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Tyan Parker Dominguez - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Tyan Parker Dominguez Tyan Parker Dominguez

Clinical Professor of Social Work | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Health care systems expert, focusing on persistent racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality, pre-term delivery, and low birthweight



Tyan Parker Dominguez Publication




Our Commitment to Diversity MCH  Pullout  The Impact of Stress on Black Infant Mortality Department of Children, Youth and Families



Tyan Parker Dominguez joined the USC faculty in 2001 after working with children, families and adults in inpatient and outpatient medical settings, as well as community mental health clinics.

Her research focuses on persistent racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality, pre-term delivery and low birthweight. Specific projects emphasize the psychosocial and biological impact of stress on pregnancy, as well as the role that racism-related stressors might play in perpetuating health disparities. She has presented her research at symposia hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine, Society for Maternal/Fetal Medicine, American Public Health Association, Society for Behavioral Medicine and the American Psychosomatic Society.

Parker Dominguez has served on the Centers for Disease Control’s Racism and Health Workgroup and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality. She also appears in the award-winning PBS documentary series "Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick," which was honored with the 2009 National Academies of Health Award for Outstanding Scientific TV/Radio Programming.

Parker Dominguez chairs the board of directors of the California Black Women’s Health Project, a statewide health advocacy organization, co-chairs the Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Committee of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Maternal and Child Health section, and was recently elected to APHA’s Governing Council. In 2007, she was named the Maternal and Child Health Section’s Young Professional of the Year.

Co-Coordinator of the Human Behavior in the Social Environment sequence and the Families and Children concentration for the Virtual Academic Center, Parker Dominguez serves as the faculty sponsor of the Christian Caucus and teaches human behavior theory and life span development, program planning and program evaluation.

Education (3)

University of California: PhD, Public Policy and Social Research 2003

University of California at Berkeley, School of Public Health: MPH, Maternal and Child Health 1996

University of California at Berkeley, School of Social Welfare: MSW, Health Practice with Families, Individuals, and Groups 1995

Areas of Expertise (2)

Inpatient and outpatient medical settings

Community mental health clinics

Industry Expertise (9)

Health Care - Services

Health Care - Facilities

Program Development

Writing and Editing



Public Policy

Health and Wellness

Health Care - Providers

Accomplishments (2)

Hutton Patterson Award for Distinguished Teaching and Service (professional)

2015 Awarded by the USC School of Social Work

Federal Appointee, Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality (professional)

2012 Awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012)


Research Articles & Publications (3)

The role of socioeconomic factors in black-white disparities in preterm birth

American Journal of Public Health

2015 Objectives. We investigated the role of socioeconomic factors in Black–White disparities in preterm birth (PTB). Methods. We used the population-based California Maternal and Infant Health Assessment survey and birth certificate data on 10 400 US-born Black and White California residents who gave birth during 2003 to 2010 to examine rates and relative likelihoods of PTB among Black versus White women, with adjustment for multiple socioeconomic factors and covariables. Results. Greater socioeconomic advantage was generally associated with lower PTB rates among White but not Black women. There were no significant Black–White disparities within the most socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroups; Black–White disparities were seen only within more advantaged subgroups. Conclusions. Socioeconomic factors play an important but complex role in PTB disparities. The absence of Black–White disparities in PTB within certain socioeconomic subgroups, alongside substantial disparities within others, suggests that social factors moderate the disparity. Further research should explore social factors suggested by the literature—including life course socioeconomic experiences and racism-related stress, and the biological pathways through which they operate—as potential contributors to PTB among Black and White women with different levels of social advantage.

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Lifetime racism and blood pressure changes during pregnancy: Implications for fetal growth

Health Psychology

2013 Objective: Research suggests that exposure to racism partially explains why African American women are 2 to 3 times more likely to deliver low birth weight and preterm infants. However, the physiological pathways by which racism exerts these effects are unclear. This study examined how lifetime exposure to racism, in combination with maternal blood pressure changes during pregnancy, was associated with fetal growth. Methods: African American pregnant women (n = 39) reported exposure to childhood and adulthood racism in several life domains (e.g., at school, at work), which were experienced directly or indirectly, meaning vicariously experienced when someone close to them was treated unfairly. A research nurse measured maternal blood pressure at 18 to 20 and 30 to 32 weeks gestation. Standardized questionnaires and trained interviewers assessed maternal demographics. Neonatal length of gestation and birth weight data were collected from medical charts. Results: Childhood racism interacted with diastolic blood pressure to predict birth weight. Specifically, women with two or more domains of indirect exposure to racism in childhood and increases in diastolic blood pressure between 18 and 32 weeks had lower gestational age adjusted birth weight than the other women. A similar pattern was found for direct exposure to racism in childhood. Conclusions: Increases in diastolic blood pressure between the second and third trimesters predicted lower birth weight, but only when racism exposure in childhood (direct or indirect) was relatively high. Understanding pregnant African American women’s lifetime direct and indirect experiences with racism in combination with prenatal blood pressure may improve identification of highest risk subgroups within this population. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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Maternal familism predicts birthweight and asthma symptoms three years later

Social Science & Medicine

2013 There are marked ethnic and socioeconomic differences in birthweight and childhood asthma, conditions which may be linked causally or via a third variable. Cultural resources are often credited with diminished health disparities in infancy and childhood among subsets of poor and minority populations; yet direct empirical tests of this hypothesis are needed. In this study, ethnicity, lifespan family socioeconomic position (FSEP), and the cultural resource of familism were compared as predictors of birthweight and expression of asthma symptoms (AE) by age three. Familism and lifespan FSEP were assessed in 4633 socioeconomically disadvantaged African Americans, White Americans, and Latinas upon giving birth, as was offspring birthweight. AE was assessed in offspring through age three. Asthma diagnosis by age three was likelier in very low (≤1500 g) and low (≤2500 g) birthweight infants compared to infants born at average (2501–3999 g) or larger (≥4000 g) birthweights. Asthma risk associated with lower birthweight was higher for Latinos (17–35%) and African Americans (19–23%) than for White Americans (13–14%). As predicted, maternal familism was higher among White Americans than among African Americans and Latinas, an effect that was largely driven by ethnic disparities in lifespan FSEP. Familism predicted continuous birthweight (p = .003) and AE (p = .001) by age three independently of ethnicity and lifespan FSEP accounting for appropriate control variables, including maternal biomedical risk, maternal acculturation, parental marital status, and infant sex. There was a 71-g gain in birthweight for every one-unit increase in familism. The protective effect of familism on AE by age three was strongest for participants of lower lifespan FSEP. Maternal familism is one cultural resource that may reduce reproductive and intergenerational health disparities in both U.S.- and foreign-born Americans. Consistent with our previous work, familism and other nonmaterial resources covary with material resources. Nevertheless, culture is distinguishable from lifespan FSEP and ethnicity, and has health implications beyond associations to ethnicity, lifespan FSEP, and related biomedical and sociodemographic factors.

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