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Riana Anderson - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Riana Anderson Riana Anderson

Assistant Professor Social Work Dept. of Children Youth and Families | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


RIANA ELYSE ANDERSON is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader.







RIANA ELYSE ANDERSON is an assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in the department of Children, Youth and Families. She is also a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader. She earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia, completed her predoctoral internship in clinical and community psychology at Yale University, and was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania until 2017.

Anderson investigates how protective familial mechanisms such as parenting and racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to poverty, discrimination and residential environment. She is particularly interested in how these factors predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial well-being when people are enrolled in family-based interventions. She is the developer and director of the EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) intervention and loves to translate her work for a variety of audiences, particularly those whom she serves in the community, via blogs, video and articles.

Education (2)

University of Virginia: PhD, Clinical Psychology 2015

University of Michigan: BA, Psychology and Political Science 2006

Areas of Expertise (3)

Program Development Research Psychology

Industry Expertise (4)

Childcare Health and Wellness Education/Learning Mental Health Care

Accomplishments (16)

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Citation for Excellence in Leadership and Innovation (professional)

University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education (2017)

Culture of Health Leaders Fellowship (professional)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2016)

Making a Difference in Healthcare Award (professional)

University of Michigan Black Alumni Association (2016)

Child Intervention, Prevention, & Services (CHIPS) Fellowship (professional)

National Institute of Mental Health (2016)

Sage Student Research Award (professional)

Association of Black Psychologists (2015)

Postdoctoral Award Recipient (professional)

Ford Foundation Fellowship Program (2015)

A. Toy Caldwell-Colbert Student Contribution Service Award (professional)

American Psychological Association Division 45 (2014)

Outstanding Graduate Student Award (professional)

University of Virginia, Office of Graduate Diversity (2014)

Outstanding Graduate Student Award (professional)

University of Virginia, Black Leadership Institute/NAACP (2014)

Robert J. Huskey Travel Fellowship (professional)

University of Virginia, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2013)

Graduate Service Award (professional)

University of Virginia, The Seven Society (2012)

Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship (professional)

Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) (2012)

LIFE Academy Fellowship (professional)

University of Virginia, Evolutionary and Ontogenetic Dynamics Course (2011)

Buffett Fellowship (professional)

University of Virginia, Center for Children, Families, and the Law (2011)

Diversity in Graduate Studies Fellowship (professional)

University of Virginia, Office of Graduate Student Diversity (2009)

Dean’s Office Fellowship (professional)

University of Virginia, Department of Psychology (2009)


Media Appearances (3)

How These Psychologists Are Prioritizing Mental Health Care For Black America

The Huffington Post  online


Psychologists Riana Anderson and Shawn Jones wanted to find an effective way to intertwine the two communities they knew best: psychology and black America. So they began brainstorming ways to do just that three years ago.

“We were wondering how to bring our community into psychology and psychology into the community,” Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania who serves as a therapist to Black families in Philadelphia, told The Huffington Post last week

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Penn Doctoral Students and Postdoc Appointed Health Policy Research Scholars

Penn News  online


Riana Elyse Anderson’s work examines the sociocultural and culturally specific risk and protective factors related to the psychological well-being of black families.

She will participate in leadership-development training and will collaborate with leaders from across the country in solving persistent challenges and in advancing a “Culture of Health,” which places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

Her grant will allow her to continue the family-based intervention she developed for black youth in Philadelphia called “Engaging, Managing and Bonding through Race,” or EMBRace. This intervention facilitates coping and communication practices for reducing racial stress and trauma, Anderson said.

“Racial stress and trauma are largely ignored within the clinical realm, so it is important that issues relevant to urban black youth and their families have a place within psychological practices,” Anderson said. “As a RWJF Culture of Health leader, I can push to change the social determinants of disparities and well-being in our communities.”

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Beyond Dope

BuzzFeed News  online


Riana Anderson, associate professor of social work at University of Souther California, told BuzzFeed News that drugs can be a means of escape for a rapper (or listener), for when one doesn’t engage in healthier options like therapy or benefit from the buffer of supportive friends and family. If trauma is met with phrases like “stop crying” or “man up,” people may learn to deal with their pain in other ways, like escapism.

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Articles & Publications (5)

And Still WE Rise: Parent-Child Relationships, Resilience, and School Readiness in Low-Income Urban Black Families. Journal of Family Psychology

Anderson RE


The Family Stress Model acknowledges forms of resilience in the face of hardship; however, few studies have emerged on the potentially positive role of familial relationships in the academic, psychological, and prosocial success of impoverished Black children. The current study evaluates how parent-child relationship conflict and financial stress are associated with children's school readiness (i.e., academic, psychosocial, and socioemotional indicators). Latent profile analyses, incorporating financial stress, general stress, and parent-child relationship variables were used to test whether varying family stress profiles differentially predicted children's school readiness in Black families with children entering kindergarten (N = 292). Findings revealed 4 latent classifications with profiles of low, moderate, moderate/high, and high/moderate stress and conflict variables, respectively. Whereas the low-profile was associated with the most desirable school readiness indicators overall, children in the high/moderate-profile were rated as significantly more psychosocially and socioemotionally prepared for school than their moderate/high-profile counterparts. Families with less conflictual parent-child relationships had more optimal school readiness relative to families with higher conflict and less financial strain. The findings of the current study have the potential to contribute to theories of poverty and parent-child relationships, as well as guide therapeutic services focused on family relationships through school- and community-related programs for impoverished urban Black youth and their families.

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Focusing on Family: Parent–Child Relationships and School Readiness among Economically Impoverished Black Children The Journal of Negro Education

Riana Elyse Anderson


Given the empirical links between familial characteristics and children's academic performance, this study examined associations between stress, relationship quality, and young children's school readiness (i.e. academic, psychosocial, and socioemotional characteristics) for economically impoverished Black families.

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Pathways to Pain Racial Discrimination and Relations Between Parental Functioning and Child Psychosocial Well-Being Journal of Black Psychology

Riana E. Anderson, Saida B. Hussain, Melvin N. Wilson, Daniel S. Shaw, Thomas J. Dishion, Joanna Lee Williams


The relationship between racial discrimination, parental functioning, and child adjustment is not well understood. The goal of the present study was to assess parental reports of discrimination in relation to depression and parenting practices, as well as on subsequent child internalizing and externalizing problems in low-income Black families. Data include a subsample of the Early Steps project, a multisite longitudinal study of financial and behaviorally at-risk families. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze our hypothesized model. Excellent model fit was established after removing externalizing problems from the model. As predicted, indirect associations were found from discrimination to parental depression, parenting, and child internalizing problems; and direct associations were found from discrimination to child internalizing problems. The results are consistent with findings suggesting that discrimination is negatively associated with adult well-being; moreover, contribute to the sparse literature on the effects of discrimination beyond the direct recipient. Finally, that parent discrimination was directly associated with child emotional problems suggests the continued need to address and treat discriminatory practices more generally.

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Ethnic Identity and Positive Youth Development in Adolescent Males: A Culturally Integrated Approach Applied Developmental Science

Joanna L. Williams, Riana E. Anderson, Amir G. Francois, Saida Hussain & Patrick H. Tolan


The present study examined the relation between ethnic identity and indicators of positive youth development (PYD) in a sample of low-income, urban Black and Latino male youth (N = 254; 66% Black, mean age = 14). Using structural equation modeling, a two-factor model of PYD and ethnic identity was found to provide the best fit to the data with a significant, positive relation between the two factors. At age 14, PYD was positively related to concurrent involvement in prosocial activities, and negatively related to criminal and externalizing behaviors; ethnic identity was related to lower levels of internalizing symptoms. The PYD factor was also related to higher prosocial activity involvement and lower criminal offending at age 15. The findings suggest that male Black and Latino teens living in urban poverty have intrapersonal competencies that promote healthy outcomes and that integration of culturally-relevant factors can enhance our understanding of positive youth development.

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Integrating Racial and Ethnic Identity Research Into Developmental Understanding of Adolescents Child Development Perspectives; Special Section on Positive Development in Minority Children

Joanna Lee Williams, Patrick H. Tolan, Myles I. Durkee, Amir G. Francois, Riana E. Anderson


This article calls for a fuller integration of racial and ethnic identity (REI) as a fundamental topic of developmental research. Reviewing common, youth-focused models of REI, it suggests the need for understanding the underlying assumptions of each when undertaking research in this domain. It then proposes that youth development research will be enhanced by further testing of the relation of REI to developmental progress in other dimensions of youth's identity and by developmentally conceptualized testing that incorporates social-ecological perspectives. Relevant findings from studies of adolescents are used throughout to support these contentions. The article argues that new directions can promote the integration of REI research into the mainstream and inform the supports that bolster resilience for youth.

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