Nancy Genero, Ph.D.

Faculty Research Scholar

Dr. Nancy Genero is an associate professor of psychology at Wellesley College where she teaches cultural psychology, culture & social identity, and introductory statistics. For the past fifteen years, she has explored psychological issues that pertain to the lives of diverse groups of women, girls, and their families.

Dr. Genero completed her doctoral training in social psychology at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor in 1985. After working in the clinical studies unit of the department of psychiatry at UM for three years as a research investigator, she assumed a position at the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies, now a part of the Wellesley Centers for Women, as a research program director in 1988. That year marked the beginning of her research career on the relational aspects of the psychological development of women and girls. When she started her work in this area, the research literature was extremely limited and reliable research instruments on relational processes were virtually non-existent. Consequently, she published the first validated measure of mutual psychological development (Genero, Miller, Surrey, & Baldwin, 1992). This measure is now widely used in the field and was recently published in the Handbook of Family Measurement Techniques (Perlmutter, Touliatos, & Holden, 2001). With federal funding from the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, she collaborated with colleagues at the Stone Center to study the relational aspects of depression in mothers of young children.

In 1993, Dr. Genero joined the faculty of the psychology department at Wellesley College where she began to incorporate theories from cultural psychology into her work. The idea that diverse cultural meanings profoundly impact the ways in which women and girls make sense of and adapt to psychological challenges made a lot of sense to her. At the same time, she discovered a growing literature on the negative effects of acculturation stress on identity development and mental health. Although studies called attention to the challenges of the acculturation process (e.g., discrimination and language barriers), few attempted to address how female adolescents make sense of their acculturation experiences and whether close relationships enhanced or diminished their ability to negotiate conflicting cultural demands. The discontinuities between traditional female roles and non-traditional mainstream American values can be a source of conflict between young girls and their families. Moreover, persistent cultural inconsistencies are likely to have serious negative developmental and mental health consequences for adolescents.

Dr. Genero received support for her work in this area from the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and the Social Science Research Council. More recently, she received an award of a two-year small grant from the Brachman Hoffmann Fellowship Program at Wellesley College to conduct a community-based study of bicultural Hispanic and Brazilian seventh and eighth grade girls from the Framingham area. She conducted this study in collaboration with Elissa Koff, Ph.D.

In addition to her scholarly and professional research activities, Dr. Genero serves as the director of multicultural programs through the Office of the Dean of the College. In this capacity, she promotes faculty research on cultural topics and mentors students interested in conducting independent research in this area.

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