Early Life Care
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Institute for Early Life Care

Director: Dr. Beate Priewasser

The Institute for Early Life Care is worldwide the first of its kind. The research Institute was founded in October 2016 in Salzburg. The research questions 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. The department is equipped with a video lab, four offices and a conference room.

Also in October 2016, a master’s program with the same name (“Early Life Care”) started at the Paracelsus University Salzburg. It is operated in collaboration with the St. Virgil training center in Salzburg and is addressed to all groups of professionals who work with parents and children before and after birth, including midwives, physicians, psychologists, psychotherapists, nursing personnel, remedial teachers, educators, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and counselors.

“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 first years of an infant’s life constitute a good start in life, supportive relationships, and healthy bio-psycho-social development. Studies from all branches of research confirm the importance of this stage of life. We know, for example, how important early relationship experiences are in order to influence the activation of genes, which are already present during gestation, and how fundamentally the attachment experiences, brain development, stress regulation, and immunology of an infant are affected.

It is assumed that the manner of early relationship experiences have a major effect on the physical, psychological, and social development of human beings. However, research about early development has been relatively neglected lately. The purpose of the Institute for Early Life Care is to enrich the state of research for this early stage of life. Hence, our primary goal is to ensure that children grow up in the best possible way.

Research Projects

Sparkling Science: Reflecting Minds

Development of a mentalization training for elementary educators


Educators are increasingly confronted with a lack of resources and inadequate working conditions. Educators face the challenge of not only maintaining sensitivity in their interactions with children under increased stress, but also dealing with themselves in a mindful and self-caring manner. Recent studies indicate that high level of reflective functioning serves as a protective factor in everyday pedagogical work. Reflective functioning describes the ability to reflect on one’s own mental states as well as on those of others by thinking about and imagining feelings, beliefs and desires. Thus, high reflective functioning ability promotes interaction and relationship quality and reduces the perceived stress in educators.

The sparkling science project aims to improve the mentalizing ability of elementary educators. Therefore, we will develop a training in collaboration with students and teachers of two schools for elementary education.

To examine the effect of the training, the students’ reflective functioning, sensitivity, emotion regulation, empathy and stress resilience will be compared before and after the training.  Because these skills will also improve over a year as part of the regular school lessons or by the students’ general development, data of the training classes will be compared to control classes not receiving any additional training. Furthermore, to assess whether a live observation is necessary, other control classes will receive only theoretical information about mentalization. We hypothesize that mentalization training in the context of live observations of a parent-child dyad will have the strongest training effect.

In addition, the students themselves will be actively involved in the research process by investigating the practical applicability of mentalizing in the context of their practice in kindergarten. Thus, based on a structured documentation of their own experiences with the practical use of mentalizing, they will learn to evaluate the results qualitatively and quantitatively.

Contact: Antonia Dinzinger (reflecting.minds@pmu.ac.at)

Project website (German): relfecting-minds.pmu.ac.at


Corona Project

Family resilience during the crises

The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 induced lockdown on families and their children. We want to understand how families are doing in the lockdown and how family systems can cope well with the new challenges. 649 families from German-speaking countries took part in the accompanying online study in April / May 2020. They were asked about their subjectively perceived stresses and their psychological effects. At the same time, a survey was conducted to find out which mechanisms help families in lockdown to maintain a good level of family functioning. One year later, in May 2021, the same families were interviewed again to be able to examine long-term developments of the COVID-19 crisis on family systems and their resources.

Contact: Selina Ismair, selina.ismair@pmu.ac.at

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.

Contact: Antonia Dinzinger, antonia.dinzinger@pmu.ac.at


Effects of maternal smartphone use on mother-child interaction

This projects aims to investigate the impact of maternal smartphone use on mother-child interaction with 3-10 month old infants. During a sequence of standardized play interrupted by smartphone use the mothers as well as the infants autonomic regulation (measured by heart rate; HR) are recorded.

Contact: Adelheid Lang, smart.baby@pmu.ac.at

Team and Contact

Dr.in rer. nat. Beate Priewasser
Institute of Early Life Care

Phone: +43 662 2420-80590
Mail: beate.priewasser@pmu.ac.at
Mag.a Martina Perendi
Institute of Early Life Care
Administrative Assistant

Phone: +43 662 2420-80591
Mail: martina.perendi@pmu.ac.at
Dr.in Antonia Dinzinger, MSc, PhD
Institute of Early Life Care
Research Associate

Phone: +43 662 2420-80599
Mail: antonia.dinzinger@pmu.ac.at
Selina Ismair, MSc
Institute of Early Life Care
Research Associate

Phone: +43 662 2420-80592
Mail: selina.ismair@pmu.ac.at
Carmen Wusatiuk
Institute of Early Life Care

Phone: +43 662 2420-80594
Mail: carmen.wusatiuk@pmu.ac.at
Mag.a Gabriela Markova, PhD
Institute of Early Life Care

Phone: +43 662 2420-80595
Mail: gabriela.markova@pmu.ac.at