BLESSED Research Group


About Us

The Black Early Stages of Social & Emotional Development (BLESSED) Research Group collaborates with Black families with young children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged contexts in DC to gain an understanding of the numerous culturally specific protective factors that families use to support their children’s development. The BLESSED Research Group focuses on culturally sensitive mental health care for Black families. We also have international collaborations to address mental health stigma in Ghana.

Our Team

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Director

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Undergraduate Scholars

Arielle Prudhomme

Undergraduate Junior

Major: Biology of Global Health

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Interested in research on health equity and accessibility.

Career Aspirations: Attain a Master’s in Public Health and work on global initiatives in Emerging Markets

Self-Care Interests: I love to exercise for self-care and I try to make time for it everyday so I can prioritize my health.

Calyn Brumley

Undergraduate Junior

Major: Human Science, Pre-Med

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Health Equity, preventative health care, child and adolescent health

Career Aspirations: Attain an MD and work as a pediatrician

Self-Care Interests: Walking, meditating, and binge watching a good television show

Carrington Moore

Undergraduate Senior

Major: Human Science, Pre-Med

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Racial and ethnic health disparities, maternal and child health, mental health and wellness

Career Aspirations: Attain an MD/MPH and work as an OB/GYN

Self-Care Interests: In my free time, I love to prioritize self-care by reading, working out, and playing the piano

Rebecca de Heer

Undergraduate Junior

Major: Psychology, Pre-Med

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Health equity, early childhood development

Career Aspirations: Attain an MD/DDS and work to provide accessible healthcare to vulnerable communities

Self-Care Interests: working out consistently, making music playlists, retail therapy

Nandi Dube

Undergraduate Junior

Major: Psychology, Pre-Med

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Maternal and women’s health, child development, LGBTQ+ health, psychological disorders, racial health disparities

Career Aspirations: Attain an MD and work as a psychiatrist

Self-Care Interests: playing bass guitar, reading, journaling, yoga

Alison McLeod

Undergraduate Junior

Major: Psychology, Government

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Early childhood development, racial and ethnic health disparities, mental health awareness and education

Career Aspirations: To be a practicing clinical psychologist and provide mental health care for vulnerable and traditionally underserved communities

Self-Care Interests: Reading, running, spending time with my family, and going out in nature!

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Graduate & Professional Scholars

Ar’Reon Watson

Ph.D. Student

Specialization: School Psychology

Institutional Affiliation: Louisiana State University

Research Interests: Black Children and Family Mental Health, School Mental Health; Racial and Gender Identity; Racial and Gender Socialization; Resilience (Individual & Systemic); Culturally Responsive Practices; Intersectionality; Mixed Methods

Self-Care Interests: Running, Skincare, Brunch, Black Queer Shows and Books

Latisha Curtis, MS, LCPC

Research Associate

Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

Research Interests: Early Childhood and School-Based Mental Health, Black Children and Family Mental Health, Provider and Teacher Wellness and Mental Health Education

Career Aspirations: contribute to awareness, access, and de-stigmatization of mental health services across the lifespan for underserved communities.

Self-Care Interests: Running, traveling, and exploring new restaurants and cuisines with friends!

Martekuor Dodoo, MD

Psychiatry Resident, PGY4

Specialization: General Adult Psychiatry

Institutional Affiliation: MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

Research Interests: Global Mental Health, Immigrant mental health

Career Aspirations: Consultation- Liaison psychiatry, Academics

Self-Care Interests: Gardening, yoga, baking, and brunch with friends

Nailah Gallego Clemmons, MD

Pediatric Resident, PL3

Specialization: Pediatrics

Institutional Affiliation: Children’s National Hospital

Research Interests: Health disparities, mental health

Career Aspirations: Primary care pediatrician, advocate

Self-Care Interests: Traveling, trying new foods, spending time with family and friends

Lauren Edwards, MS

Medical Student (MS1)

Intended Specialization: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Institutional Affiliation: Howard University

Research Interests: Holistic development of Black children by evaluating Black parenting practices, the social identity of Black children, and the preservation of Black children’s well-being

Career Aspirations: Community-based physician scientist, Non-profit executive

Self-Care Interests: Reading, dancing, writing, and sweets!

Christina Asare

Medical Student (MS1)

Specialization: Undecided

Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University School of Medicine

Research Interests: Health disparities, Global Health, Mental health and wellness, Integrative Medicine and Maternal health

Career Aspirations: Healthcare provider for populations in the United States and internationally. Collaborator of a multi-service wellness center.

Self-Care Interests: Traveling, trying new foods, spending time with family and friends.

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BLESSED Scholars

Current Projects

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Pandemic-Related Projects

Preschooler’s Adjustment to In-Person Learning Following COVID-19-Related School Closures in Black Families: A Mixed Methods Approach.

Within the early childhood education sector, children of color from low-income backgrounds have been the most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is emerging evidence that Black children experienced larger drops in preschool enrollment, a higher percentage of remote learning, and greater academic setbacks compared to white children during the pandemic—widening racial opportunity gaps and exacerbating parental stress levels. Guided by the integrative model for the study of stress within Black American families, we will conduct a mixed methods, multilevel study with 200 Black families with young children attending early childhood education programs, and their children’s teachers. To obtain a more comprehensive understanding of cultural assets, the study will use a convergent mixed methods approach to assess: (1) children’s adjustment to returning to in-person learning during the 2021-2022 school year and (2) the protective factors that buffer the deleterious impact of parent and teachers’ exposure to racism on preschooler’s social emotional development.

Pandemic-Related Stressors and Mental Health of Black Mothers from Under-Resourced Communities: A Mixed Methods Approach.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately negatively affected Black mothers, especially those from low-income communities, both personally and professionally. Guided by intersectionality, this project seeks to elucidate how interconnected systems of oppression – racism, sexism, classism – impact Black mother’s mental health, parenting, and parent-child relationships. Using a mixed methods approach, we aim to acquire a unique collective of mothers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, examine the effects of stressors associated with systemic racism on Black mothers, and determine the influence of protective mechanisms of social support and racial identity. We expect that mothers’ social support and positive racial identity will buffer the harmful effects of pandemic-related stressors on parenting and parent-child relationships transmitted through better maternal mental health. Focus group data will be used to contextualize our findings and identify additional protective factors.

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Black Therapy Related Projects

Examining Black Parents’ Perceptions of Client-Provider Racial and Ethnic Concordance and the Association Between Racial Identity and Parents’ Preference for Racial Concordance

A compelling body of research supports the concordance hypothesis, which asserts that racially minoritized patients who are matched to their providers on the basis of their racial and ethnic demographics have improved communication, better perceptions of care, and better health outcomes. While the majority of the literature supports this hypothesis, numerous studies have found conflicting results. Meaning, racial and ethnic matching of the provider-patient dyad does not guarantee patient satisfaction or improved outcomes. This suggests that there may be unknown factors related to cultural competence and cultural humility which permeates the clinical encounters. Using a mixed methods approach, this research aims to 1) examine caregiver subjective experiences of racial and ethnic concordance and their experience with community health-based program’s therapists and instructors, 2) assess caregivers’ perceptions of importance for a racial and ethnic concordant client-provider relationship, and 3) define and examine racial identity and its association with clients’ preference for racial and ethnic concordant client-provider dyads.

Understanding the Benefits of Child-Parent Psychotherapy delivered via Telehealth during the COVID-19 Pandemic for Black Families

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden change in families’ environments, limiting access to basic services usually provided through the community, and restrictions for extended family to help with the care of children. For families who isolated away from their support systems, the pandemic may have posed traumatic risks, particularly for African American families who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Child-parent psychotherapy (CPP) was developed as a dyadic, attachment-based, in-person intervention for parents with young children who have experienced trauma related to violence, death, abuse, neglect, caregiver separation, and caregiver substance abuse that promotes secure attachment between the caregiver and child. This case series study evaluates the acceptability of telehealth delivery of child-parent psychotherapy provided to African American families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ghanaian Mental Health Projects

Africa’s Mental Health Matters – Ghana Workshop

This project is a collaboration between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital faculty and Africa’s Mental Health Matters (AMHM) – Ghana. We will engage in a collaborative process to (a) conduct semi-structured individual interviews, with 15 Ghanaians experiencing mental health difficulties, to inform the development of a workshop designed to address mental health stigma in Ghana; (b) co-create a grant-seeking plan to sustain our collaboration; and (c) host a workshop in Accra, Ghana designed to de-stigmatize mental health services utilization. We will interview 15 community members experiencing mental illness during Part 1 to inform the structure and specific content of the workshop sessions that participants may find most useful. We will identify and plan grant-writing activities to sustain our work in Part 2. During the workshop (Part 3), Ghanaian psychiatrists, psychologists, researchers, and Safe Circle members will lead sessions focused on normalizing psychological distress and coping with depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use. A brief knowledge and satisfaction questionnaire will also be administered to participants at the workshop to assess pre/post mental health knowledge, perceptions, beliefs, and stigma, future support group content, and whether the workshop was successful in meeting the participants’ expectations. Results of this work will be used to apply for future funding to support stigma reduction programming in Ghana.

Youth Mental Health Matters: A Community-Based Exploration of Mental Health in Ghana

Youth mental health continues to be a global issue that warrants attention. In Ghana, there’s a level of complexity to the problem, as it has been documented that not only is there a rather large mental health treatment gap among the total population, the “prevalence of mental illness and its burden among adolescents is unknown on a national level.” A combination of the unknown prevalence, treatment gap, and interest in exploring youth mental health in Ghana, led to the development of the proposal. The grant award enables us to bring together Georgetown University faculty and key partners from Accra, Ghana who all have youth mental health expertise, in an effort to begin to develop a community-based, culturally-appropriate exploration of youth mental health needs and assets in Accra, Ghana. This award complements existing work that was recently funded to explore adult mental health issues in Ghana. We will build upon our existing partnership and expand our work to also focus on youth mental health. This will enable a more comprehensive exploration of mental health in Ghana. Our goals are to (a) build a youth-focused community-academic partnership that will guide the exploration; (b) host a seminar designed to explore youth mental health among key community and academic stakeholders; (c) complete community site visits and host a youth-focused community forum that will provide additional knowledge and insight about youth mental health needs and assets; and (d) collaboratively develop a Research and Outreach Plan that will enable the transition of our work from the exploration and planning phase to a research and outreach phase.

Current Research Funding

  • Understanding the Role of Racial Socialization in Mitigating the Influence of Parents’ Exposure to Racism on Young Children’s Development During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mixed Methods Approach. Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS). PI: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Preschooler’s Adjustment to In-Person Learning Following COVID-19 Related School Closures in Black Families: A Mixed Methods Approach. MedStar Health Research Institute. PI: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Africa’s Mental Health Matters – Ghana. Office of the Vice President of Global Engagement. PI: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Pandemic-Related Stressors and Mental Health of Black Mothers from Marginalized Communities: A Mixed Methods Approach. Georgetown Gender+Justice Initiative. PI: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN). A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation. PI: Matt Biel, M.D. Investigator: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Early Childhood Innovation Network. Marriott Foundation. PI: Matt Biel, M.D. Investigator: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Youth Mental Health Matters: A Community-Based Exploration of Mental Health in Ghana. Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues. PI: Dionne Coker-Appiah, Ph.D. Co-Investigator: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.
  • Randomized controlled trial of prenatal co-parenting intervention for African American fragile families. National Institutes of Child and Human Development. PI: McHale. Consultant: Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.

Publications

  • Williams, J. C., Andreou, A., Lemelle, T., Coates, E. E., Bostic, J. Editorial: Racial Battle Fatigue: The Toll of Policing Black Students. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2022.
  • Long M, Coates EE, Price O, Hoffman S. Mitigating the Impact of Coronavirus Disease-2019 on Child and Family Behavioral Health: Suggested Policy Approaches. J Pediatr. 2022 Feb. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2022.02.009
  • Lane A Jr, Gavins A, Watson A, Domitrovich CE, Oruh CM, Morris C, Boogaard C, Sherwood C, Sharp DN, Charlot-Swilley D, Coates EE, Mathis E, Avent G, Robertson H, Le HN, Williams JC, Hawkins J, Patterson J, Ouyang JX, Hartz KA, Beers LS, Cole L, Biel MG, Bodrick NI, Bravo N, Baylor RS, Arbit R, Zuskov SF, Hoffman SB, McPherson SKL, Singh S, Greer SE, Banks-Mackey SN, Caleb S, Thomas S, Brent T, Spencer T. Advancing Antiracism in Community-Based Research Practices in Early Childhood and Family Mental Health. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2022 Jan;61(1):15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.06.018. Epub 2021 Jul 22. PMID: 34303784.
  • Dunbar, AS, Ahn, LH, Coates, EE, Small, K, & Smith-Bynum, MA. Black Adolescents’ Emotion Reactivity Mediate the Link Between Discrimination and Adjustment: Observed Maternal Racial Socialization As Moderators. Child Dev. 2022 Jan;93(1):39-57. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13680. Epub 2021 Sep 29. PMID: 34585381.
  • Murry, VM, Gonzalez, CM, Hanebutt, RA, Bulgin, D, Coates, EE, Inniss-Thompson, MN, Debreaux, ML, Wilson, WE, Abel, D, & Cortez, M. Longitudinal Study of the Cascading Effects of Discrimination on Parenting and Adjustment in African American Youth. Attachment & Human Development. 2021 Oct 26:1-17. doi: 10.1080/14616734.2021.1976926. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34697999.
  • Ahn LH, Dunbar AS, Coates EE, Smith-Bynum MA. Cultural and Universal Parenting, Ethnic Identity, and Internalizing Symptoms Among African American Adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology. 2021;47(8):695-717. doi:10.1177/00957984211034290.
  • Biel MG, Coates EE. Editorial: Sharpening Our Focus on Early Adversity, Development, and Resilience Through Cross-National Research. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 2:S0890-8567(20)31413-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2020.08.013. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32890668.
  • Hart J, Coates EE, Smith-Bynum M. Parenting style and mother-child relationship quality in African American mother-adolescent dyads. Parenting: Science & Practice. 2019 Oct; 19(4): 318-340. doi: 10.1080/15295192.2019.1642085.
  • Coates EE, Tran Q, Le Y, Phares V. Parenting, coparenting, and adolescent adjustment in African American single-mother families: An actor-partner interdependence mediation model. Journal of Family Psychology. 2019 Sep;33(6):649-60. doi: 10.1037/fam0000552. PubMed PMID: 2019-36979-001.
  • Coates EE, Phares V. Pathways linking nonresident father involvement and child outcomes. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2019 Mar 23. doi: 10.1007/s10826-019-01389-6. PubMed PMID: 2019-16580-001.
  • Coates EE, McHale JP. Triangular interactions of unmarried african american mothers and fathers with their 3-month-old infants. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2018 Mar 28. doi: 10.1007/s10826-018-1082-8. PubMed PMID: 2018-13798-001.
  • Tan SY, Steding LH, Coates EE, Agazzi H. Parent-child interaction therapy and ADHD: A case study with a hearing child of a deaf father and a hearing mother. Child & Family Behavior Therapy. 2018 Jan;40(1):65-83. doi: 10.1080/07317107.2018.1428071. PubMed PMID: 2018-09786-004.
  • Clay D, Coates EE, Tran Q, Phares V. Fathers’ and mothers’ emotional accessibility and youth’s developmental outcomes. American Journal of Family Therapy. 2017 Mar;45(2):111-22. doi: 10.1080/01926187.2017.1303651. PubMed PMID: 2017-17298-003.
  • Stover CS, Coates EE. The relationship of reflective functioning to parent child interactions in a sample of fathers with concurrent intimate partner violence perpetration and substance abuse problems. Journal of Family Violence. 2016 May;31(4):433-42. doi: 10.1007/s10896-015-9775-x. PubMed PMID: 2015-42037-001.
  • Thurston IB, Phares V, Coates EE, Bogart LM. Child problem recognition and help-seeking intentions among Black and White parents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 2015 Jul;44(4):604-15. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2014.883929. PubMed PMID: 2015-21362-008.
  • Landers MD, Mitchell O, Coates EE. Teenage fatherhood as a potential turning point in the lives of delinquent youth. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2015 Jun;24(6):1685-96. doi: 10.1007/s10826-014-9971-y. PubMed PMID: 2014-19644-001.
  • McHale JP, Coates EE. Observed coparenting and triadic dynamics in African American fragile families at 3 months’ postpartum. Infant Mental Health Journal. 2014 Sep;35(5):435-51. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21473. PubMed PMID: 2014-35373-001.
  • Coates EE, Phares V. Predictors of paternal involvement among nonresidential, Black fathers from low-income neighborhoods. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 2014 Apr;15(2):138-51. doi: 10.1037/a0032790. PubMed PMID: 2013-24384-001.
  • Coates EE, Phares V, Dedrick RF. Psychometric properties of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale 10 among low-income, African American men. Psychological Assessment. 2013 Dec;25(4):1349-54. doi: 10.1037/a0033434. PubMed PMID: 2013-23398-001.
  • Coates EE, Chen JI, Storch EA. A case of schizencephaly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. 2013 May;25(2):151-2. PubMed PMID: 2013-18693-011.
  • Coates EE, Dinger T, Donovan M, Phares V. Adult psychological distress and self-worth following child verbal abuse. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 2013 Apr;22(4):394-407. doi: 10.1080/10926771.2013.775981. PubMed PMID: 2013-15279-005.