Dr. Tina Malti, a professor of psychology at UTM, is the recipient of the 2019 Research Excellence Award for her extensive research in developmental psychology and psychopathology. She aims to understand how emotions and aggressive behaviour are fostered in children and teenagers. Her research has led to the development of powerful tools and interventions that have promoted children’s potential for kindness.

Malti has been passionate about child development since her first year of undergraduate studies. She completed her Ph.D. degree at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Free University of Berlin and her M.A. in clinical child psychology from the  Academy of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Children and Adolescents in Switzerland. She also completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School, the University of Maryland, and the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development before joining the University of Toronto faculty in 2010.

Her research team at UTM is comprised of students of various academic levels and backgrounds which is beneficial in determining inclusive and unique approaches to ideas. To acquire data, multiple methods are utilized and various individuals are consulted in order to obtain a holistic understanding of children. Parents, teachers, and children are studied through direct interaction and behaviour observation. Malti and her team also use a longitudinal research design, where the children and families are observed throughout their development. The resulting data is supplied to intervention studies which ameliorate treatment designs.

For Malti, the Research Excellence Award is “an inspiration to improve and transform the quality of research within teams and to become a global leader. In doing so, [she] hope[s] to implement longitudinal and intervention studies that test new strategies to improve particular types of mental health.” Her vision is to “improve the full potential of kindness in children” and to promote younger scholars and students in a way that supports child development and health. Malti acknowledges that there are solutions urgently required for the current mental health crisis afflicting younger individuals and aims to apply her research and knowledge to create solutions.

Malti is highly passionate and dedicated towards her research. However, she also “want[s] to give back to students and support the next generations.” She aims to create a network of colleagues who work together “using their complementary skills, [as] ten complementary minds are more powerful than one.” When professionals who have not previously worked together, combine their skills and resources, disciplinary and mental boundaries in the child development and mental health field can be broken.

Through her research, Malti has been able to observe the “transformatory power of a child’s mind.” She explains that there are no limits to the malleability of a child’s mind if the child is probed in the right direction.

Although Malti’s research focuses on the development of children, her findings are applicable to all ages. “The body and mind are connected and emotions are heavily dependent on how we create that connection,” she states.

 Malti and her team often ask young children to reflect upon themselves in regards to others. They are then asked to think about how their actions affect others and how others affect them. This process of self-reflection can help individuals understand their stresses and emotions and gain a better understanding of their bodies. It can be used by people of all ages.

To follow Malti’s research and read her publications, you can visit her website. She is passionate about giving back to the UTM community and is open to connecting with faculty and students in various fields.

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