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Shelby E. McDonald, Ph.D.

Assistant professor

Email: smcdonald3@vcu.edu

Phone: (804) 828-2845

Ph.D., University of Denver

M.S.W., University of Denver

B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Shelby E. McDonald is an assistant professor in the VCU School of Social Work and a research affiliate with the VCU School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction. Her research interests include ethnocultural variations in women and children’s exposure and response to intimate partner violence and human-animal interactions in the context of welfare, health and socio-ecological justice.

For the past 6 years, she has been co-investigator of a longitudinal, mixed methods study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that examines the impact of exposure to intimate partner violence and concomitant animal maltreatment on women and children’s health and wellbeing. This community-engaged research study involved statewide collaboration between the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence; findings from this project have been translated into recommendations for domestic violence shelter and community services, mental health professionals who work with survivors of family violence and animal rescue organizations.

Another aspect of McDonald’s research focuses on developmental trajectories of academic and psychosocial competencies in racial and ethnic minority youth, particularly Latinxs. Currently, McDonald is collaborating Rosalie Corona, Ph.D. in the VCU Department of Psychology on a community-engaged research project to promote mental health in the growing Latinx community in the greater Richmond area. McDonald is passionate about mentoring students in research and welcomes undergraduate and graduate student participation in her projects. 


VCU Appointments

Assistant professor, School of Social Work

Affiliate researcher, School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction

Clark Hill Institute Fellow, Department of Psychology


Recent and current funded projects

Principal investigator: Faculty Internal Research Grant, School of Social Work (7/2017- 6/2018)
Project title: Advancing measurement in human-animal interactions research: A pilot study to develop a new measure of children’s experiences with companion animals

Co-principal investigator: VCU Community Engagement Grant (7/2016-6/2017; co-PI: Rosalie Corona, Ph.D.)
Project title: Training Latino residents in mental health first aid 
Community partner: Sacred Heart Center

Co-investigator: 5R01-HD-66503-4, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2010-2016, PIs: J.H. Williams and F.R. Ascione)
Project Title: Women and children exposed to intimate partner violence and concomitant animal abuse 

Grant 2015-0709, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2015-2016; PI: J.H. Williams)
Project title: Pets and Families Project  


Notable awards, honors and appointments

  • Educator of the Year, Virginia Social Work Education Consortium, 2017 
  • Consulting Editor, Social Work Research, 2017-2020
  • Clark Hill Institute Fellow, VCU Department of Psychology, 2017-2018

  • VCU Faculty Development Seminar in Mexico/Guatemala (competitive admission), summer 2017

  • VCU New Investigators Grant Writing Institute, Office of Research and Innovation (competitive admission), spring 2017

  • Teaching fellowship for the Incubator Classroom of the Academic Learning Transformation Lab at VCU, spring 2016

Selected publications

McDonald, S. E., Dmitrieva, J., Shin, S., Hitti, S. A., Graham-Bermann, S., Ascione, F.R., & Williams, J.H. (2017). The role of callous/unemotional traits in mediating the association between animal abuse exposure and behavior problems among children exposed to intimate partner violence. Child Abuse & Neglect. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.004

McDonald, S. E., Ma, L., Green, K. E., Hitti, S. A., Cody, A., Donovan, C., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J. H. (2017). Evaluation of the parent-report version of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits in a sample of children recruited from intimate partner violence services: A multidimensional Rasch analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22497

Shaffer, C. M., Corona, R., Sullivan, T.N. Fuentes, V. & McDonald, S.E. (2017). Barriers and supports to dating violence communication between Latina adolescents and their mothers: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Family Violence.  Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-017-9936-1

McDonald, S. E., Cody, A., Collins, E., Stim, H., Nicotera, N., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J.H. (2017). Concomitant exposure to animal abuse and socioemotional adjustment among children exposed to intimate partner violence: A mixed methods study. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma.  Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-017-0176-6

McDonald, S. E., Collins, E., Maternick, A., Nicotera, N., Graham-Bermann, S., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J. H. (2017). Intimate partner violence survivors’ reports of their children’s exposure to companion animal maltreatment: A qualitative study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516689775

Collins, E., Cody, A., McDonald, S. E., Nicotera, N., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J. H. (2017). A template analysis of intimate partner violence survivors’ experiences of animal maltreatment: Implications for safety planning and intervention. Violence Against Women. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801217697266

Corona, R., Velazquez, E., McDonald, S.E., Avila, M., Neff, M.R., Iglesias, A., & Halfond, R.W. (2017). Ethnic labels, pride, and challenges: A qualitative study of Latinx youth living in a new Latinx destination community. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 4, 1-13.  

Corona, R., Rodríguez, V. M., McDonald, S.E., Velazquez, E., Rodríguez, A., & Fuentes, V.E.   (2017). Associations between cultural stressors, cultural values, and Latina/o college students’ mental health. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(1), 63-77. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0600-5

McDonald, S.E., Corona, R., Maternick, A., Ascione, F., Williams, J.H., & Graham-Bermann, S. (2016). Children's exposure to intimate partner violence and their social, school, and activities competence: Latent profiles and correlates. Journal of Family Violence, 31(7), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-016-9846-7

McDonald, S.E., Shin, S., Corona, R., Maternick, A., Graham-Bermann, S., Ascione, F., & Williams, J.H. (2016). Children exposed to intimate partner violence: Identifying differential effects of family environment on children’s trauma and psychopathology symptoms through regression mixture models. Child Abuse & Neglect, 58, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2016.06.010

McDonald, S.E., Graham-Bermann, S., Maternick, A., Ascione, F., & Williams, J.H. (2016). Patterns of adjustment among children exposed to intimate partner violence: A person-centered approach. Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, 9(2), 137-152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-016-0079-y

McDonald, S.E., Collins, E., Nicotera, N., Hageman, T., Ascione, F., Williams, J. H., & Graham-Bermann, S. (2015). Children’s experiences of companion animal maltreatment in households characterized by intimate partner violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 50, 116-127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.10.005

McDonald, S. E., Vidacovich, C., Williams, J.H., Ascione, F.R., & Green, K.E. (2015). Validity of the Children’s Treatment of Animals Questionnaire: A Rasch analysis. Anthrozoös, 28(1), 131-144.