Government of Canada announces research investment of over $680,000 to support the health and mental wellbeing of young children

News release

May 24, 2023 – Montreal, Quebec – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

The Government of Canada is committed to improving the health and mental wellbeing of children and youth in Canada. Early childhood experiences influence a child’s mental health for life—and with 70% of mental health and substance use problems having origins in adverse childhood experiences, understanding how to better identify and treat young children at risk of developing or living with a mental health issue is crucial.

Today, Rachel Bendayan, Member of Parliament for Outremont, on behalf of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is providing over $680,000 to Dr. Isabelle Ouellet-Morin of the University of Montreal to study how harsh parenting may affect socioemotional and behavioral problems in children.

Dr. Ouellet-Morin's work will focus on measuring stress levels in preschool aged children who are part of the Growing Up in Quebec Study—a sample of 4,500 children followed by the Institut de la statistique du Québec. When parents try to control or shape the behaviour of their very young children when they misbehave or act out through harsh parenting practices—such as the frequent occurrence of expressed anger, yelling or spanking—there can be long-term impacts stemming from stress hormones released into the developing brain. Additional research in this area will help advance knowledge about how harsh parenting affects child well-being, and in which context these associations are amplified—an important step in finding ways to mitigate these impacts.

This research funding builds on the investments made by the Government of Canada in Budget 2023, including an investment of nearly $200 billion over 10 years to improve health care services for Canadians, reduce surgical backlogs, support health workers, and improve integrated mental health and substance use services. We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that all Canadians, including children and youth, have the mental health and substance use supports they need and deserve.


“Having a healthy childhood is so important for laying down the foundation for the rest of your life. We are committed to improving the mental wellbeing and health services provided to children in Canada and supporting the mental health of young children exposed to experiences, such as family violence, abuse, poverty, and low income.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“The mental health of our children is of paramount importance. This investment in early childhood mental health led by a team of researchers at the Université de Montréal demonstrates our government’s continued commitment to improving the mental wellbeing for children. The research announced today will help us understand if children exposed to harsh parenting are at an increased risk of developing mental health issues later in life.”

Rachel Bendayan
Member of Parliament for Outremont

“Robust, mechanistic research has the potential to unravel the intricate dynamics induced by early adverse experiences, such as harsh parenting, and predict emotional and behavioral problems prior to children entering school. This invaluable knowledge serves as a compass, steering the development of innovative initiatives aimed at nurturing resilience and fostering the well-being of our children from the earliest stages of their lives.”

Dr. Isabelle Ouellet-Morin 
Université de Montréal

“Supporting research that will enable provision of evidence-based, culturally appropriate interventions that are readily available for young children and their caregivers can have a positive impact on childhood mental health and decrease future health and social risks. The work of researchers funded through the MHITEY initiative will support Canada’s continued progress in expanding and implementing solutions to support child and family mental health.”

Dr. Christine Chambers
Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health

Quick facts

  • 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health or addiction problems in any given year. Currently, fewer than 20% of the 1.2 million children experiencing mental health issues are receiving appropriate treatment and care.

  • $100,000 of Dr. Ouellet-Morin’s funding is provided through CIHR’s Mental Health in the Early Years (MHITEY) research initiative, and the remaining funding was provided through CIHR’s Project Grant program.

  • MHITEY, led by the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, will help to identify solutions for safe and equitable child mental health programs and services for diverse populations by adopting, adapting and improving the use of evidence-based practices in clinical, community, and public health settings.

  • The MHITEY initiative comprised of three funding opportunities—totaling a $6.5 million investment towards early childhood mental health research.

Associated links


Maja Staka
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

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