Carolyn Dayton

Carolyn Dayton

Associate Professor

Expert in infant mental health and fathering in urban environments

5447 Woodward Avenue, Room 055, Detroit, MI 48202

(313) 577-5254

Carolyn Dayton


Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LP, LMSW, IMH-E®(IV) conducts research focused on early parenting processes with an emphasis on fathering in urban settings (  She is engaged in policy initiatives aimed at revising state and local policies that disproportionately and negatively affect poor, urban fathers. As an Infant Mental Health Specialist, Dayton has over two decades 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.  Dayton is a licensed practitioner of clinical social work and clinical psychology and is endorsed as an infant mental health mentor (Level IV; MI-AIMH; in the areas of clinical practice and research. 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 parenting processes and early child development.

Dayton 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 (IMH) Program ( The IMH program provides specialized, multidisciplinary training in early intervention with the families of infants, toddlers and young children. The program focuses on the development of clinical skills that allow the practitioner to promote healthy social emotional development in young children using a culturally informed approach to service delivery (

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae


Associate Director, Infant Mental Health Program, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development

Degrees and Certifications

  • PhD, Clinical Psychology, Michigan State University
  • Graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health, University of Michigan
  • MA, Michigan State University
  • MSW, University of Michigan
  • BA, Kalamazoo College
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist (Michigan)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (Michigan)
  • Infant Mental Health Mentor (MI-AIMH) - Clinical & Research, IMH-E®(IV)

Awards and Honors

  • 2016, 2019  Faculty Mentor, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
  • 2015, Hiram Fitzgerald Award for Emerging Scholarship and Research in Infant Mental Health, Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health

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
  • Fathering in Urban Environments
  • Parenting in Contexts of Risk
  • Emotion Regulation Processes in Parenting and Early Child Development
  • Biological and Psychosocial Processes in Early Parenting
  • Fathering Influences on Early Child Development


  • Longitudinal Developmental Research
  • Bio-behavioral Data Collection and Coding
  • Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Data Analysis
  • Typological Narrative Coding
  • Secondary Data Analysis

Recent Publications

Dayton, C. J. (2023, March). Helping fathers bond with their babies during pregnancy. Retrieved from

Dayton, C. J., Malone, J. C., & Brown, S. (2020). Pathways to parenting: The emotional journeys of fathers as they prepare to parent a new infant. In H. E. Fitzgerald, K. vonKlitzing, N. Cabrera, T. Skjothaug and J. S. de Medonca (Eds.), Handbook of Fathers: Prenatal to PreK. New York: Springer Press.

Dayton, C.J., Barron, C. C., Stacks, A. M., & Malone, J. (2020). Infant Mental Health: Clinical Practice with Very Young Children and their Families. In J. Brandell, Theory and Practice in Clinical Social Work (Ed.). San Diego, CA: Cognella.

Dayton, C. J., Johnson, A., Hicks, L., Goletz, J. Brown, S. Primuse, T. Green, K., Nordin, M., Welch, R., & Muzik, M. (2019). Sex differences in the social ecology of breastfeeding: A mixed methods analysis of breastfeeding views of expectant mothers and fathers. Journal of Biosocial Science.

Dayton, C. J., Brown, S., Goletz, J., Hicks, L., Barron, C., & Smith-Darden, J. (2019). Pathways to parenting: Predictors of prenatal bonding in a sample of expectant mothers and fathers exposed to environmental risk. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(4), 1134-1144.

Hicks, L. M., Dayton, C. J. (2018). Depressive and trauma symptoms in risk-exposed, expectant mothers and fathers: Is mindfulness a buffer? Journal of Affective Disorders, 238, 179-186. doi:

Dayton, C. J., Matthews, W. K., Hicks, L., & Malone, J. (2017). The expression of music throughout the lives of expectant parents. Psychology of Music, 45(6), 839-854. doi: 0305735617692165

Swain, J. E., Ho, S., Rosenblum, K. L., Morelen, D., Dayton, C. J. & Muzik, M. (2017). Parent-child intervention decreases stress and increases maternal brain responses and connectivity in response to own baby-cry: An exploratory study. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 535-553. doi:

Bocknek, E. L., Dayton, C. J., Brophy-Herb, H. Raveau, H., & Fitzgerald, H. (2017). Routine active playtime with fathers is associated with toddlers’ emotion regulation competencies. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 63(1).

Dayton, C. J., & Malone, J. (2017). The development and socialization of physical aggression in very young boys. Infant Mental Health Journal, 38(1),150-165. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21622.

Dayton, C. J., Buczkowski, R. S., Muzik, M., Goletz, J., Hicks, L., Walsh, T., & Bocknek, E. L. (2016). Expectant fathers’ beliefs and expectations about fathering as they prepare to parent a new infant. Social Work Research: Special Issue on Social Work with Men and Fathers, 40(4), 225-236. doi: 10.1093/swr/svw017.

Dayton, C. J., Huth-Bocks, A., & Busuito, A. (2016). The influence of interpersonal aggression on maternal perceptions of infant emotions: Associations with early parenting quality. Emotion, 16(4), 436-448. doi: 10.1037/emo0000114.

Research Project

Singing to Babies in Motown!: The Detroit Lullaby Study
Principal Investigators: Carolyn Dayton, PhD, LP, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV) and Wendy Matthews, PhD
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 Dayton, PhD, LP, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV)
Co-Investigator: Suzanne Brown, PhD, LMSW
Collaborators: Wendy Matthews, PhD, Joanne Smith-Darden, 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.

Grand Challenges Project

Helping Violence-Exposed Parents Cope

With $50,000 from Wayne State’s Division of Research, Dayton and Assistant Professor of Music Education Wendy Matthews have launched a two-year study called “Singing to Babies in Motown: the Detroit Lullaby Study.” For the project, Dayton and Matthews are studying dozens of mothers and fathers with histories of poverty, trauma, depression and other stress as they sing to their babies, observing the parents’ behavioral responses and measuring the physiological responses (e.g., heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance) of the parents and their babies. Lullabies may be an easy, effective and affordable coping strategy for parents experiencing interpersonal or community violence and If singing proves to be effective, it could be a candidate for a high-impact public service campaign. Learn more

Courses taught by Carolyn Dayton

Fall Term 2024 (future)

Winter Term 2024 (current)

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Fall Term 2022

Winter Term 2022

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