCH-STRESS"

Please find more Information here and on the website 


17 th International Attachment Conference - Attachment and Divorce

Fri , October 05 - Sun, October 07, 2018

For more Information click here  or here

Team and Contact