University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Faculty Affiliates

Kirby Deater-Deckard

Kirby Deater-Deckard, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist who studies child and adolescent cognitive and social-emotional development, and the role of parenting and peer environments on developmental outcomes. As part of this research, he and his colleagues study adoptive and foster families. He conducted the Northeast-Northwest Collaborative Adoption Projects--at the time, the largest psychological survey of parents of internationally adopted youth in the United States. More recently, his work on adoption and fostering is focusing on international variations in family structures and youth outcomes in lower- and middle-income countries. Dr. Deater-Deckard is the director of the Healthy Development Initiative, a program in Springfield, MA focused on studying the development of individual differences in human cognition, emotion, behavior, physiology, neural activity and genetics from childhood to adulthood.

Abbie Goldberg

Dr. Abbie E. Goldberg is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she also currently serves as the Director of Women’s & Gender Studies, and is the current holder of the Jan and Larry Landry Endowed Chair (2020-2023). She graduated summa cum laude from Wesleyan University with a BA in psychology, and received an MA in psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Goldberg is an internationally recognized scholar, speaker, and consultant, who is regularly interviewed by media outlets including the New York Times, The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, and New York Magazine. Her research examines diverse families, including LGBTQ-parent families and adoptive-parent families, as well as the experiences of marginalized groups such as trans youth. She is the author of over 140 peer-reviewed articles, over 25 book chapters, and four books: LGBTQ Family Building: A Guide for Prospective Parents (APA; 2022), Open Adoption & Diverse Families (Oxford; 2020), Gay Dads (NYU Press; 2012), Lesbian and Gay Parents and their Children (APA; 2010). She is the co-editor of four books: LGBTQ-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice (Springer; 2013, 2020), LGBTQ Divorce and Relationship Dissolution (Oxford, 2019), the SAGE Trans Encyclopedia (SAGE; 2021), and the SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies (SAGE; 2016). Her research has been cited in numerous amicus briefs filed in cases related to marriage equality, gay adoption, trans civil rights, and other topics (e.g., Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015; Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, 2021). She currently serves as a Deputy Editor of the Journal of Marriage and Family, and serves as an editorial board member on seven journals. She has received research funding from the American Psychological Association, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Williams Institute, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the National Institutes of Health, and the Spencer Foundation, among other sources. She teaches courses on diversity in contemporary families, research methods with diverse families, human sexuality, the psychology of sexual orientation, gender and crime, and ethics in clinical psychology.

Jennifer McDermott

Associate of Developmental Psychology, UMass Amherst

Dr. McDermott’s work examines how children’s early experiences influence cognition, socio-emotional processes and developmental trajectories. One avenue of research focuses on the impact of early psychosocial deprivation. In collaboration with the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we are finding that stressful early caregiving contexts can negatively influence a range of cognitive and affective skills including response monitoring, emotion recognition, and reward processing. However, placement into a high quality caregiving context, such as the foster care intervention in the BEIP, leads to improvements in some of these skills. Overall, the results from these studies have strong implications for the design of future intervention programs aimed at improving outcomes among children experiencing early adversity.

A second avenue of research involves studying the impact of early adversity on adopted and foster care children here in Massachusetts. A major step in starting this work began in spring 2013 with the launch of the Massachusetts Survey of Kinship, Foster, and Adoptive Parents (MSKFAP). This survey explores experiences of Massachusetts families with the aim of informing local providers as to what services are most valued and what services are most needed among kinship, foster, and adoptive families. Another goal of this survey is to lay the preliminary groundwork for the establishment of a regional database that will allow UMass Amherst scholars and affiliates to more efficiently undertake adoption and foster care research that uses a range of designs from neuroscience to family dynamic perspectives. Amherst.

For more information, see the website for Prof. McDermott's Learning Lab.

Ellen Pinderhughes

Professor, Eliot-Perarson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University                                                                  Senior Fellow, National Center for Adoption and Permanency


A developmental and clinical psychologist, Dr. Pinderhughes studies contextual influences on and cultural processes in parenting among families facing different challenges. These circumstances include adoption, living in high-risk, low resource communities, and raising children as a sexual minority parent. She has thirty-plus years of experience in the adoption field as a researcher and clinician, focusing first on readjustment processes among families adopting children from foster care. Her recent adoption-related studies have addressed adoption professionals’ practices and adoptive parents’ experiences concerning intercountry adoption (with the Donaldson Adoption Institute); and adoption socialization, cultural socialization and preparation-for-bias among adoptive parents.

Patricia Ramsey

Professor of Psychology and Education, Mount Holyoke College

For the first three decades of her career, Dr. Patricia Ramsey (Patty) studied young children’s peer relationships and their early attitude development. Along with her students, she conducted numerous studies on children’s friendships and their evolving ideas about race and social class. She has written numerous articles and chapters on this work and several books translating that research into classroom practice, including Making Friends in School: Promoting Peer Relationships in Early Childhood and Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World: Multicultural Education for Young Children, now in its fourth edition.

Patty has two sons adopted from Chile. As they approached adolescence and began to struggle with the identity and emotional issues related to adoption, she wanted to learn more about the experiences of transracial adoptees. She and her students have conducted a number of studies on different aspects of transracial adoptees’ identity formation and how it relates to their desire to search for birth families, feelings of belonging or alienation with respect to their adoptive and birth cultural communities, overall mental health, and experiences with discrimination. A number of these studies have been presented at the Rudd Conference, International Conference on Adoption Research, and the Society for Research on Identity Formation.

Almost all of the participants who volunteered for these studies were college students or recent graduates, and Patty realized that the samples did not include the experiences of many adoptees, particularly those who had struggled in school and had not gone to college. To capture a broader view of adoptees’ experiences, Patty and her colleague Doris Bergen from Miami University in Ohio surveyed and interviewed adoptive parents about their adolescent sons’ and daughters’ identities and their connections and experiences in school, peer groups, and adoptive and birth families. Many parents said that their children had done well in all aspects of their lives and did not seem to be troubled by their adoption status or by identity or affiliation issues. However, over half of the parents reported fairly severe ongoing problems related to mental and behavioral health, family relationships, and connections with peers, school, and community.

Because of these issues, the analyses of these data focused on adoptees’ successes and challenges in a variety of realms and how parents responded to particular issues, including their experiences with adoption agencies, educational systems, and private therapeutic services. This area of research has also included a study of parents’ pre-adoption decisions and another one on the relationship between birth and adoptive parents. Patty is planning to re-interview some of the parents in the original study to learn how their children have fared as they enter their 20s, and to use these new data along with the previous material to write a book for adoptive parents. 

Rebecca Woodland

Professor of Educational Leadership, UMass Amherst
Chair, Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration

Rebecca H. Woodland, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, is Chair of the Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Before joining the UMass faculty in 2006, she was a secondary school teacher in Massachusetts and Colorado, and director of secondary teacher education at the University of Vermont. She earned a Master’s in Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado and a Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies from the Colorado State University. Dr. Woodland’s scholarship focuses on the examination and enactment of job-embedded professional development for educators, and understanding how such systems affect and improve instructional quality and student learning. She teaches graduate-level courses in instructional design, curriculum development, and social network analysis research methods. Dr. Woodland serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement and Evaluation and the American Journal of Evaluation. Dr. Woodland is devoted to working in partnership with school leaders at local, regional, and global levels to design, implement and evaluate projects intended to increase equity and excellence in educational settings.