Judith L. Perrigo

Judith (Judy) Perrigo is an Assistant Professor in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Social Welfare Department. Additionally, she serves as the Research Director for the Data Informed Futures (DIF) project at the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities and assumes the role of Social Work Training Director within the UCLA Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) clinic. Drawing from over two decades of clinical experience working with children and families in Los Angeles County, her scholarship and teaching revolve around prevention and early intervention (PEI) strategies aimed at addressing societal challenges, particularly those impacting early childhood.


Dr. Perrigo specializes in advancing holistic wellbeing for young children aged birth to 5 years. Her research encompasses various facets of early childhood, including mental health, socio-emotional development, early educational experiences, access to public services, and economic security. Her overarching objective is to identify both protective and risk factors contributing to childhood wellbeing, such as systemic challenges like socioeconomic and ethnoracial disparities and inequities. She approaches this goal through the lens of equitable PEI strategies and utilizes a range of research methodologies, including qualitative, mixed-methods, and quantitative approaches, thoughtfully selected to align with the unique demands of each research inquiry.


Her research agenda can be divided into two primary streams. The first focuses on transforming early childhood ecosystems, while the second delves into the impact of policies on families with young children facing poverty and material hardships. Among Dr. Perrigo’s ongoing research projects is a series of descriptive studies examining holistic wellbeing trends among kindergarten populations across the United States. These studies encompass facets such as physical and mental health, socio-emotional skills, and cognitive development. Another notable project is a multi-year, randomized controlled trial testing the impacts of guaranteed income receipt on early childhood development and various aspects of material hardship and poverty. Additionally, Dr. Perrigo is involved in research examining the experiences of young neurodivergent children within medical, mental health, and educational systems.


Dr. Perrigo is also deeply committed to collaborating with and serving communities to tackle local, social needs that can be explored through research. A key facet of her commitment lies in making sure that research findings are strengths-oriented, culturally humble, and accessible to a broad range of audiences. Support for her work comes from the Society for Research in Child Development, First 5 Orange County, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Council on Social Work Education, and Los Angeles County.


In addition to her scholarship, Dr. Perrigo places a strong emphasis on engaging and mentoring student research collaborators. She teaches courses on social welfare practice and infant and early childhood mental health. Her teaching approach highlights the historical and structural forces that underlie both oppression and opportunity. Through her collaborative guidance, students develop practical, meaningful, and pertinent knowledge and skills that resonate within the realm of social justice and welfare.