Elissa Koff, Ph.D.

Faculty Research Scholar

Elissa Koff is the Margaret Hamm Professor of Psychology at Wellesley College. She teaches courses concerned with the relationship between brain and behavior (Biological Psychology, Drugs and Behavior), and conducts research in two areas: female development and the neuropsychology of emotion. Much of her research on female development has focused on early adolescent girls, and was conducted at the Wellesley Centers for Women, in collaboration with Dr. Jill Rierdan. The bulk of this work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, as well as by grants from Wellesley College.

Dr. Koff is particularly interested in the development of body image; the effects of puberty and menarche (the onset of menstruation) on body image; the relationship of body image, pubertal status, and the development of eating disorders and depression; and other factors that might place girls at risk for developing negative body image and disordered eating- and weight-related attitudes and behaviors.

At the Wellesley Centers for Women, she studied body image and psychosocial functioning in a cross-cultural context, in collaboration with several Wellesley students. She also collaborated on a grant from the National Institute on Aging on the processing of emotion in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and was a consultant to a project known as the “Bones Project” (Beat Osteoporosis: Nourish and Exercise Skeletons), which is seeking to develop interventions to maximize bone accretion and muscular strength in 1st and 2nd grade children. She collaborated with Dr. Nancy Genero, also of the Psychology Department at Wellesley, on psychological acculturation in 7th and 8th grade Hispanic and Brazilian girls in a Framingham middle school. Among the aims of this study was the documentation of the extent of acculturation stress in these girls, and the identification of factors that either protect against, or increase the risk of, acculturation stress.