Associate Professor
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Contact Information:

Research Interests & Goals:
Dr. Cooper’s research examines how cultural and contextual factors contribute to family processes and youth development, with a specific focus on African American children and families. Currently, she has three research foci that complement existing research, collaborative projects and workgroups at the Center for Developmental Science:

(1) Dr. Cooper’s research has examined race-related and cultural factors that may be
associated with positive youth development. In particular, her work has placed emphasis on how race and cultural socialization operates within the larger context of parenting. As African American parents utilize a range of parenting practices, racial socialization should be considered in conjunction with these other parenting dimensions (e.g., school
involvement, academic socialization; warmth/support). Additionally, Dr. Cooper’s research  extends beyond family and individual factors to explore community-level influences that promote positive development among African American youth. Specifically, her work has identified mechanisms underlying the association between adolescent community
involvement and their health outcomes.

(2) Much of Dr. Cooper’s current work has explored dimensions and dynamics of father-adolescent relationships in African American families. Taking a comprehensive and ecological approach, her program of research has sought to fill existing gaps in the literature on African American fathers in several critical ways:

  • illuminating fathering behaviors in adolescence (in comparison to the majority of studies that have examined relationships in infancy and childhood);
  • addressing within-group variation in both social experiences and parenting practices;
  • identifying parenting practice sand behaviors that facilitate long-term positive adjustment among African American adolescents; and
  • exploring transactional processes associated with the parenting process.

(3) A third strand of Dr. Cooper’s work, which also complements several faculty within the Center for Developmental Science,examines the ways in which gender impacts health and well-being. A specific goal of her research has been to extend beyond a focus on quantitative differences and elucidate the ways in which gender can influence the association between contextual factors and adolescent adjustment. To date, Dr. Cooper’s research in this area has suggested the nuanced ways in which gender can influence the association between contextual factors and adolescent well-being. Namely,this work has extended the existing literature in two key ways: 1) gender differentiation in moderation strength and directionality and 2) illuminating within group variation in African American females’ social experiences and well-being.

Dr. Cooper is deeply invested in the training and mentoring of burgeoning developmental scientists. Her training philosophy has been twofold—1) offering mentoring and support for students and 2) providing high quality training experiences that prepare students to become leaders in the field. In line with the Center for Developmental Science’s commitment to the provision of high-quality training experiences, She has provided informal and formal mentoring to a number of undergraduate and graduate students throughout my career. Dr. Cooper was especially excited to see the Center’s emphasis on training faculty and students of color. She has mentored a number of students from diverse backgrounds (e.g., racially; ethnically; culturally; first-generation college and graduate students; rural populations). The majority of these students have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in psychology or affiliated disciplines as well as obtain tenure track faculty positions.