Girl’s and Women’s Health


In collaboration with faculty at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh, the NIMH-funded Pittsburgh Girls Study is designed to identify precursors to antisocial behavior and test hypotheses regarding the validity of diagnostic nosology. After enumerating households throughout the City of Pittsburgh, a sample of nearly 2,500 girls were enrolled in the PGS. The sex-specific developmental modeling of CD includes tests of a possible sex specific phenotype of CD in terms of age of onset, symptom manifestation, and developmental sequences of symptoms of disorders. The Pittsburgh Girl Study (PGS) is currently in its 18 year of data collection.  The PGS participants are currently in their mid 20s.


Understanding and Preventing Depression

A sub-samples of PGS participants have been followed longitudinally in a lab-based study examining preadolescent precursors to depression in girls beginning at age 9 years. In addition to providing evidence of predictive validity of early emerging depression symptom to clinical disorders, the project has been organized around exploring novel approaches to characterizing early vulnerability to depression in females. The translation of data generated from testing developmental models of depression in preadolescent girls is now being translated into a preventive intervention: Cities Project 3.  In collaboration with Dr. Kathy Grant at DePaul University, we utilized our respective data on predictors of depression to develop an innovative prevention program with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.  Acceptability and feasibility were tested via a small randomized, controlled trial.


Hormones and Mood

The fact that sex differences in depressive disorders emerge during adolescence indicates that ovarian hormones may be involved in emotion regulation and risk for depression.The maturation of and connection among brain regions involved in emotion regulation and higher cognitive functioning during adolescence is hypothesized to render these regions sensitive to changes in the hormonal milieu. There is evidence from experimental animal and human studies that estrogen modulates neuronal function in a variety of brain areas including in the amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, and prefrontal cortex. These regions also are involved in the processing of emotions. Thus, for many women ovarian hormones may be critical to the functioning of emotion systems. In this PGS substudy we are examining associations between estrogen levels and individual differences in neural and behavioral response to reward and positive emotional stimuli and self-reported positive mood during late adolescence.


Health Disparities for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Compared to heterosexual women, lesbian/gay and bisexual (LGB) women report higher rates of physical health problems. Current evidence, which is largely based on self-report, suggests that important health disparities exist in conditions with high rates of morbidity and mortality (e.g., diabetes, heart disease). To date, however, no study has tested differences in objective measures of health risks between LGB and heterosexual women in a representative sample of young adults. We aim to fill this gap by examining putative health disparities using rigorous objective biomarkers of health (i.e. cardiometabolic functioning and inflammation) in young adulthood in a representative, racially diverse sample of young women who are participating in the Pittsburgh Girls Study. We will link prospectively gathered data on discrimination stress and childhood adversity to determine the role of stress exposure in the association between sexual minority status and early adult health, and test whether health promotion during adolescence attenuates the association between discrimination stress and health risks among LGB women.


Current Studies

Completed Studies



New study will test objective signs of disease in sexual minority women

Research Faculty, Collaborators, and Consultants:  

Johnny Berona, Alida Bouris, Gene Brody, Esteban Cardemil, Eunice Chen, Tammy Chung, Erika Forbes, Judy Garber, Kathy Grant, Kevin Grimm, Amanda Guyer, Alison Hipwell, Rolf Loeber, Karen Matthews, Phoenix A. Matthews, Kathleen McTigue, Velma Murry, K. Luan Phan, W. LaVome Robinson, Stephanie Stepp, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Pastor Clinton E. Ward III,  Kristen Wroblewski, Miwa Yasui

Research Staff Past & Current: 

Amanda Allen, Dara Babinski, Debbie Boeldt, Jenna Bortner,  Jan Ciccozzi, Claire Coyne, Meaghan Delcourt, Jacqueline Doxie, Farahnaz Farahmand, Xin Feng, Dana Glenn, Angela Henneberger, Swathi Hemachandra, Amanda Hinze,  Amy Hoffman, Susan Klostermann, Gloria Konwick, Kelsey Magee, Rose McAloon, Ali Mcintyre, Arpita Mohanty, Sierra Nannini, Karley Oddis, Jennifer Perrott, Suzanne Pierce, Ted Pollari, Michal Rischall, Madelaine Romito, Brenna Sapotichne, Lexi, Sheffield, Fatima Sozzer, Donald Tyler, Hope Vaccaro, and Maria Wrozek