Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab

Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab
Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab

Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab

The Attachment and Health Disparities Lab aims to understand the psychosocial pathways that underlie attachment, minority stress, and health outcomes among young sexual and/or racial/ethnic minority populations.

About the Lab

The Attachment and Health Disparities Lab seeks to understand health disparities observed among young sexual and racial/ethnic minorities through the lens of Dr. Cook’s integrated theory of adult attachment and minority stress. Though current theoretical paradigms of attachment indicate how individuals respond to stress, these theories do not adequately account for the unique impact of social stressors on individual health and well-being, which may be of critical importance in understanding the drivers of health in marginalized populations. The negative social valuation of a marginalized identity—such as a sexual minority identity or a racial minority identity—causes stress in persons with a marginalized social status beyond the level of stress that people generally experience; this excess stress has been named minority stress. However, many theories of minority stress are limited and inadequately delineate the associations between attachment orientation, stress, and subsequent health outcomes.  Making these theoretical and empirical linkages is important for understanding how to address health disparities among disadvantaged individuals who are at heightened risk for experiencing minority stress compared to other individuals (e.g., African-American youth, sexual minority men). Therefore, one of the main objectives of Dr. Cook’s research is to understand the pathways and mechanisms located particularly at the intersection of marginalized identities that link attachment, minority stress, and health among disadvantaged individuals.

Overview of Projects

Stress and Cardiovascular Health among Young Sexual Minority Men
This study aims to examine the association between attachment, prolonged exposure to stress in the form of minority stressors (i.e., sexual orientation and/or racial/ethnic-related stigma and discrimination), and pre-clinical cardiovascular disease among a cohort of young sexual minority men. Specifically, we seek to examine whether social support buffers the association between negative effects of minority stress and pre-clinical cardiovascular disease, as measured by carotid intima media thickness (CIMT). The goal of this study is to inform social support interventions that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among young sexual minority men.

Microaggressions and Health Behaviors of Young Black Sexual Minority Men
This study seeks to examine the association between perceived exposure to sexual orientation and race-related microaggressions and biological stress functioning among young Black sexual minority men using a five-day daily diary approach. The goal of this study is to contribute to the creation of comprehensive, culturally-sensitive public health interventions and health policies that impact young Black sexual minority men.

Stress and Inflammation among Young Sexual Minority Men
This study aims to examine how prolonged exposure to stress, substance use, and social support may lead to increased inflammation (as a distal measure of physiological stress) among young sexual minority men. Specifically, this study seeks to delineate how features of close relationships may protect against the cumulative effects of stress throughout the lifecourse on biological markers of inflammation (e.g., C-reactive protein). The goal of this study is to inform the development of social support interventions that reduce stress and associated poor physical health outcomes among young sexual minority men.            

Daily Stressful Experiences and Substance Use among Young Sexual Minority Men
This study utilizes daily diary methods to examine how adult attachment, social support, and experiences with daily racial/ethnic- and/or sexual orientation-related discrimination is associated with substance use and diurnal cortisol among young sexual minority men. The goal of this study is to inform culturally relevant substance use prevention programs for young sexual minority men.

Ethics and Broad Consent
This study utilizes both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to explore ethical concerns concerning the collection of biological specimens among a cohort of young sexual minority men. Overall, this study provides an opportunity to increase our understanding of ethical considerations surrounding the collection of blood samples for research from young sexual minority men particularly in the context of HIV.

Our Team

Dr. Stephanie H. Cook, Assistant Professor
Dr. Stephanie Cook aims to understand the pathways and mechanisms linking attachment, minority stress, and health in vulnerable populations. She examines how the inter- and intra- personal features of close relationships influence the health of racial/ethnic and sexual minorities. 

Through her development of an integrated theory of adult attachment (i.e., the development, or lack, of strong socio-emotional bonds) and minority stress (i.e., social stress experienced by individuals in minority social groups), she seeks to better understand the poor health and HIV prevention needs of disadvantaged youth transitioning into adulthood. She then utilizes this theoretical framework of attachment and minority stress to inform effective prevention programs for racial/ethnic and sexual minority youth.

Erica P. Wood, Research Scientist
Erica received her MPH with a concentration in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University in 2017. Erica started working with the Attachment and Health Disparities Lab in March of 2017 and currently helps Dr. Cook oversee the her active research projects. Her research interests include sexual and reproductive health disparities and LGBT health.

Farid Bagheri Ardestani, Research Assistant 
Farid is a first year MPH student in NYU’s College of Global Public Health with a concentration in Global Health. Farid received his undergraduate degree in Human Biology with minor focuses on Cognitive Science and Economics from the University of California, San Diego. He is mainly interested in Middle Eastern healthcare and health disparities in the region due to political instability and other social stressors. He is also interested in international health regulation and preventative measures against coercive foreign policy tools, such as sanctions, to ensure every person’s right to medicine and health services is considered and met. 

Liz Calderon, Research Assistant
Liz is an MPH graduate student at NYU’s College of Global Public Health in the Social and Behavioral Sciences track. Her broad research interests focus on stigmatization, suicide, suicide post-intervention, and mental health care access among minority populations (specifically Latino populations). Liz is very interested to learn how acculturation, family dynamics, and stigmatization among minority populations affect mental health, mental health care access, and how this is associated with stress, depression, and other mental health outcomes. She is also interested in post-intervention programs that can help reduce the re-occurrences of suicide attempts in the ER among adolescent minority populations. She believes that effective post-intervention programs and follow-up care can help prevent future suicide attempts among adolescents and can improve family dynamics. 

Amanda Llanzea, Research Assistant
Amanda is a MPH student at NYU’s College of Global Public Health concentrating in Epidemiology and will be graduating in May 2019. She is interested in studying population health, infectious diseases and emergency preparedness, health disparities, and social determinants of health. Amanda thinks it is interesting to investigate how the neighborhood you live in influences your quality of life. Lastly, Amanda believes that public health research and practice is a very important field that results in a global influence, while still making an impact for individuals. 

Shelly Qi, Research Assistant
Shelly is a second year MPH student in NYU’s College of Global Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics. She received her undergraduate degree at University of Toronto in Biochemistry. Shelly is interested in the application of computer science and data into research for providing efficient, concise, and solid evidence towards issues in public health.

Chris Yoon, Research Assistant
Chris is a first year MPH student at NYU’s College of Global Public Health in the Biostatistics concentration. He is interested in investigating health disparities within different minority populations below the poverty line.
He is committed to analyzing and translating data through research, in order to contribute solutions for the many health issues arising in the general populace. He believes that by working with both diligence and alacrity, he will truly be able to make a difference.

Get Involved

Undergraduate and Graduate students: Please send an email to Erica Wood (ew71@nyu.edu). Please include your CV and a description of your interests.