Current Research

Members of our lab are currently pursuing a number of research directions, reflected in graduate students' thesis and dissertation projects, as well as lab-wide studies. Our current lines of research generally pertain to women's health psychology, and include issues related to reproductive health and stressful life events. Below are descriptions of our ongoing research projects.

For information about opportunities to enroll in ongoing projects, please visit our Research Participation page.

Please note: This information was last updated in May 2015.

Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit Projects N/IICU at CHOP

Admission into a hospital setting can be a stressful experience for families of neonatal infants. In collaboration with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the Women's Health Psychology Lab is developing interventions designed to provide psychosocial support to parents with infants in CHOP’s Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU). Research assistants may assist in focus groups, provider education, and sibling support groups for families in the CHOP N/IICU. Several projects are ongoing: a psychosocial support group for families, an international survey of NICUs worldwide to determine the type of psychosocial services typically provided by NICUs, a psychosocial training for nurses on how to deal with difficult families in the NICU, consultation services to other members of the CHOP NICU care team, a survey of maternal mental health, and development of a fathers' support group. Related clinical research projects also are in the process of development.

Psychological Responses and Treatment among Mothers of Infants in the NICU

Mothers of infants admitted to the NICU often experience tremendous distress in the postpartum period, a time during which they may already be at increased risk for adverse psychological symptoms. This study aims to examine the relationships between depression, anxiety, maternal-infant attachment and attitudes, perceived social support, and health-promoting behaviors in mothers of infants in the NICU. Additionally, the study seeks to assess the attitudes of NICU mothers toward psychological treatment, and explore which of these variables may be associated with barriers or facilitators to engagement in mental health treatment during the postpartum period. This project is led by Alexa Bonacquisti.

Impact of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Infants on Parental and Family Outcomes

This online study will assess parental experiences during the first few years following NICU discharge. The study aims to examine how the NICU experience and subsequent infant health problems impacts parenting stress, perceived stress and family dynamics. Additionally, other variables known to attenuate stress and family outcomes (i.e., family resources and marital functioning) will also be included in order to study the contribution of these factors. This project is led by Victoria Grunberg.

Women's Experience of Pregnancy Loss

The Pregnancy Loss study is a theory-driven, quantitative investigation of how race/ethnicity affects women's coping strategies after pregnancy loss.  This study has several aims: 1) to document the occurrence of grief, depressive, and anxiety reactions following the experiences of miscarriage and stillbirth; 2) to compare these experiences of grief, depressive, and anxiety reactions by gestational length at time of loss; 3) to examine the relationship between psychological distress and women's attributions for the loss, perception of care provided by healthcare professionals and provision of etiological information following loss; and 4) to assess posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology among women who have experienced pregnancy loss. This project is led by Emily Stasko.

Barriers to Treatment among Minority Women with Infertility

This research investigates the myriad psychosocial barriers that prevent minority women from seeking assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment for infertility. The primary goal of this study is to reveal what perceived or genuine obstacles (e.g., financial, cultural, social, or psychological) prohibit minority women from seeking and following through with ART. Research assistants may assist with data collection and will prepare and enter data in SPSS.  This project is led by Mona Elgohail.

The Relationship between Depression and Religiosity in Infertile Muslim Women

Infertility is a deeply distressing experience that affects millions of women each year. Many women who experience infertility also suffer from depression. Depressive symptoms may put women at increased risk of experiencing infertility, and may decrease the success rate of infertility treatment. Studies suggest that strong religious beliefs may serve as protective factors that minimize depressive symptoms, as well as lead to better infertility treatment outcomes. However, these connections remain largely unexplored outside of the Christian population. This study aims to better our understanding of the relationship between depression, religiosity, and infertility by investigating the role of religion in shaping the subjective psychological wellbeing of infertile Muslim women. This project is led by Mona Elgohail.

Sexting and Intimate Partner Relationships Among Adults

Two studies are currently examining different types of communication and behaviors among adults in romantic relationships. The Adult Dating Behaviors is pilot study is examining attitudes towards various types of behaviors within adult relationships and prevalence of communication methods. The Sexting and Intimate Partner Relationships Among Adults study is examining how sexting is related to sexual and relationship satisfaction among the general adult population. This work is attempting to discover under what circumstances these behaviors can strengthen relationships and when they may function as risk factors.This project is led by Emily Stasko.

Exercise Behavior During Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health

This study explores the relationship that physical activity prior to and during pregnancy has on maternal and infant physical and mental health postpartum. The primary goal of the study is to determine whether physical activity can act as a protective mechanism for postpartum depression in the mother, as well as improve birth outcomes for the infant. Women will be recruited online and in person from the Philadelphia area. This project is led by Kimmie Konka.