Carolyn Dayton

Carolyn Dayton

Assistant Professor

(313) 577-5254

Carolyn Dayton


Carolyn Dayton joined the WSU Social Work faculty in 2012 as an Assistant Professor. She holds a joint appointment at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development where she serves as the Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program. Her research is focused on early parenting processes with an emphasis on fathering in urban settings. She has many years of experience providing clinical interventions to the families of infants and young children in a wide range of settings including home-based, center-based and hospital programs.

Dr. Dayton's program of research is fundamentally translational and transdisciplinary; it is informed by her clinical work with families and aims to identify biological and psychosocial risk and resilience factors that influence early parenting process and early child development.


Click here to view Curriculum Vitae

Degrees and Certifications


  • Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Michigan State University
  • Graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health, University of Michigan
  • M.S.W., University of Michigan
  • B.A., Kalamazoo College
  • Licensure: Clinical Social Work, Clinical Psychology
  • Endorsement: Infant Mental Health - IMH-E(IV)

Teaching Interests

  • Infant Mental Health Practice
  • Psychodynamic Theory and Practice
  • Interpersonal Practice with Children and Families
  • Transdisciplinary Research and Practice in the Social and Biological Sciences

Areas of Expertise


  • Infant Mental Health
  • Emotion Regulation Processes in Parenting and Early Child Development
  • Biological and Psychosocial Processes in Early Fathering
  • Fathering Influences on Early Child Development
  • Functional Neuroanatomy of Parenting
  • Domestic Violence in Pregnancy and Early Childhood


  • Longitudinal Developmental Research
  • Behavioral Data Collection and Coding
  • Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Data Analysis
  • Typological Narrative Coding
  • Secondary Data Analysis

Research Project

Singing to Babies in Motown!: The Detroit Lullaby Study
Principal Investigator: Wendy Matthews, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator: Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV)
Co-Investigator: Valerie Simon, PhD

The history of Detroit includes a rich musical culture that remains a meaningful influence in the lives of the people of Detroit today. This study aims to tap this cultural strength with the ultimate goal of employing music to support vulnerable Detroit families who are struggling to raise infants and young children in communities affected by violence and poverty. Using an innovative, laboratory-based Lullaby Protocol, this study will examine the influence of parental singing to their infants on the physiological responses of both parents and infants.

Baby on Board!: The WSU Early Parenting Study
Principal Investigator: Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV)
Study Coordinator: Myung-Ae (Mae) Nordin, BA
Primary Collaborators:
Wendy Matthews, PhD
Suzanne Brown, PhD
Joanne Smith-Darden, PhD
Erika Bocknek, PhD
Maria Muzik, MD
Katherine Rosenblum, PhD
Tam Perry, PhD

This study examines the influence of key psychological, social and biological factors on the development of parenting thoughts, feelings and behaviors beginning during pregnancy and across the first months of postnatal development in a sample of urban dwelling mothers and fathers. The central aim of the study is to understand the underlying processes that parents experience as they prepare to parent a new baby. Data gathered from this study is contributing to our understanding of these prenatal psychological processes – especially for fathers – with the explicit aim of improving intervention and support services to fathers who are struggling to parent in the face of psychosocial and contextual adversity. Importantly, we are examining protective factors, in addition to risk factors, that may bolster the ability of fathers to care for their partner and child during pregnancy and early infancy.

The Functional Neuroanatomy of Human Parental Care
Principal Investigator:
Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV)
Primary Collaborators:
James Swain, PhD, MD
Maria Muzik, MD
Shaun Ho, PhD
Katherine Rosenblum, PhD

The importance of early relationships in infancy to the psychological and bio-behavioral growth of the human infant is primary. Parenting the young infant is both rewarding and challenging under the best of circumstances. For mothers who have experienced traumatic events and who struggle with depression and anxiety, the tasks of early parenting can be especially difficult. Using a standardized, attachment-based, Infant Mental Health protocol known as “Mom Power” developed by Dr. Maria Muzik, this study examines the functional neuroanatomy underlying parenting in a group of mothers with histories of trauma and depression, before and after the Mom Power intervention.

Development and Implementation of a Fathering Program in Detroit, Michigan
Principal Investigator:
Maria Muzik, MD
Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E®(IV)
Katherine Rosenblum, PhD

The central aim of this study is to develop a family-centered and culturally-informed preventive parenting intervention for fathers and their parenting partners. Data from Dr. Dayton’s study of early fathering will be used to inform the adaptation of an intervention for mothers (“Mom Power,” PI: Dr. Maria Muzik), for implementation with fathers in the City of Detroit. A focus on building resilience through the support of attachment-based early parenting processes is a key feature of this intervention.

Office Location

5447 Woodward Avenue, Rm 055

Courses Taught

SW 6991 Introduction to Infant Mental Health

SW 7010 Infant Mental Health Practice

SW 8115 Application of DSM Assessment System in Social Work Practice

SW 8883 Infant Mental Health Seminar I

SW 8884 Infant Mental Health Seminar II

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