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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 focuses on the impact of adverse experiences (e.g., violent physical and emotional victimization, exposure to animal maltreatment) on children’s adjustment, and the risk and protective effects of human-animal interaction on problem behaviors and psychopathology. Dr. McDonald leads the Children, Families, and Animals Research (CFAR) Group at VCU, an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students dedicated to understanding how interactions with pets impact children’s socioemotional and cognitive development. The CFAR group is particularly dedicated to examining the intersection of child wellbeing and animal welfare to improve coordinated community responses to family violence, including violence against pets. Current investigations include: 1) the impact of human-animal interaction on children exposed to adverse family environments, 2) the impact of animal maltreatment exposure on child and adult survivors of intimate partner violence, and 3) the role of pets in LGBTQ+ youth wellbeing. Dr. McDonald’s research findings 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. She is passionate about mentoring students in research and welcomes undergraduate and graduate student participation in her projects.

Dr. McDonald is accepting Ph.D. student applications for Fall 2019.

Learn more about Dr. McDonald and the CFAR group  

CFAR Group | Twitter | Google Scholar | ResearchGate

VCU Appointments

Assistant professor, VCU School of Social Work

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

Faculty fellow, Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, VCU Department of Psychology

Notable awards, honors and appointments

  • Educator of the Year, Virginia Social Work Education Consortium, 2017

  • Consulting Editor, Social Work Research, 2017-2020

  • VCU Faculty Development Seminar in Mexico/Guatemala, summer 2017

  • VCU New Investigators Grant Writing Institute, Office of Research and Innovation, spring 2017

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

Recent and current funded projects

Principal Investigator: “The impact of human-animal interaction on adjustment of children exposed to adverse family environments,” 1R21HD097769-01, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Co-Investigators: Albert Farrell, Ph.D., & Sunny Shin, Ph.D. | Community Partner: Greater Richmond SCAN).

Principal Investigator: “Companion Animals in the Context of LGBTQ+ Youth Wellbeing,” VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund (Co-Investigators: M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D., & Traci Wike, Ph.D. | Community Partners: Side by Side, Health Brigade, Virginia League Planned Parenthood, Nationz Foundation)

Principal Investigator: “Advancing measurement in human-animal interactions research: A pilot study to develop a new measure of children’s experiences with companion animals,” Faculty Internal Research Grant, School of Social Work

Co-Principal Investigator: “Training Latino residents in Mental Health First Aid,” VCU Community Engagement Grant (Co-PI: Rosalie Corona, Ph.D. | Community Partner: Sacred Heart Center)

Co-Investigator: “Women and children exposed to intimate partner violence and concomitant animal abuse,” 5R01-HD-66503-4, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (PIs: James Herbert Williams, Ph.D. & Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D. | Community Partner: Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Pending research support

Principal Investigator: “Longitudinal relations between human-animal interaction and LGBTQ+ youth wellbeing,” Waltham Human-Animal Interactions Research Programme (Co-Investigators: M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D., & Traci Wike, Ph.D.).

Selected publications

McDonald, S. E., Ma, L., Green, K. E., Hitti, S. A., Cody, A., Donovan, C., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J. H. (2018). 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, 74(3), 418-441. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22497

Shin, S., McDonald, S. E., Conley, D. (2018). Profiles of adverse childhood experiences and impulsivity. Child Abuse & Neglect. Advance Online Publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.07.028

McDonald, S. E., Cody, A. M., Booth L. J., Peers, J.R., Luce, C. O., Ascione, F.R., & Williams, J. H. (2018). Animal cruelty among children in violent households: Children's explanations of their behavior. Journal of Family Violence, 33(7), 469-480. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-9970-7 

Shin, S. H., McDonald, S.E.,& Conley, D.(2018). Patterns of adverse childhood experiences and substance use among young adults: A latent class analysis. Addictive Behaviors, 78, 187-192. https://10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.11.020

McDonald, S. E., Cody, A., Collins, E., Stim, H., Nicotera, N., Ascione, F. R., & Williams, J.H. (2018). Concomitant exposure to animal abuse and socioemotional adjustment among children exposed to intimate partner violence: A mixed methods study. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 11(3), 353-365. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-017-0176-6

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, 72, 421-432.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.004

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

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. https://doi.org/10.2752/089279315X14129350722172