Jennifer M. Grossman
Senior Research Scientist
Ph.D., Boston College
Research interests include adolescent development, with a focus on sexual health and risk-taking and racial and ethnic identity
Jennifer M. Grossman, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and a former National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) postdoctoral research fellow at WCW. Her research uses quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate adolescent development, sexual health, and risk-taking, with an emphasis on family communication about sex and relationships, and contexts of teens’ environment and identity, such as gender, race, and ethnicity.
Grossman is currently principal investigator of an R21 award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development -- Adolescent Communication with Family and Reproductive Health, which includes the first comprehensive assessment of teens’ sexuality communication with extended family and its associations with sexual behavior as well as an exploration of extended family approaches to talking with teens about sex. Grossman is also principal investigator of an R03 award from the National Institutes of Child and Human Development -- Risk Behaviors Among Offspring of Teen Parents: Effects of Parenting on the Next Generation, which addresses the potential of maternal and paternal parenting to reduce the high risk of early sex and teen pregnancy for offspring of teen parents.
She recently completed a project funded by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) – the Formative Evaluation of Planned Parenthood Family Communication App, which assessed the preliminary effectiveness of a mobile website for parents of youth enrolled in PPLM’s middle school curriculum, Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works. Findings showed that parents and teens reported significantly more talk with teens about relationships and sexuality after exposure to Get Real family activities than before participating in the program. Parents described the online activities as useful in talking with their teens about sexuality and relationships and found the activities helped bring up new conversation topics about teens’ health.
Grossman’s current research focuses on adolescent sexual risk and prevention, evaluation of preventive programs, teens’ communication with parents and extended family about sex and relationships, and how that communication influences teen sexual attitudes and behavior.
Grossman co-directed an evaluation of Get Real, Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive middle school sex education program, which delivers accurate, age-appropriate information on sexual health and relationships and includes built-in opportunities in each lesson for parents to talk with their children. She was the lead author of the published study, which showed the effectiveness of Get Real in delaying sex for boys and girls. Based on these evaluation findings, Get Real was designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an evidence-based program, which means that schools and organizations can use federal funding to teach Get Real in their communities.
Grossman recently completed a grant from the NICHD as principal investigator for the study, Communication About Sex in the Nuclear Family and Beyond: Implications for Health, which investigated how teens and their families talk about sex and relationships. This grant used mixed methods to explore how adolescents talk with their parents and extended families about sex and relationships as well as associations between extended family sexuality communication and teen sexual behavior. Findings from this project show that teens who have had sex are more likely to talk with extended family than those who have not had sex, which may reflect a growing importance of extended family sexuality communication as teens become sexually active. Qualitative findings explored why teens talk with extended family about sex as well as similarities and differences in how teens talk with parents and extended family about sex and relationships.
Grossman’s work in contexts of teens’ environment and identity has addressed topics such as adolescents’ racial/ethnic identity, barriers to and supports for STEM success for girls and teens of color, and immigrant teens’ STEM aspirations. This included a study with Michelle Porche, Ed.D., that explores racial and gender barriers to STEM engagement among urban adolescents. Grossman also worked with Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., to examine the centrality of racial/ethnic identity for minority and white teens. Her earlier work with Belle Liang, Ph.D., at Boston College addressed issues of racism and relational health among Chinese American adolescents.
Grossman initially joined WCW 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, Grossman 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 addressing health inequities through research, program development, and systemic change in support of healthy youth development.
Awards & Recognition
- 2006: NICHD Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Wellesley Centers for Women
- 2012: Nan May Holstein New Directions Award, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College
- 2015: Dr. Douglas Kirby Research Award, Association of Planned Parenthood Leaders in Education
- 2016: Susan McGee Bailey Research Scholar, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College
Grossman has received four grants from the NICHD and has an ongoing collaboration with Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) as an evaluator of their sex education programs.
Grossman, J.M., Richer, A.M., Charmaraman, L., Ceder, I., and Erkut, S. (in press). Youth perspectives on sexuality communication with parents and extended family. Family Relations.
Grossman, J.M., Jenkins, L. J., and Richer, A.M. (2018). Parents’ perspectives on family sexuality communication from middle school to high school. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 107-120. doi: doi:10.3390/ijerph15010107
Grossman, J. M., Sarwar, P. F., Richer, A. M., & Erkut, S. (2017). “We talked about sex.” “No, we didn't”: Exploring adolescent and parent agreement about sexuality communication. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 1-15. doi:10.1080/15546128.2017.1372829
Grossman, J.M., Charmaraman, L., and Erkut, S. (2016). Do as I say, not as I did: How parents talk with early adolescents about sex. Journal of Family Issues, 27(2), 177-197. http://jfi.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/11/22/0192513X13511955.abstract
Porche, M. Grossman, J.M., & Dupaya, K. C. (2016). New American scientists: First generation immigrant students and STEM persistence. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 22(1), 1-21.
Grossman, J. M., Tracy, A. J., Richer, A. M., & Erkut, S. (2015). The role of extended family in teen sexual health. Journal of Adolescent Research, 30(1), 31-56. doi: 10.1177/0743558414546718
Grossman, J. M., Tracy, A. J., Richer, A. M., & Erkut, S. (2015). Comparing sexuality communication among offspring of teen parents and adult parents: A different role for extended family. Sexuality Research & Social Policy: A Journal of the NSRC, 12(2), 137-144. doi: 10.1007/s13178-015-0183-z
Grossman, J.M., Tracy, A.J., Charmaraman, L, Ceder, I., & Erkut, S. (2014). Protective effects of middle school comprehensive sex education with family involvement. Journal of School Health, 84(11), 739-47. PubMed PMID: 25274174.
Grossman, J. M., and Porche, M. V. (2014). Perceived gender and racial/ethnic barriers to STEM success. Urban Education, 49(6) 698-727. DOI: 10.1177/0042085913481364