Riana Elyse Anderson, Ph.D., L.P.C.

R.anderson Headshot 2020


Society for Research in Child Development


Riana Elyse Anderson, Ph.D., L.P.C.

University of Michigan School of Public Health

"Researcher Documents Benefits of Targeted Conversation in Helping Parents and Children Impacted by Discrimination"

Riana Elyse Anderson is an emerging leader in the understanding of how racial discrimination affects the development of children and youth, and what approaches can be taken to buffer the negative effects of discrimination.

Anderson’s work is unusual in that it focuses on multiple developmental periods. She has publications focusing on development in light of the experience of racial discrimination from early childhood through the transition to adulthood. The developmental outcomes she considers in her work vary accordingly, ranging from consideration early school readiness to youth mental and behavioral health.

Not only are there separate publications focusing on different developmental periods, but Dr. Anderson and colleagues have provided a clear conceptual framework for understanding how and why discrimination affects children’s development in different ways at different periods. For example, this conceptual framework provides evidence that the role of caregiver and peer influences in both experiencing and interpreting racial discrimination changes across developmental periods; that children’s participation in different organizational settings and the potential for exposure to discrimination in each setting (such as early care and education, school, youth organizations, and employment) change with age; and children’s capacity to grasp and interpret experiences of racial discrimination also changes as their cognitive development grows.

Anderson’s work encompasses the development of important new measures, with rigorous psychometric testing. For example, the development of a measure of racial socialization competency is in itself an important contribution to behavioral science. Anderson’s work includes not only careful and nuanced examination of the mechanisms by which the direct personal experience of racial discrimination comes to affect children, but also indirect influences such as the pathways by which parents’ experiences of discrimination come to affect children and youth.

Anderson’s work with colleagues goes beyond understanding how racial discrimination affects children and youth to the development and testing of approaches for addressing and buffering the impacts of such discrimination. Of importance, this work goes beyond consideration of the history of child/youth exposure and how caregiving adults have responded in the past to consideration of approaches for helping children and youth interpret and respond to instances of racial discrimination as they occur, with a particular focus on efficacy and preparation of parents for communication when such instances occur.

Anderson is frequently invited as a guest speaker to convey research findings to a range of target audiences. Just in 2020, these audiences have included the National Urban League, the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the Metro Detroit Association of Black Psychologists, The Allliance for Health Policy, the Detroit City Council, the American Psychological Association’s Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice, and meetings convened by Michigan State Senator Stephanie Chan.

Anderson is also a frequent writer for commissioned blogs. These include blogs prepared for Psychology Today, NBC Newsroom, Bounceback Parenting, and the America Psychological Association. Her blogs have addressed such issues as How to Talk to Children about Race Today, and Resources to Encourage Enriching Racial Dialogue Early for Black History Month.