Depression Prevention Research Initiative
Senior Research Scientist and Economist
Women in the Workplace Research Initiative
Pam Alexander was a senior research scientist through September 2010 at the Wellesley Centers for Women, where she conducted research on gender-based violence. After getting her Bachelors from Wake Forest University, Dr. Alexander received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University in 1980, was an assistant professor and director of the Psychological Services Center at the University of Memphis, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, and a senior research investigator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy.
Dr. Alexander’s research focused on family violence generally, with a particular emphasis on intimate partner violence. She was interested in the role that childhood trauma played in increasing the risk for both the experience and perpetration of intimate partner violence as well as child maltreatment. Her work on the development and evaluation of intervention programs for intimate partner violence was informed by attachment theory with its attention to affect regulation and implicit views of attachment relationships, by motivational interviewing with its emphasis on values and choices, and by mindfulness approaches with their focus on learning to recognize, tolerate and regulate emotions. She believed that taking into account both the intergenerational context of violence as well as the current context of the relationship was essential in understanding, preventing and eradicating gender-based violence.
Dr. Alexander’s research career originally began with a concentration on the long-term effects of incest. In 1986, she received funding by the National Institute on Mental Health to conduct a psychotherapy outcome study on the effectiveness of group therapy for adult female incest survivors. Given the inevitable overlap between different types of violence perpetrated within the family, she began to focus more on the intergenerational transmission of violence, including abusive parenting and the perpetration of and vulnerability to intimate partner violence, with an emphasis on the attachment relationships between parents and children and between intimate partners. Her research was based on clinical samples of men and women (ranging from batterers to battered women and incest survivors seeking services to parents at risk for child abuse) and samples of women recruited from the community (such as adult female incest survivors and mothers with young children). She evaluated both the U.S. Army’s and the U.S. Marines’ New Parent Support Program, a home visitation child abuse prevention program.
Two federally funded projects completed by Dr. Alexander consisted of the following. First, a project funded by the Centers for Disease Control examined the determinants and consequences of readiness to change in a sample of more than 1,500 batterers court-ordered to treatment. Second, a project funded by the National Institute of Justice compared the effectiveness of a stages-of-change/motivational interviewing (SOCMI) model of group therapy with standard batterer treatment for batterers court-ordered to treatment.