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Jennifer M. Grossman, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Jennifer M. Grossman is a Research Scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), focusing on adolescent development, racial and ethnic identity, and sexual health and risk-taking, with an emphasis on family communication about sex and relationships. She is the co-Principal Investigator (PI) on a grant to evaluate Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive middle school sex education program, which aims to promote healthy sexual development and reduce sexual risk-taking. She recently received two grants from NICHD that investigate how teens and their families talk about sex and relationships. The first project, "Communication about sex in the nuclear family and beyond: Implications for health” explores how adolescents and their families talk about sex and relationships over the transition to high school and the role extended family members play in this communication. The second project, "Parental profiles of sexuality communication: protective effects on youth sexual behavior," examines which parent approaches to talking about sex with their teens are most effective in reducing teen and early adult sexual risk behavior and whether these approaches differ for teen parents than parents who were older when they had children. In a third related project, she has support from a Beneson Award to explore how parents approach talking with their adolescents about balancing the sequence and timing of education, work, and family formation in their communication about sex and relationships.

She has previously examined the roles of family religiosity and sexuality communication in predicting teens’ risky sexual behavior (Grossman, Frye, Charmaraman, & Erkut, in press; Grossman, Tracy, & Noonan, in press) and has begun to explore ways that parents who were adolescents when they had children talk with their own teens about sex compared to parents who were older when they had children (Grossman, Charmaraman, & Erkut, in press).

Her work on racial and ethnic identity has focused on the importance of race and ethnicity to adolescents’ background and on barriers to success for girls and teens of color. She recently completed a study that explores racial and gender barriers to STEM engagement among urban adolescents (Grossman & Porche, in press). She has also examined the centrality of racial/ethnic identity for minority and White teens (Charmaraman & Grossman, 2010; Grossman & Charmaraman, 2009). Her earlier work addressed issues of racism and relational health among Chinese American adolescents (Grossman & Liang, 2008; Liang, Grossman, & Deguchi, 2007). ”


Dr. Grossman joined the Wellesley Centers for Women in August 2006 as a NICHD postdoctoral research fellow. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College, her M.A. in counseling at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Boston College in 2005. In addition to her research work, Jenny is a licensed psychologist. She completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital, working primarily with children and adolescents. Her clinical experiences inform her research work and enhance her commitment to address mental health inequities through research, program development, and systemic change in support of healthy youth development.

 

Jennifer Grossman’s current projects:

Measuring the Impact of a Middle School Comprehensive Sex Education Curriculum

This project is a contract with Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts to conduct a randomized control evaluation of the Get Real middle school sexual education curriculum. The research team’s goal is to examine to what extent exposure to three years of comprehensive sex education in middle school can delay the early onset of sexual activity and promote the correct and consistent use of contraceptives among those who become sexually active. The research team is currently completing analyses of the 8th grade data to examine the longitudinal effects of the curriculum.

Communication about sex in the nuclear family and beyond: Implications for health

This is a grant from NICHD to investigate how adolescents and their families talk about sex and relationships over the transition to high school and the role extended family members play in this communication. It follows up on her earlier interview study of 32 teen/parent pairs who are participants in the Get Real middle school sex education program. The current study will involve re-interviewing the sample of teens and parents when the teens are in high school, and includes interviews with extended family members who participating teens and parents identify as important resources for family sexuality communication to better understand the full ecology of sexuality communication.

Parental profiles of sexuality communication: Protective effects on youth sexual behavior

This is a grant from NICHD to examine which parent approaches to talking about sex with their teens are most effective in reducing teen and early adult sexual risk behavior and whether these approaches differ for teen parents than parents who were older when they had children. This study uses The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to identify profiles of parents’ approaches to sexuality communication, assess their link to adolescent and emerging adult sexual risk behaviors, and explore whether these associations are similar or different for teen parents than parents who were older when they had children.

Balancing the timing of school, work, and family formation: How parents talk with their kids about teen pregnancy

This Benenson Award from WCW provides the opportunity to explore in-depth how parents’ own experiences and aspirations for their children’s school, work, and family future shape their approach to parent-teen conversations about sex and relationships. It will also investigate how parents talk with their teens about intersections of school, work, and family, and how teen parents and parents who were older when they had children compare in their experiences and approach to teen communication about these issues. Data will be collected as part of a larger interview study of 32 parents and guardians and how they talk with their teens about sex and relationships.

Evaluator, National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity

This project, funded by the W. K. Kellogg foundation, will expand the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum and make it accessible to a wider audience. This project includes a longitudinal evaluation of the influence of this intervention on teachers and students.



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