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Julia Felton - Michigan State University. Flint, MI, US

Julia Felton

Assistant Professor of Public Health | Michigan State University


Dr. Julia Felton is a child clinical psychologist whose work focuses on treating early predictors of the development of depression.



Julia Felton Publication




Julia Felton, PhD



Dr. Julia Felton is a child clinical psychologist whose work focuses on identifying and treating early predictors of the development of depression, substance use, and related risk behaviors.

Her work is guided by socioecological models of developmental psychopathology and considers environmental, interpersonal and intrapersonal risk factors. Recent research has focused on the role of impulsivity, cognitive style and peer influence in the onset and maintenance of psychological disorders. She has served as an investigator on a number of federally-funded grants examining how these vulnerabilities manifest across adolescence and specific interventions to buffer these effects.

Prior to moving to Michigan State University, Dr. Felton was the Director of the Master’s in Clinical Psychological Science program at the University of Maryland and was a practicing psychologist in the Washington, DC area.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (3)



Substance use

Education (3)

Vanderbilt University: PhD, Clinical Psychology 2011

Minor Specialization: Quantitative Statistics

Vanderbilt University: MS, Clinical Psychology 2007

Wellesley College: BA 2003

Journal Articles (5)

Preliminary efficacy and mediators of interpersonal psychotherapy for reducing posttraumatic stress symptoms in an incarcerated population

Psychotherapy Research

Julia W. Felton, Maji Hailemariam, Fallon Richie, Madhavi K. Reddy, Sophia Edukere, Caron Zlotnick & Jennifer E. Johnson

2019 Objective: Incarcerated individuals have high rates of trauma exposure. IPT reduces posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in non-incarcerated adults, but has not been examined in prison populations. Moreover, little is known about the mechanisms through which IPT reduces PTSD symptoms. The current study investigated the direct and indirect effects of IPT on PTSD symptoms. We hypothesized that IPT would decrease PTSD symptoms by enhancing social support and decreasing loneliness (theorized IPT mechanisms). Method: A sub-sample of trauma-exposed participants (n = 168) were drawn from a larger randomized trial (n = 181) of IPT for major depressive disorder among prisoners. We examined a series of mediation models using non-parametric bootstrapping procedures to evaluate the indirect effect of IPT on PTSD symptoms. Results: Contrary to hypotheses, the relation between IPT and PTSD symptoms was significantly mediated through improvements in hopelessness and depressive symptoms (mechanisms of cognitive behavioral interventions), rather than through social support and loneliness. Increased social support and decreased loneliness were associated with decreased PTSD symptoms, but IPT did not predict changes in social support or loneliness. Conclusions: IPT may reduce PTSD symptoms in depressed prisoners by reducing hopelessness and depression.

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Impulsivity Moderates the Relation between Depressive Symptoms and Substance Use across Adolescence

Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

Julia W. Felton, Julia M. Shadur, Mazneen Havewala, Stefanie Gonçalves & Carl W. Lejuez

2019 Adolescence is characterized by significant increases in substance use problems. Although early depressive symptoms have been linked to adolescent substance use, recent literature reviews highlight important inconsistencies in these relations that may be accounted for by behavioral disinhibition factors. The current study aims to examine impulsivity as a specific moderator of the relation between early depressive symptoms and trajectories of substance use using a 6-year, prospective longitudinal design. Participants included 247 male and female adolescents (52.5% White, 45% female) who were, on average, 13 years of age at baseline (SDage = 0.90). They completed self-report inventories of depressive symptoms, impulsivity, substance use, and externalizing symptoms. Using a latent growth modeling approach, we found main effects for depressive symptoms and impulsivity, such that youth with lower initial levels of depressive symptoms and higher levels of impulsivity at baseline evidenced greater increases in substance use. Moreover, the interaction between impulsivity and depressive symptoms significantly predicted substance use, indicating that depressive symptoms were more positively related to substance use for youth reporting higher levels of impulsivity. Findings suggest that impulsivity is an important moderator of the relation between depressive symptoms and the development of substance use during adolescence and highlight the need for interventions focusing on both impulsivity and depression in minimizing risk of substance use.

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Talking Together, Thinking Alone: Relations among Co-Rumination, Peer Relationships, and Rumination

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Julia W. Felton, David A. Cole, Mazneen Havewala, Gretchen Kurdziel, Victoria Brown

2018 Girls are more likely to engage in rumination, associated with the development of mental health problems, as well as report higher levels of friendship quality, hypothesized to protect against these disorders. The current study examined whether co-rumination may drive simultaneous increases in rumination and changes in friendship quality among adolescents. The project included 360 participants (43% boys), ages 9.8 to 15.8 years, and analyses revealed that co-rumination mediated the link between female sex and both rumination and negative friendship quality. There was also a bidirectional relation between co-rumination and positive friendship quality. These findings highlight several pathways by which co-rumination mediates the relation between sex and both maladaptive (i.e. rumination, negative friendship quality) and adaptive (i.e. positive friendship quality) outcomes.

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Distress Tolerance Interacts With Negative Life Events to Predict Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence

Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

Julia W. Felton, Anahi Collado, Mazneen Havewala, Julia M. Shadur, Laura MacPherson & Carl W. Lejuez

2018 Adolescence is a vulnerable period for the development of depressive disorders. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of distress tolerance in the onset and maintenance of depression during adulthood; however, little is known about its role in predicting depressive symptoms among adolescents. The current study examines the effect of distress tolerance and co-occurring negative life events on the developmental trajectory of depressive symptoms from middle to late adolescence. Our sample included 117 adolescent boys and girls (44.4% female, 54.6% White). Participants were, on average, 16 years old at baseline (SD = 0.90) and completed self-report inventories of negative life events and depressive symptoms; distress tolerance was assessed using a behavioral measure. Utilizing a latent growth curve approach, we found a significant interaction between distress tolerance and negative life events in predicting increases in depressive symptoms over time. Follow-up analyses suggest that negative life events were associated with greater increases in depressive symptoms over time for adolescents with lower levels of distress tolerance only. The study highlights the moderating role of distress intolerance in the relation between negative life events and depressive symptoms, and underscores the importance of targeting distress tolerance for treating depression among youth.

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The developmental trajectory of perceived stress mediates the relations between distress tolerance and internalizing symptoms among youth

Development and Psychopathology

Julia W. Felton, Anne N. Banducci, Julia M. Shadur, Ryan Stadnik, Laura MacPherson and Carl W. Lejuez

2017 The current study examines the relation between distress tolerance, perceived stress, and internalizing symptoms across adolescence. Participants included 331 youth, ages 10 to 14 at the first wave of the study, assessed annually over 5 years. A latent growth curve approach was used to test three research questions, including whether perceived stress would increase across adolescence, whether distress tolerance (as measured by a behavioral task) would predict changes in perceived stress, and whether changes in perceived stress would mediate the relation between distress tolerance and internalizing symptoms. Results suggest that, consistent with previous findings, rates of perceived stress do increase across adolescence. Further, findings indicate that distress intolerance at baseline predicted increases in perceived stress, which in turn drove increases in internalizing symptoms. These findings point to the critical role of distress tolerance in bringing about changes in depression and anxiety symptoms and suggest support for utilizing a negative reinforcement framework to understand the emergence of internalizing symptomology.

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