Catherine Costigan

Catherine Costigan
Office: COR A170

Ph.D. 1996 (Michigan State) joined Department in 1998

Area of expertise

Clinical psychology

One line of my research focuses on identifying key risk and protective factors within vulnerable families. My goal is to enhance our understanding of risk for mental health problems among children and adolescents, and to explore ways in which relationships within families affect, and are affected by, individual and contextual challenges. I am interested in child psychological adjustment, parent-child relationship dynamics, and co-parenting/marital relationship dynamics. I have studied these issues among different vulnerable populations, including families raising children with intellectual disabilities and families who are new to Canada (immigrant and refugee families).

I am currently investigating strengths-based approaches to supporting well-being within refugee families, including evaluating community workshops designed to build on existing family relationship strengths during the settlement process.  In collaboration with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, I am also identifying best practices for promoting the social integration of refugee families into the local community for the mutual benefit of both the new and existing families. Both efforts include a recognition of social inequities and oppressive attitudes that create barriers for newcomer families, as well as an understanding of nuanced family dynamics across different developmental periods in the family lifecycle.

Other work aims to understand structural and social forces that affect within-family acculturation processes (e.g., between parents and children, between marital partners, between siblings), and how within-family differences and similarities in acculturation relate to relationship quality and psychological well-being. I have also conducted research aimed at understanding how immigrant parents support the identity development of their adolescents; how the acculturation process influences the ability of mothers and fathers to co-parent together effectively; and how relationship dynamics (such as adolescents providing translation services for parents) affect the psychological development of youth in immigrant families. 

My clinical work with children, youth, and families has a similar focus. I provide family therapy, couples therapy, and child/adolescent therapy to families who are facing child mental health issues (e.g., anxiety, behavioral challenges, developmental disabilities), relationship distress, or challenging circumstances (e.g., adjusting to a medical diagnosis). I also work with individuals and families who are experiencing difficulties due to the challenges of migration and acculturation. In addition, I offer workshops designed to identify and extend resilience within immigrant and refugee families, including attention to sustaining emotional connections, fostering positive parenting approaches, and empowering families to navigate and oppose oppression.

Finally, in a separate line of research, I am investigating community-based treatment of individuals with severe mental health conditions. Specifically, I am currently investigating the impact of police officer integration on Assertive Community Treatment teams. More generally, I am interested in the intersection of mental health and law enforcement and in identifying best practices, at individual and systemic levels, for supporting vulnerable individuals in the community. 


  • Family psychology
  • Immigration and acculturation
  • Mental health and mental illness
  • Developmental disabilities

Faces of UVic Research video

In this video, Catherine talks about her research on the adaptation of Chinese families after immigrating to Canada.


Miao, S., Costigan, C. L., & MacDonald, S. (accepted). Spillover of Stress to Chinese Canadian Immigrants’ Parenting: Impact of Acculturation and Parent-Child Stressors. Asian American Journal of Psychology.

Chuang, S. S., & Costigan, C. L. (Eds.) (2018). Parental Roles and Relationships in Immigrant Families: An International Approach. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.

Gagné, M. H., Schonert-Reichl, K., Costigan, C., Guhn, M., & Shapkia, J. D. (2018). Factors predicting the stratified academic achievement trajectories of foreign-born Canadian adolescents: A population-based study. Applied Developmental Science, published online 16 Feb 2018. DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2017.1418668

Rasmi, S., & Costigan, C. L. (2018). Comparing the acculturation goals for parents and adolescents in Chinese Canadian families. In S. S. Chuang, & C. Costigan (Eds.). Parental Roles and Relationships in Immigrant Families: An International Approach. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.

Costigan, C. L., Taknint, J. T., & Miao, S. (2017). Parenting and families in the United States and Canada. In N. J. Cabrera & B. Leyendecker (Eds.). Handbook on Positive Development of Minority Children and Youth (pp. 157 – 173).  Springer, Netherlands.

Costigan, C. L., & So, V. (2017). The Role of the Family in Supporting the Development of Youth with Immigrant Backgrounds. In S. Wilson-Forsberg & A. Robinson (Eds.), Immigrant Youth in Canada (pp. 84 – 104). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hua, J. & Costigan, C. L. (2017). Adolescent Language Brokering for Immigrant Chinese Parents in Canada.  In R. S. Weisskirch (Ed.), Language brokering in immigrant families:  Theories and contexts (pp. 137 – 160). New York, NY:  Routledge/ Psychology Press/ Taylor and Francis Publishers.

Ferguson, G. M., Costigan, C. L., Clarke, C. V., & Ge, J. E. (2016), Introducing “Remote Enculturation”: Learning your Heritage Culture from Afar. Child Development Perspectives. Volume 10(3), 166–171. 

Costigan, C. L., Lehr, S., & Miao, S. (2016). Beyond Economics: Broadening Perspectives on Immigration to Canada. Canadian Ethnic Studies. 48(1), 19-44.

Floyd, F., Costigan, C. L., & Richardson, S. (2016).  Sibling Relationships in Adolescence and Early Adulthood with Individuals who have Intellectual Disability. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 121, 383-397.