Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Diversity and Inclusion

Spotlight on Research: Sheehan D. Fisher, PhD

Sheehan Fisher’s research and clinical interests focus on the effects of perinatal and parental mental health on infant and child health outcomes, with a specialization in the emerging field of the mental health of fathers. More specifically, he examines: 1) the biopsychosocial risk factors for parental psychopathology, 2) the impact of parental psychopathology on parenting behaviors and the family environment, and 3) the combined effect of the family environment on infant/child medical and emotional health outcomes.  The goal of his research plan is to optimize the health and effectiveness of the parental team to positively influence the child health trajectory beginning in infancy. 

Fisher conducted a study to examine the unique effects of maternal and paternal postpartum depression on toddler internalizing and externalizing behaviors, and found evidence that later parental depression—but not inter-parental conflict—mediated the relation (N = 199 couples). The study also yielded an adapted version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale that assessed mother-reported paternal depression levels. The validated measure was developed to screen for depression in fathers in the maternal-child healthcare system because fathers typically do not attend well-child visits where mothers are screened. Fisher also conducted a study to examine the associations among postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms, parental behaviors and conflict, and child mental health. Gender-specific parental behaviors were associated with child mental health: mood and anxiety in mothers and aggressive behaviors in fathers predicted child mental health. A link to this study can be found here. Fisher is currently conducting a study funded by the Dixon Translational Research Grant that examines mothers’ and fathers’ cortisol and testosterone changes in relation to postpartum mood, parent-infant interactions, and infant stress. Earlier this month, he presented his research on perinatal mental health and fathers’ contributions to the family at the Universidad de La Habana. Fisher also has an appointment at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and is funded to provide depression and anxiety screening and coordination of clinical care for parents of children with cystic fibrosis. 

Fisher is a NU Public Voices Fellowship alumnus and has published several articles in English and Spanish that focus on perinatal mental health and the father’s contribution to the family. As a public intellectual, he is focused on reaching the general public to change the culture around father involvement and stigma on perinatal mental health. Fisher’s work penned through the NU Public Voices Fellowship can be found here.  Fisher is a board member of the APA Division 12 Diversity Committee and the diversity liaison to the APA Division 12 Mentorship Program. He also serves on the board of the Women’s Health Research Institute. 

OpEds: 

The Root

TIME article

Slant News

Huffington Post

Hoy Los Angeles

Selected interviews: Chicago Tribune, radio for 21st ShowPsychiatry NewsWashington PostNY TimesHuffington PostHuffington Post (2) 

Sheehan Fisher

Sheehan D. Fisher, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences