What is the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI)?
PIRI is dedicated to improving the well-being of parents and infants.
The Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) was the first independent Australian research institute established to tackle the burden of perinatal mental illness. Our core team of talented researchers is internationally recognised and involved in leading perinatal mental health research across Australia and the world. Most of our researchers are also clinicians at Austin Health, Melbourne, where the Institute is based, and we have close ties with the University of Melbourne. Our aim is to ensure that our research discoveries and evidence-based treatment programs are translated into practical supports and better outcomes for parents and infants.
The year 2021 is PIRI’s 20th anniversary. Since 2001, our founder, Professor Jeannette Milgrom AM, has led the growth of our Institute to be one of the foremost providers of new knowledge and perinatal mental health supports in the country. Supported by over 90 research grants (including large category 1 grants), PIRI’s team has developed, tested and rolled out more than 10 evidence-based programs over the last two decades. Today PIRI is Australia’s largest provider of online supports for perinatal mental health difficulties.
We remain absolutely committed to working with families and health professionals to ensure better outcomes and a bright future for all Australian mothers, fathers and babies.
PIRI consists of an Board and a dedicated group of clinical, academic and research staff whose aim is to conduct research and provide world-class services to women and their families, health professionals and other researchers in the area of parent and infant mental health.PIRI’s work is conducted under two arms, consisting of (1) a research arm which provides a ‘hothouse’ of parent-infant researchers and informs and underpins all PIRI activities, and (2) a clinical unit, the Infant Clinic, which provides model world-class treatments, and provides support to women and their families, health professionals and other agencies in the area of parent-infant mental health. PIRI also conducts public health initiatives and professional development programs.
Clinical and Research Expertise
PIRI is staffed by clinicians and research staff with expertise in infant, child and adult psychology, research methodology, randomised trials and dance therapy. PIRI is renowned for its innovative clinic programs. Staff have published extensively in the scientific literature in the areas of child development, mother-infant interaction and treatment of antenatal and postnatal depression and prematurity.Profiles of the PIRI Research and Infant Clinic staff can be viewed here.
Supporting Health Professionals and Parents
PIRI provides information, training and resources for health professionals, which can be accessed in our Information for Health Professionals section.If you are a parent, friend, or relative looking for support or information, see our For Parents page.
Our areas of specialty include:
- Supporting the mental health of parents in the transition to parenthood
- Antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety
- Mother-infant relationships
- Infant development
- Mitigating the impacts of premature birth
- Screening and identification of antenatal and postnatal depression
- Developing interventions
- Online treatment programs for perinatal depression and anxiety
- Translating Research to Practice
The development and application of evidence-based, innovative interventions is informed by a specialist team of clinical and academic staff. For an overview of PIRI’s research, click here.
To hear PIRI’s Executive Director, Professor Jeannette Milgrom present an overview of the work of the Parent-Infant Research Institute, click here
Click on PIRI staff for more details.
Click on PIRI Newsletters for our news.
PIRI’s Mission Statement
PIRI is committed to supporting all parents and their babies (conception to 2 years), including those with vulnerabilities, to have the best possible start to life by creating a Centre of Excellence whose activities are designed to improve emotional wellbeing and optimize development.
For PIRI’s full Mission Statement, click here.
PIRI has five major objectives:
- Research (basic and clinical) – To conduct internationally recognised research into perinatal depression and anxiety, prematurity, infancy, prevention and intervention; to disseminate results through publications (academic journal articles and books) and conferences, as well as to parents. Major research initiatives relate to improving parent mental health and optimizing infant cognitive, emotional and social development. Click here for more on PIRI’s Research.
- Model Clinic – The clinic supports our clinical research trial centre and also rolls out evaluated Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) programs as a model treatment centre (the Infant Clinic) for perinatal mental health difficulties (antenatal and postnatal anxiety, depression, adjustment problems and parent-infant difficulties).
- Public Health Initiatives – To increase the evidence base for screening for perinatal depression and pathways to care; to enhance community awareness and reduce stigma of parent and infant mental health issues; perinatal treatments from conception to 2 years.
- Policy – To provide high quality information to influence government policy, advocate for parent-infant well-being and for the translation of research knowledge into real-world services.
- Training – To engage with agencies and professionals in collaborative relationships, and provide state-of-the-art training in assessment and treatment of perinatal depression and anxiety and parent-infant difficulties.
PIRI’s track record
PIRI is an international leader in postnatal depression research and is engaged in active collaboration with groups in Australia, the UK and US. PIRI is Australia’s largest treatment research centre for antenatal and postnatal depression, with a track record of turning research into practice and developing novel parent-infant interventions, training professionals in parent-infant mental health and with expertise in prematurity.
PIRI’s 15-year history of developing interventions for parent-infant difficulties following postnatal depression has resulted in a suite of evidence-based programs.
A suite of evidenced-based programs has been developed through randomized controlled trials for interventions designed to address parental mental health and parent-infant difficulties. Programs include the “Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression Program”- the only Australian psychological CBT treatment for postnatal depression evaluated in a randomised trial – the program has international recognition (translated into Italian and French). Other programs include “Towards Parenthood” and “The MumMoodBooster” Online Postnatal Depression Treatment Program.
PIRI has also led cutting edge research in prematurity and the effect of parent-sensitivity training ( “Premiestart intervention”) on brain development, with successive funding from NHMRC grants.
PIRI’s extensive publications and journal articles on postnatal depression screening and treatment have attracted international recognition; PIRI co-authored a recent Lancet article on Perinatal Mental Health.
PIRI has developed extensive collaborations.
Involvement with beyondblue since 2001, initially as Victorian Principal Researchers for the beyondblue National Postnatal Depression Program and screening of over 10,000 women in Victoria and Tasmania. PIRI has played a key role in implementation of the Federal Government’s Perinatal Depression Initiative for universal screening of all antenatal and postnatal women for depression and anxiety in Australia. PIRI continues its relationship with beyondblue, has collaborated in the development of an online training for screening of postnatal depression, and of resource development.
PIRI has also had a lead role in screening programs for postnatal depression through an extensive network of over 500 Maternal and Child Health Centres with whom we have collaborated.
PIRI offers training to build capacity in the perinatal workforce to manage antenatal and postnatal depression. This has included provision of extensive training to MCHNs in the Northern Eastern and Hume Regions as part of the DHS PND Initiative link to clinical Services, and a statewide tender with DEECD.
Led by the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) the Perinatal Depression eConsortium (PDeC) involves partnership with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), Monash University, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and Queensland University of Technology. Evidence-based online resources and apps have been evaluated by PDeC and are available through MumSpace.com.au
The first years of life are critical and when things go wrong we need to intervene early. In these early years, the basic ‘sculpting’ of a child’s brain takes place, a time when infants are completely dependent on their parents and caregivers. There is growing evidence that early experiences influence brain structure and the connections made among brain cells. These connections can affect a child’s immediate and future cognitive, emotional and behavioural development.
Investing in the earliest years to build a brighter future