Tracy R. Nichols, Ph.D.

Promoting Health, Engaging Communities, Changing Lives

Tracy R. Nichols, Ph.D.


Education and Training

I received my undergraduate degree from the New School for Social Research, followed by a master’s degree in general psychology from Hunter College In 2002, I received my doctorate in developmental psychology from Columbia University where I studied under Dr. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a renowned expert in girls’ development and pubertal timing. For 17 years, I worked closely with Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, a leading authority in school-based drug prevention strategies, at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. I played a critical role in the development and evaluation of his state-of-the-art adolescent drug and violence prevention program, entitled Life Skills Training.

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

I am interested in how the social and environmental contexts of settings affect health practices, particularly among women and adolescent girls. I have studied multiple settings as a context for health promotion interventions, including schools, after-school programs, homeless shelters, and families. Within each setting I am particularly interested in how interpersonal relationships affect health practices and values. I am also interested in how messages regarding gender, race, and class norms are transmitted within these settings and how these messages affect individual’s participation in both health-promoting and risky health behaviors. My current interests include expanding our knowledge of how both gender-appropriate and transformative interventions can be developed and evaluated within family and community settings. As such I am committed to translating the intersections of individual behavior, social-ecology of settings, and the social constructions of race, class, gender and health into effective intervention strategies. Methodologically I incorporate quantitative, qualitative and mixed-method designs as appropriate to the specific research question.

Current Studies

The majority of my current research agenda focuses on within-gender studies of women’s health and development across the lifespan. While my primary interests focus on understanding (a) health-promoting relationships within family and community settings and (b) the evaluation and refinement of gender-appropriate and transformative interventions, I pursue these interests through issues specific to motherhood. I am particularly interested in health promotion among marginalized mothers. My current research studies include:

Supporting Teen Moms: A Qualitative Evaluation of a Childbirth Education and Doula Program for Pregnant Adolescents. The YWCA of Greensboro established a comprehensive program to support pregnant and parenting teen moms as they strive to finish school, raise healthy children, and set and fulfill goals for the future. Childbirth classes are provided through the Teens Learning Childbirth (TLC) program, where teens attend with their own support person or are provided a mentor. Doula services are also offered to all teens and teen mothers can continue to receive support and mentorship through the Teen Parent Mentoring Program (TPMP) after they give birth. The primary purpose of this study is to understand the experiences and perceptions of the stakeholders (pregnant teens and volunteers) in the TLC program in order to improve services and increase utilization of both the Doula Program and the TPMP. The secondary purpose of the study is to understand the context in which both teen moms and volunteers participate in educational and support programs. Analysis for this project is currently on going.

Examining Substance Use/Abuse Services for Pregnant and Parenting Females in Guilford County. In response to growing concerns around the issue of substance use and abuse among pregnant and parenting women in Guilford County, the YWCA of Greensboro established a Perinatal Substance Abuse Advisory Committee in March of 2010. An appreciation of the need for coordinated services as well as a means to share information on best practices across providers and agencies serving this population has arisen from the initial Advisory Committee meetings. In addition to the lack of specialized treatment programs, Guilford County currently has no coordinated effort to assess the prevalence of substance use for this population or to coordinate the multitude of care services the population requires. The primary purpose of this study is to understand the process for providing health care services to pregnant and parenting female substance users in Guilford County, NC in order to aid the Advisory Committee and the YWCA in their efforts to coordinate care and advocate for this marginalized and underrepresented population. Data collection and analysis for this project is ongoing.

Stress, Coping, and Hypertension among African American Mothers. This secondary analysis of a qualitative study on adolescent hypertension risk examines the perceived stress and coping mechanisms of middle-aged, working class African American mothers. Fifty-six mothers of adolescents who are at both high and low risk for developing hypertension completed in-depth interviews on their own stress, coping, and health behaviors. This study highlights the women’s coping experiences as they relate to both their perception of stressors in their lives and their health behaviors. Comparisons are then made with both the gender and hypertension risk status of their adolescent children. Analysis is ongoing.

Courses Taught

  •             HEA 333 Health of Women
  •             HEA 662 Gender and Health
  •             HEA 753 Qualitative Methods in Public Health Education
  •             HEA 758 Advanced Theoretical Basis in Community Health Education

Links of Interest

YWCA of Greensboro