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Bruce  Compas - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Bruce Compas

Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Professor of Pediatrics, Co-Director of Clinical Psychology Training, and Director of Psychology at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center | Vanderbilt University


An expert on how stress affects the physical and mental health of children and families, and the power of coping and preventative measures.





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Bruce Compas is an expert on how children, adolescents and adults cope with stress and adversity. In his research, he seeks to find solutions for individuals and families coping with stress. He examines the cycle of depression in families; the impact of stress on families with a sick child; and the affects of adverse childhood experiences on learning. His work includes children and families dealing with cancer, congenital heart disease, brain tumors, Huntington Disease, Leukemia and Sickle Cell Disease.

Areas of Expertise (18)

Neurocognitive Deficits


Stress Coping and Resilience

Huntington Disease

Childhood Cancer Survivorship

Sickle Cell Disease

Coping Strategies

Behavior Management

Parents and families

Physical health

Social-Emotional functioning


Mental Health

Coping with Acute and Chronic Illness

Brain Tumors

Pediatric Cancer


Cognitive - Behavioral Interventions

Education (1)

University of California, Los Angeles: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

Affiliations (6)

  • National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research
  • Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
  • Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
  • Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center
  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
  • Society for Research in Child Development

Selected Media Appearances (3)

Kids, are you overworked at school? Here’s how you can cope with the stress

Hindustan Times  online


Between homework, schoolwork, exams and test anxiety, post-school activities and bullying, kids can be super stressed out, but now, a team of researchers has outlined which coping strategies work best. The study’s lead author Bruce Compas said that learning effective ways to manage stress is especially important for children.

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When a Teenager’s Coping Mechanism Is SpongeBob

New York Times  online


Bruce Compas, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University and the author of a research review on teenage coping notes that adolescents may “just need to take a break from something that is stressful, particularly if they can’t change it or control it.” Dr. Compas’s research demonstrates that teenagers facing chronic or unavoidable stress feel better when they find positive distractions that can help “lift their spirits and get them out of a down or depressed mood.”

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Stress causes brain shrinkage

Yale News  online


Bruce Compas, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, said that anything that leads to a reduction in the number of connections between neurons, such as a decrease in gray matter, hurts the brain’s ability to store information and respond quickly to the environment. He also commended both the design and measurements of the study.

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Research Grants (2)

Family Cognitive Behavioral Prevention of Depression in Youth and Parents

National Institutes of Health $378,895


Depression is a major public health problem affecting over 15 million U.S. adults annually and is especially prevalent in those of parenting age. Offspring of depressed parents are at increased risk of depression and therefore are a critical target for preventive interventions. The study proposes reducing the rate of depression by adopting an innovative, family-based approach to simultaneously preventing depression in at-risk children and in their affected parents.

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Enhancing Coping and Communication in Children with Cancer and Their Parents: A Novel Internet-Based Intervention

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and Northwestern Mutual Foundation $300,000


Vanderbilt researchers have received funding for an internet-based education program that will teach pediatric cancer patients and their families how to cope and manage the stress associated with a serious chronic childhood condition.

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Selected Articles (6)

Associations of transcranial doppler velocity, age, and gender with cognitive function in children with sickle cell anemia in Nigeria

Child Neuropsychology

Kemar V Prussien, Auwal Salihu, Shehu U Abdullahi, Najibah A Galadanci, Khadija Bulama, Raymond O Belonwu, Fenella J Kirkham, Janet Yarboi, Heather Bemis, Michael R DeBaun, Bruce E Compas

2019 Children with sickle cell anemia (SCA) have elevated cerebral blood velocity relative to healthy peers. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the association between cerebral blood velocity, measured by transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound, age, and gender with cognitive function in children with SCA in Nigeria. Eighty-three children (Mage = 9.10, SD = 1.90 years; 55% female) with SCA in Nigeria completed cognitive assessments and a TCD ultrasound.

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Development and testing of the Hogan Inventory of Bereavement short form for children and adolescents

Death Studies

Nancy S Hogan, Lee A Schmidt, Katianne M Howard Sharp, Maru Barrera, Bruce E Compas, Betty Davies, Diane L Fairclough, Mary Jo Gilmer, Kathryn Vannatta, Cynthia A Gerhardt

2019 To reduce response burden for bereaved children and adolescents, we provide data on the development and psychometric testing of a short form of the Hogan Sibling Inventory of Bereavement (HSIB). The resulting measure of grief symptoms and personal growth was renamed the Hogan Inventory of Bereavement – Short Form (Children and Adolescents; HIB-SF-CA).

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Coping and Observed Emotions in Children of Parents with a History of Depression

Journal of Child and Family Studies

Meredith A Gruhn, Alexandra H Bettis, Lexa K Murphy, Jennifer P Dunbar, Michele M Reising, Rex Forehand, Bruce E Compas

2019 Mothers with a history of depression (N= 160) and their children (M age= 11.38) participated in two video-recorded interactions about a recent pleasant activity and a recent stressful experience in the family.

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Coping and Stress Reactivity as Moderators of Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Youth’s Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Allison Vreeland, Alexandra H Bettis, Michelle M Reising, Jennifer P Dunbar, Kelly H Watson, Meredith A Gruhn, Bruce E Compas

2019 Youth’s responses to stress are a central feature of risk and resilience across development. The current study examined whether youth coping and stress reactivity moderate the association of current maternal depressive symptoms with youth’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms.

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Associations among diffusion tensor imaging and neurocognitive function in survivors of pediatric brain tumor: A pilot study

Journal of Applied Neuropsychology: Child

Holly A Aleksonis, Ryan Wier, Matthew M Pearson, Christopher J Cannistraci, Adam W Anderson, John F Kuttesch, Bruce E Compas, Kristen R Hoskinson

2019 The purpose of this study was to determine associations among neurocognitive outcomes and white matter integrity in the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), uncinate fasciculus (UF), and genu of the corpus callosum (gCC) in survivors of pediatric brain tumor and healthy controls (HCs). Eleven survivors (ages 8–16; >2 years post-treatment) and 14 HCs underwent MRI; diffusion tensor imaging tractography (DSI Studio) was used to assess white matter integrity.

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Cognitive Deficits in Children with Chronic Health Conditions

American Psychologist

Bruce E. Compas, Sarah S. Jaser, Kristen Reeslund, Niral Patel, and Janet Yarboi

Over 4 million children in the United States suffer from chronic health conditions, including cancer, sickle cell disease, and diabetes. Survival rates for these children continue to rise, but there are costs related to long-term effects of disease processes and treatments. Foremost among these consequences is impairment in brain development and neurocognitive function that may affect a substantial portion of children with chronic health conditions and follow many into adulthood.

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