Research Projects


Healthy Young Minds Research Group, 2017

Front row, left to right: Sue Spence, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Graham Bradley, Kyra Hamilton, Caroline Donovan
Back row, left to right: Wayne Usher, Natalie Loxton, Allison Waters, Amanda Duffy, Bonnie Barber, Lara Farrell


Current Research Funding

2019-2022: Uncovering the Toolbox for Youth Resilience: Flexible Coping Responses to Stress

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Kathryn Modecki, Allison Waters, Amanda Duffy,
Lara Farrell, David Shum, Ellen Skinner

Australian Research Council Discovery Project

Coping with stress is the number one concern of today’s Australian teenagers. This research is designed to provide important new knowledge on youth stress, life adversity and coping; all of which are crucial for the future development of efficient and successful resilience programs. The focus of the research is on a new concept of coping flexibility, defined as access to a toolbox of coping strategies. The research aims to address coping flexibility and resilience across two stressful youth transitions: the transition from primary to secondary school and through the final years of secondary school. The unique influences of family and personal factors on improvement in coping flexibility over time will also be investigated.


2019-2023: Increasing access to low-intensity, evidence-based interventions for childhood anxiety disorders: A nationwide randomised controlled trial

Allison Waters, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Michelle Craske, Danny Pine, Caroline Donovan, Sue Spence, Lara Farrell, Downes

National Health & Medical Research Council Project Grant


2019-2023: Improving the mental health of young Australians in sport: A partnership project with the National Rugby League

Allison Waters, Wayne Usher, Lara Farrell, Caroline Donovan, Kathryn Modecki, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Ron Castle, Hinchey

Rotary Mental Health Grant

Mental illness among young Australians is a major public health problem, with most mental disorders developing during adolescence and young Australians between 18-24 years of age having the highest prevalence of mental illness than any other age group.1 The National Rugby League (NRL) recognises that mental illness does not discriminate, with many high-profile players publicly revealing their struggles with mental illness and numerous young aspirational players under 20 years of age taking their own lives in recent years. The game of rugby league attracts individuals who fit several high-risk categories for mental health problems: young men, risk-takers, histories of family conflict and negative life events, and indigenous and Pacific Islands people.2 This project adopts a novel partnership approach between the NRL and our team of youth mental health experts at Griffith University to address the need for evidence-based interventions to enhance mental health outcomes for young rugby league players. Over the past 12 months, our team developed the “Life-Fit-Learning” system for assessing and reflecting on young peoples’ attributes for mental health resilience and risk status, and connecting them to online, print and workshop resources to enhance mental health outcomes proportionate to each young persons’ needs. During 2018, we have been working with the NRL in the pilot testing of the RISE Development Program for 13 to 15 year old male players, which embeds the Life-Fit-Learning system within the RISE Development Program to enhance player attributes for positive mental health resilience alongside the promotion of physical, tactical and technical attributes of rugby league. The NRL’s vision is to offer the RISE Development Program including Life-Fit-Learning as in integrated program for national roll-out in 2020 after it has been demonstrated through this project that the integrated RISE Development Program is more effective in enhancing mental health resilience and outcomes than participation in regular grassroots rugby league pathways currently available to junior players. This would provide the crucial evidence-base that RISE is more effective than what is currently available to junior rugby league players and would support the nationwide roll-out of the program to potentially reach thousands of young Australians in partnership with one of the nations’ largest sporting organisations.


2018-2020: Be careful, my child”: Determinants and consequences of parental overprotection for adolescent psychosocial functioning

Stijn van Petegem, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Bart Soenens, G. Zimmermann

Sciences Switzerland

Given the strong media attention to many risks in children’s immediate environment (e.g., traffic) and in society at large (e.g., terrorism), parents may worry strongly about their children’s safety and welfare. These concerns may be fueled further by recent socio-economic changes, such as increases in job insecurity and unemployment, and the fact that their children must learn to compete in a global and competitive marketplace in the future. Such concerns may motivate parents to be more involved in their children’s lives, which may be helpful for facing these challenges more effectively and for reducing risk. Yet, at is worst, parental worry may take the form of overprotection (sometimes labeled “helicopter parenting”), which refers to parents’ provision of protection that is excessive, considering the child’s developmental level. Overprotection may backfire because it would interfere with children’s development of self-regulation and resilience in the face of stressors they will eventually experience, resulting in a lack of capacities to cope adaptively with failure and difficulties, potentially causing anxiety or other mental health problems.
      Although the scientific study of this phenomenon has been relatively rare compared to other parenting practices, an increasing number of studies on the correlates of overprotective parenting confirm that parental overprotection can be negative for adolescents’ and emerging adults’ psychosocial functioning. The present project aims to advance our knowledge on overprotective parenting in four important ways. The first aim addresses the question of whether overprotectiveness is associated with adolescents’ psychosocial functioning (i.e., self-esteem, depressive and anxiety symptoms, social competence, loneliness) even after accounting for the role of other well-established, and potentially overlapping, parenting dimensions, including responsiveness, autonomy support, and psychological control. The second goal is to understand why overprotection may have negative effects for adolescents’ psychosocial functioning, by testing whether it would undermine the development of their resilience in terms of coping skills. Further, we aim to better understand why parents tend to become overprotective. Specifically, a third goal is to test whether parental overprotection is linked to specific dynamics in the family system (in terms of coparenting), and a fourth and final aim is to investigate whether overprotection arises from parental perceptions of societal pressures to keep their child safe and secure. These goals will be addressed through a variety of research methods (including multi-informant and vignette-based research) in collaboration with leading scholars from the field that have the necessary theoretical and methodological expertise on these topics.
     Taken together, the present project will add to the scientific knowledge of the increasingly popular notion of overprotective parenting. Specifically, the project will clarify whether this is a separate parenting constellation or whether it is merely “old wine in new bottles”. Further, the project also will provide insight into why parental overprotection is potentially harmful for adolescents, and why parents tend to engage in overprotective practices. These research efforts are not only important for advancing theorizing on resilience and adolescent development, they are also directly relevant for practitioners who work with parents and/or adolescents and may inform parenting programs, as the project will help to better understand the nature of optimal parenting in contemporary society.

2018-2019: Mindsets, individual differences, coping, and health: An investigation among Australian and Hong Kong university students

Kyra Hamilton, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, and Zhu

Griffith University and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Collaborative Research Grant



Pictured, left to right: Dr. Lara Farrell, Dr. Allison Waters, Jules Finch

2018-2021: One-session treatment for specific phobias in pre-school children: Improving access and long-term mental health outcomes

Lara Farrell, Tom Ollendick, Caroline Donovan, Allison Waters, Sue Spence, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck

National Health & Medical Research Council Project Grant

The primary aim of this study is to conduct a randomised controlled trial (n= 210) of developmentally tailored One-session Treatment (P-OST, n = 70) relative to a credible placebo condition (Education Support Treatment [EST], n = 70); and a Waitlist Control (WC, n = 70) in order to determine the feasibility, acceptability and the short term and longer term efficacy of OST for pre-school aged children (3 to 5 years).

2018-202: Development and delivery of evidence-based models of care in communities at high risk of FASD

Sharon Dawe, Doug Shelton, Webster, Featherstone, Kruske, Burns, Paul Harnett, Mary Katsikitis, Frances O’Callaghan, Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck

Australian Federal Government FASD Diagnostic Services and Models of Care Grant Opportunity

This project focuses on expanding the diagnostic capacity and reach for the two Queensland Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) diagnostic clinics per year fourfold by extending the service to include younger children (ages 3 to 7 years). This will directly inform the utility of the Australian diagnostic tool and contribute to national data collection.

2017-2019: Dissatisfied, Preoccupied, and Distressed about Appearance: Teasing and Victimisation as Toxic to Adolescents

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Allison Waters, Haley Webb, Lara Farrell, Drew Nesdale, Geraldine Downey, Wyndol Furman

Australian Research Council Discovery Project

Rejection, teasing and victimisation can be extremely distressing for teens, and such experiences are expected to cause eating disorders, body and muscle distortion, social anxiety, and depression. Extending an existing ARC funded longitudinal study, this project investigates these associations and will determine the content and source of teasing that are most toxic for adolescents’ personal adjustment. Is the teasing more toxic depending on whether the content is about appearance or other characteristics, and does it result in more mental health problems when it comes from the opposite or the same-sex? In addition, coping, competence and support from others are examined as critical processes that protect against the toxicity of teasing.

Project Rock_report_w6_final draft



2003-2019 The Family Interaction Program

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Director

Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services

The Family Interaction Program (FIP) was established in 2002 at Griffith University, School of Psychology, Gold Coast. FIP was formed with the purpose of assisting families with children who have behavioural problems, such as rule-breaking, defiance, and aggression. FIP was also founded with the aim of reducing the risk of child maltreatment in families, receiving funding from the Department of Communities, Child Safety, and Disability Services since 2003. All of our services incorporate research to examine the acceptability and effectiveness of its programs.

See: FIP Report 2016 v4



Past Research Funding


Pictured, left to right: Sam Melching (Act for kids), Katrina Lines (Act for kids), Kaye Pickering (Act for kids), Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck (Griffith University), Dianne Shanley (Griffith University), Codi White (Griffith University)


Empowering and protecting children by enhancing knowledge, skills and well-being: A randomised trial of Learn to BE SAFE with Emmy™

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Diane Shanley
Kerryann Walsh
Russell Hawkins
Katrina Lines
ACT for Kids

Australian Research Council, Linkage Grant

We completed a multi-site randomised controlled trial (RCT) of Learn to BE SAFE with Emmy™, a psychoeducational children’s protection program developed by specialist staff at ACT for Kids (AFK). AFK is an Australian not-for-profit organisation working to prevent and treat child abuse.


White, C., Shanley, D., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Walsh, K., Hawkins, R., Lines, K., Pickering, K., & Webb, H. Promoting young children’s interpersonal safety knowledge, intentions, confidence, and protective behaviour skills: Outcomes of a randomised controlled trial. Child Abuse & Neglect, 82, 144-155. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.05.024

White, C., Shanley, D., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Walsh, K., & Hawkins, R. (2018). “Tell, tell, tell again”: The Prevalence and correlates of young children’s response to and disclosure of an in-vivo lure from a stranger. Child Abuse & Neglect, 82, 134-143. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.06.001.

Dale, R., Shanley, D., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Lines, K., & Pickering, K., & White, C. (2016). Empowering and protecting children by enhancing knowledge, skills and well-being: A randomised trial of Learn to BE SAFE with EmmyTM. Child Abuse and Neglect, 51, 368-378.

White, C., Shanley, D., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Lines, K., Walsh, K., & Hawkins, R. (2016). Cluster randomised-control trial for an Australian child protection education program: Protocol for the Learn to BE SAFE with Emmy and FriendsTM, BMC Public Health, 16, 72-78. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-2721-x.

Rudolph, J., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2018). Reviewing the focus: A summary and critique of child-focused sexual abuse prevention. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. doi:1177/1524838016675478.

Rudolph, J., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Shanley, D., & Hawkins, R. (2018). Child sexual abuse prevention opportunities: Parenting, programs and the reduction of risk. Child Maltreatment, 23, 96-106. doi:10.1177/1077559517729479.

Rudolph, J., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Walsh, K., Shanley, D., & Hawkins, R. (2018). Parenting practices and child sexual abuse risk: Are warm and involved parents more likely to discuss risk and protection with their children? Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 27, 195-216. doi:10.1080/10538712.2018.1425946



Improving outcomes of evidence-based behaviour therapy for paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder: a translational efficacy trial of d-cycloserine augmented intensive behaviour therapy

Lara Farrell
Allison Waters
Eric Storch
Brett McDermott
Harry McConnell
Jennifer Hudson
Daniel Geller
Thomas Ollendick
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Evelin Tiralongo

National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant

This research was the first large multi-site, placebo-controlled, randomised trial (RCT) of DCS augmented ERP for childhood OCD.


Farrell, L., Waters, A. M., Oar, E., Tiralongo, E., Garbharran, V….Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J…,Ollendick, T. (2018). D-cycloserine augmented one-session treatment of specific phobias in children and adolescents. Brain and Behavior. doi:10.1002/brb3.984



Helping young Australians to “Look for Good”: A school-based trial of positive attention training to increase children’s emotional health and prevent anxiety and depression

Allison Waters
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Karin Mogg
Brendan Bradley
Michelle Craske

Australian Rotary Mental Health Grant Scheme

The aim of this prevention trial, conducted in partnership with Marymount Primary School, a coeducational Catholic school located in Burleigh Heads, Queensland, was to examine whether the “Positive Attention Program” is effective in offsetting emotional problems and increasing positive emotional well-being in children.


Waters, A. M. Cao, Y., Kershaw, R., Kerbler, G. M., Shum, D. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Craske, M. G., Bradley, B. P., Mogg, K., Pine, D. S., & Cunnington, R. (2018). Changes in neural activation underlying attention processing of emotional stimuli following treatment with positive search training in anxious children. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 22-30. doi:j.janxdis.2018.02.004

Waters, A. M., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Craske, M. G., Pine, D. S., Bradley, B. P., & Mogg, K. (2016). A preliminary evaluation of a home-based, computer delivered attention training treatment for anxious children living in regional communities. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 3, 511-527. doi:10.5127/jep.053315

Waters, A. M., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Craske, M. G., Pine, D. S., Bradley, B. P., & Mogg, K. (2015). Look for good and never give up: A novel attention training treatment for childhood anxiety disorders. Behavior Research & Therapy, 73, 111-123. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.08.005



Appearance-based Rejection Sensitivity from Childhood to Adolescence: Victimisation, Mental Health Consequences, and Rejection Resilience

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Allison Waters
Drew Nesdale
Lara Farrell
Geraldine Downey

Australian Research Council Discovery Project



The Future of Childhood Anxiety Treatment: Translating Cognitive-Neuroscience Insights into Clinical Practice

Allison Waters
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Daniel Pine
Michelle Craske
Karin Mogg
Brendan Bradley

Australian Research Council Discovery Project



Enhancing outcomes for children with anxiety disorders: An interdisciplinary approach to innovative treatments

Allison Waters
Lara Farrell
Laetitia Hattingh
Harry McConnell
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Caroline Donovan
Thomas Ollendick

Funded by Areas of Strategic Investment, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University



Rejection Sensitivity in Children and Adolescents: Antecedents, Consequences, and the Promotion of Rejection Resilience

Professor Drew Nesdale
Professor Melanie J Zimmer-Gembeck
Professor Geraldine Downey

Australian Research Council Discovery Project

The aims of the present project were to:

  1. determine whether children in middle childhood through early adolescence develop RS and to identify the critical social experiences and individual factors contributing to its development.
  2. isolate the major effects of RS on children and early adolescents, including cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses and mental health outcomes.
  3. shed light on the nature of the mechanism(s) underpinning the development of RS in children and adolescents.
  4. develop and test an intervention that will enhance children’s and adolescents’ coping and resilience when confronted with social rejection, thus promoting a healthier start to life, and extending their capacity to form stronger and more stable relationships.


Integrating Knowledge and Service for Queensland Children: Needs, Evidence, and Collaborative Dissemination

Dr. Rae Thomas
Professor Melanie J Zimmer-Gembeck
Professor Ross Homel
Dr. Michael Hurlburt
Dr. Mark Chaffin

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth


Parent-Child Connection: A Trial of an Early Intervention to Increase Caregiver Sensitivity and Improve Caregiver-Child Attachment

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Doug Shelton

Australian Rotary Health Research Fund


Using Multiple Methods to Develop A Gender-Balanced Assessment of Relational Aggression among Adolescents

Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Rhiarne Pronk


Motivating Young People Towards Success: Evaluation of Motivational Interviewing-Integrated Treatment Program for Clients in a Residential Therapeutic Community

Frances O’Callaghan
Amelia Callaghan
Peter Creed
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Stefanie Klag

Australian Rotary Health Research Fund

This research project involved young people with mental health and substance use problems receiving treatment in a residential therapeutic community


Adolescent Peer Relations and Aggression

Drew Nesdale
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck

Griffith University Research Grant


An Integrated Model of Neurological, Cognitive, Psychosocial and Environmental Influences on the Development of Reading and Other Achievements

Elizabeth Conlon
Melanie J Zimmer-Gembeck
Peter Creed

Griffith University Research Grant


Preventing Violence and Health Risking Social Behaviors in Adolescents
Youth Violence Final Statement

Nancy Carney
Hugo de Coudray
Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Carolyn DiGuissepi
Mark Helfand

U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Contract Number: 290-97-0018
Task Order No. 7



ARC CoE Bid Team, 2016