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Suniya S. Luthar

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Suniya S. Luthar, Ph.D.

Suniya S. Luthar was Founder and executive director of AC Groups nonprofit, Professor Emerita at Teachers College-Columbia University, and Co-founder Emerita at Authentic Connections Co. She had previously served on the faculty at Yale University's Department of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center and as Foundation Professor of Psychology at the Arizona State University.

Education and early career[edit]

Luthar earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in child development, in 1978 and 1980 respectively, from the Lady Irwin College of Delhi University, India. In 1990, she received a PhD in clinical and developmental psychology from Yale University. She completed a clinical internship at the Yale Child Study Center and then was on the faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Child Study Center, first as an associate research scientist (1990–92), then as assistant professor (1992–97). Luthar joined Teachers College, Columbia University in 1997 as an associate professor.[1] She received tenure in 1999 and was promoted to full professor in 2001. In 2010, she was named professor adjunct at the Yale Child Study Center. The following year, she was appointed senior advisor to the provost at Teachers College, Columbia University.[1] Between January 2014 and Dec 2019, she was Foundation Professor at Arizona State University's Psychology Department.


Luthar's research involves vulnerability and resilience[2] among various populations including youth in poverty and children in families affected by mental illness.[3][4][5] Her studies of adolescents in high achieving schools (HASs), usually in relatively affluent communities, have revealed elevated problems in several areas, particularly substance use and emotional distress.[6][7] [8][9][10][11] This pattern of elevated problems has now been documented among students at both public and private schools and in different geographical regions of the United States. [12] [13]

Luthar's programmatic work on HAS youth has now brought national recognition, in major policy reports, that this group is among those at heightened risk for adjustment difficulties. In a 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on Adolescent Wellness, environments listed as compromising youth well-being included exposure to poverty, trauma, and discrimination as well as excessive pressures to achieve, usually seen in affluent communities. In a 2019 report by the National Academies of Science, Education, and Medicine, youth in HASs were again listed among those especially vulnerable along with children in deep poverty, those in the foster care system, and those with incarcerated parents.

In considering factors that promote resilience among highly pressured youth, Luthar's research pointed to the protective effects of close, supportive relationships with parents (especially mothers who are generally primary caregivers), and appropriate and consistent limit-setting by parents, particularly with regard to misuse of drugs and alcohol.[14][15][16] Also critical are perceptions of balanced values among adults in their homes, schools, and communities, such that they are perceived as valuing children's personal decency and integrity at least as much as they value the splendor of their accomplishments.[17] In their most recent works, Luthar and collaborators have presented conceptual models encompassing multiple risk and protective factors affecting HAS youth, including influences related to families and peer groups, aspects of school climate, as well as societal factors such as the middle class squeeze and extreme competitiveness associated with college admissions. [12] [18]

Luthar's recent research has also focused on motherhood, with exploration of factors that best help mothers negotiate the challenges of this life-transforming role. [19] [20] [21] Findings have highlighted the importance of four factors in particular: mothers feeling unconditionally loved themselves (as in the sentiment, "I feel seen and loved for the person I am, at my core"); feeling comforted when they are distressed; feeling authentic in close relationships (being their true selves, without having to pretend or conceal); and satisfaction with their friendships.[22] These research-based insights have been harnessed within supportive group-based interventions [23] [24] aimed at fostering the resilience of mothers in their everyday lives. Luthar's Authentic Connections Groups intervention has been recognized, in the National Academies' 2019 report, as a promising approach to foster resilience among at-risk children and families.

Luthar's work has been widely cited in the national and international press, including outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, NPR, and the Atlantic. Luthar's research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health as well as the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Rodel Foundation. Luthar regularly presents cutting-edge research findings on high achieving schools and families—and their implications for beneficial interventions—in schools, communities, and conferences, nationally and internationally.

Department chair, Teachers College[edit]

In 2005, Luthar was elected by faculty colleagues to be chair of the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, taking over for Professor Madonna Constantine, who was to go on sabbatical. In April 2009, the Asian Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development honored Luthar with an award citing her “mentorship, courage, and integrity”.[25] Teachers College designated Luthar as senior advisor to the provost in 2011, and in 2014, conferred the status of professor emerita.[26]

Honors and awards[edit]

Early scientific contributions were recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) in the form of a Dissertation Award in 1990 (Division 37; Child, Youth, & Family Services), and the Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award in 1998 (Division 7; Developmental Psychology). In 2006, Luthar was named Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and named Fellow of the American Association for Psychological Science in recognition of her distinguished contributions to science. In September, 2015, she was named Fellow of the American Psychological Association's Divisions 7 and 37 (Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice). Other awards include a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1993), an American Mensa Education and Research Foundation Award for Excellence in Research on Intelligence (1995), and an award for Integrity and Mentorship from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)'s Asian Caucus in 2009.[25] In 2020, Luthar received the Society for Research on Adolescents' John P. Hill Memorial Award, recognizing the significant contributions of her programmatic research to understanding of development during the second decade of the lifespan.

Luthar served as chair of a grant peer review committee at the National Institutes of Health's Center for Scientific Review (2002–04), was elected member of the Governing Council of SRCD (2006–09), and chair of SRCD's Asian Caucus (2008–09). She served on the APA's Committee on Socioeconomic Status (2007–08), was elected to APA's Council of Representatives (Division 7) Developmental Psychology; 2013-16, and was elected to be President of APA's Division 7 (2019). Luthar was also among the experts of experts contributing to the National Academies' 2019 report, Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice, and Policy to Advance Health Equity.


In addition to peer-reviewed journal articles,[1] Luthar's writing includes Children in poverty: Risk and protective forces in adjustment, Developmental psychopathology: Perspectives on adjustment, risk, and disorder, and Resilience and vulnerability in childhood: Adaptation in the context of adversities. She served as Associate Editor of the peer-reviewed journals Developmental Psychology (2004–07) and Development and Psychopathology (1999–present).


  1. ^ a b c Profile, tc.columbia.edu
  2. ^ Luthar, S.S. (ed.; 2003). Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Luthar, S.S.; Brown, P.J. (2007). "Maximizing resilience through diverse levels of inquiry: Prevailing paradigms, possibilities, and priorities for the future". Development and Psychopathology. 19 (3): 931–55. doi:10.1017/s0954579407000454. PMC 2190297. PMID 17705909.
  4. ^ Luthar, S. S., Crossman, E. J., & Small, P. J. (2015). Resilience and adversity. In R.M. Lerner and M. E. Lamb (Eds.). Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (7th Edition, Vol. III, pp. 247-286). New York: Wiley.
  5. ^ Luthar, S.S., & Eisenberg, N. (2017). Resilient adaptation among at-risk children: Harnessing science toward maximizing salutary environments. Child Development, 88, 337–349. doi:10.1111/cdev.1273m
  6. ^ Luthar, S.S.; Latendresse, S.J. (2005). "Children of the affluent: Challenges to well-being". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 14 (1): 49–53. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00333.x. PMC 1948879. PMID 17710193.
  7. ^ Luthar, S.S. (2003). "The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth". Child Development. 74 (6): 1581–93. doi:10.1046/j.1467-8624.2003.00625.x. PMC 1950124. PMID 14669883.
  8. ^ Study Finds Wealthier Teens More Troubled, Young, R. (2006). National Public Radio WBUR, September 14, 2006.
  9. ^ "Kids Really Aren't Overscheduled", cbsnews.com, August 14, 2006.
  10. ^ Lieber, R. (2015). "Growing up on easy street has its own dangers", New York Times, Jan 06, 2015.
  11. ^ American Psychological Association "Speaking of Psychology", October 2015. "The mental price of affluence" Podcast series, Episode 18.
  12. ^ a b Luthar, S.S.; Kumar, N.L.; Zillmer, N. (2019). "High Achieving Schools connote significant risks for adolescents: Problems documented, processes implicated, and directions for interventions". American Psychologist. doi:10.1037/amp0000556
  13. ^ Luthar, S.S., & Kumar, N.L. (2018). Youth in high-achieving schools: Challenges to mental health and directions for evidence-based interventions. In A. W. Leschied, D. H. Saklofske, and G. L. Flett, Handbook of School-Based Mental Health Promotion: An Evidence-Informed Framework (pp. 441-458). New York: Springer.
  14. ^ Luthar, S.S., "The problem with rich kids", Psychology Today, Nov-Dec 2013, 62-69.
  15. ^ Luthar, S. S., Barkin, S. H., & Crossman, E. J. (2013). “I can, therefore I must”: Fragility in the upper-middle classes. Development and Psychopathology, 25th Anniversary Special Issue, 25, 1529-1549. PMCID: PMC4215566
  16. ^ Luthar, S. S., Small, P.J., Ciciolla, L. (2018). Adolescents from upper middle class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early adulthood. Development and Psychopathology, 30, 311-335. doi.org/10.1017/S0954579417000645.
  17. ^ Ciciolla, L., Curlee, A., Karageorge, J., & Luthar, S. S. (2016). When mothers and fathers are seen as disproportionately valuing achievements: Implications for adjustment among upper middle class youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Online first, OI: 10.1007/s10964-016-0596-x
  18. ^ Luthar, S.S., & Kumar, N.L. (2018). Youth in high-achieving schools: Challenges to mental health and directions for evidence-based interventions. In A. W. Leschied, D. H. Saklofske, and G. L. Flett, Handbook of School-Based Mental Health Promotion: An Evidence-Informed Framework (pp. 441-458). New York: Springer.
  19. ^ Luthar, S.S., & Ciciolla, L. (2015). What it feels like to be a mother: Variations by children’s developmental stages. Developmental Psychology, 52, 143-154. http://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/dev0000062.
  20. ^ Ciciolla, L., Curlee, A., & Luthar, S. S. (2017). What women want: Employment preference and adjustment among mothers. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 27, 282-290.: DOI 10.1007/s10834-017-9534-7.
  21. ^ Ciciolla, L. & Luthar, S. S. (2019). Invisible household labor and ramifications for adjustment: Mothers as captains of households. Sex Roles. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-1001-x.
  22. ^ Luthar, SS; Ciciolla, L (2015). "Who mothers mommy? Factors that contribute to mothers' well-being". Dev Psychol. 51 (12): 1812–23. doi:10.1037/dev0000051. PMC 4697864. PMID 26501725.
  23. ^ Luthar, S.S., Curlee, A., Tye, S.J., Engelman, J.C., &. Stonnington, C. M. (2017). Fostering resilience among mothers under stress: “Authentic Connections Groups” for medical professionals. Women’s Health Issues, 27, 382-390. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.whi.2017.02.007
  24. ^ Luthar, S. S, Kumar, N. L., & Benoit R. (2019). Toward fostering resilience on large scale: Connecting communities of caregivers. Development and Psychopathology, 31, 1813-1825. DOI: 10.1017/S0954579419001251
  25. ^ a b Profile, srcdasiancaucus.org; accessed March 5, 2015.
  26. ^ S.S. Luthar named Professor Emerita, tc.columbia.edu; accessed October 27, 2014.

External links[edit]

Official website