About Dr. Bridget Freisthler

Professor, Department of Social Welfare, Faculty Affiliate California Center for Population Research

Ph.D. in Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
Phone: (310) 206 - 1602, Fax: (310) 206 - 7564
Click here to see CV

Professor Freisthler's research focuses the spatial ecology of problems, particularly child maltreatment, and the development of environmental interventions to prevent problems. She is particularly interested in how the substance use environment (e.g., alcohol outlet density) is related to both parental substance use behaviors and the perpetration of child abuse and neglect and how social service availability and accessibility may reduce maltreatment and placement in foster care.

Dr. Freisthler is an expert in incorporating cutting edge spatial analysis methods through Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial statistics, and spatial econometrics in 1) understanding how social problems vary across geographic areas, such as neighborhoods, 2) identifying those areas in a community which are at risk for developing or already experiencing high levels of social problems based on a growing understanding of neighborhood ecologies, and 3) examining how the location of social services may further help or hinder the development of problems in neighborhood areas.

She is currently the Component Director of an NIAAA-funded Center Grant "Social Mechanisms of Child Physical Abuse and Neglect" that furthers this work by examining specific mechanisms through which alcohol outlet density (e.g., bars, liquor stores) may influence child maltreatment. For this study, she conducted a general population survey with over 3,000 parents in 50 cities throughout California on parenting practices that may be physically abusive or neglectful, alcohol and drug use, where they drink, types and amount of social support received, and characteristics about the neighborhoods in which they live. Through this study she is linking environmental characteristics with individual behaviors to better understand the pathways through which neighborhood areas may influence behaviors that ultimately result in poor parenting.

Dr. Freisthler is also directing a study of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and Sacramento to understand how regulations designed to reduce densities of cannabis dispensaries affects crime and use and to determine whether types of medical cannabis users cluster in dispensaries within communities, and whether clustering is increased in areas with many dispensaries, leading to increased problems. This five year study is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse grant R01-DA032715. More information can be found at uclamedicalmarijuanaresearch.com/.

She is also the recipient of an NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Loan Repayment Program where she is Principal Investigator of two studies “Abusive and Neglectful Parenting Practices: Do They Differ by Race/Ethnicity?” and “Child Welfare Entry Points in California: Where are the Racial Disparities?” In the first, she is using her general population survey data to examine whether or not there are differences in self-reported parenting behaviors based on race or ethnicity. Because of the composition of the study, this is one of the first to compare parenting practices of Whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans in one study. In the second, she is examining 10 years of data to determine whether different racial and ethnic groups are reported to Child Protective Services by different types of individuals (e.g., neighbors, doctors) as one source of the disproportionality of African American children involved with the Child Welfare System.

Recently, Dr. Freisthler was awarded The Haynes Foundation Faculty Fellowship for a multi-year study to examine how the introduction of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority's new Expo line will affect current neighborhood conditions. For more information about this project, click here.