Suniya S. Luthar

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Suniya S. Luthar, Ph.D.

Suniya S. Luthar[1] is Foundation Professor of Psychology at the Arizona State University, and professor emerita at Teachers College-Columbia University. She had previously served on the faculty at Yale University's Department of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center.

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.[2] 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.[2] In January 2014, she joined Arizona State University's Psychology Department.


Luthar's research involves vulnerability and resilience[3] among various populations including youth in poverty and children in families affected by mental illness.[4][5][6] Her studies of adolescents in affluent communities[7][8] have revealed elevated problems in several areas, particularly substance use and emotional distress.[9][10][11][12] [13][14] This pattern of elevated problems has now been documented among upper-middle class students at both public and private schools and in different geographical regions of the United States.[15][16] In considering factors that promote resilience among highly pressured youth, her research has 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. 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.[16][17]

Luthar's recent research is focused on motherhood, with exploration of factors that best help mothers negotiate the challenges of this life-transforming role. 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. Being married per se was not associated with maternal well-being; satisfaction with marriages was, but links were found to be less compelling, overall, than were those for satisfaction with friendships.[18][19] These research-based insights have been harnessed within supportive group-based interventions[20] aimed at fostering the resilience of mothers in their everyday lives.

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.

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.[21] Early in Luthar's tenure as chair, she was approached by a former Teachers College faculty member as well as some students, all claiming Constantine had used their scholarly work product without attribution. Luthar brought these complaints to Darlyne Bailey, then dean at Teachers College.[21][22]

In October 2007, Constantine drew international attention when she reportedly discovered a noose hanging on the door of her TC office.[23] Students converged on the front steps of Teachers College steps and fervently denounced racism, as Constantine read a press release from a prepared statement.[24] An unidentified person named Luthar as a possible suspect to the media.[25][26]

In February 2008, findings of an 18-month probe by Teachers College's attorneys indicated that Madonna Constantine had in fact published the work of others without attribution.[27][28] Constantine was to have faced unspecified sanctions by the College.[29] Constantine's appointment was officially terminated in June 2008.[30]

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”.[31] Teachers College designated Luthar as senior advisor to the provost in 2011, and in 2014, conferred the status of professor emerita.[32]

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.[31]

Luthar has 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 in Jan 2017, was elected to be President Elect of APA's Division 7.


In addition to peer-reviewed journal articles,[2] 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. ^ Profile: Dr. S.S. Luthar,; accessed October 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Profile,
  3. ^ Luthar, S.S. (ed.; 2003). Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Luthar, S.S. (2006), "Resilience in development: A synthesis of research across five decades". In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (eds.), Developmental Psychopathology: Risk, disorder, and adaptation (2nd edition), pp. 739-95. New York: Wiley.
  6. ^ Interview with Suniya S. Luthar, Oslo Childhoods International Conference (2005), Oslo, Norway.
  7. ^ Lieber, R. (2015). "Growing up on easy street has its own dangers", New York Times, Jan 06, 2015.
  8. ^ American Psychological Association "Speaking of Psychology", October 2015. "The mental price of affluence" Podcast series, Episode 18.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Warner, J. (2009). The myth of lost innocence,, January 29, 2009.
  12. ^ Schwartz, B. (2007). "Why the best schools can't pick the best kids -- and vice versa",, March 18, 2007.
  13. ^ Study Finds Wealthier Teens More Troubled, Young, R. (2006). National Public Radio WBUR, September 14, 2006.
  14. ^ "Kids Really Aren't Overscheduled",, August 14, 2006.
  15. ^ Luthar, S.S., "The problem with rich kids", Psychology Today, Nov-Dec 2013, 62-69.
  16. ^ a b Luthar, S.S.; Barkin, S.H.; Crossman, E.J. (2013). "I can, therefore I must": Fragility in the upper-middle classes". Development and Psychopathology. 25 (4 0 2): 1529–1549. doi:10.1017/s0954579413000758. PMC 4215566. PMID 24342854.
  17. ^ Luthar, S. S.; Barkin, S.H. (2012). "Are affluent youth truly "at risk"? Vulnerability and resilience across three diverse samples". Development and Psychopathology. 24 (2): 429–449. doi:10.1017/s0954579412000089. PMC 4385271. PMID 22559123.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Luthar, SS; Ciciolla, L (2016). "What it feels like to be a mother: Variations by children's developmental stages". Dev Psychol. 52 (1): 143–54. doi:10.1037/dev0000062. PMC 4695277. PMID 26501727.
  20. ^ Mothering Mothers. "Research in Human Development"
  21. ^ a b Rayman, G. (2008) "Columbia's knotty noose problem", The Village Voice, July 2, 2008.
  22. ^ Rayman, G. (2008), "Columbia's knotty noose problem, Part 2", The Village Voice, July 9, 2008.
  23. ^ Gootman, E. (2007). "Noose case puts focus on a scholar of race", The New York Times; retrieved February 23, 2008.
  24. ^ Resmovits, J. (2007). "Students call for reform at Teachers College", Columbia Spectator, October 11, 2007; retrieved 2008-05-13.
  25. ^ "NYPD probes tapes in Columbia noose case", Associated Press via USA Today, October 12, 2007.
  26. ^ "Columbia's knotty noose problem", Rayman, G. (2008), The Village Voice, July 2, 2008.
  27. ^ Wileden, L. & Resmovits, J., TC Prof sanctioned for fraud", Columbia Daily Spectator, February 20, 2008; retrieved 2008-02-23.
  28. ^ Bartlett, T. (2008), "Investigation finds that Columbia U. Professor plagiarized repeatedly", The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 20, 2008; retrieved 2008-02-23.
  29. ^ Chan, S (2008). "Professor in noose case is cited for plagiarism", New York Times, CityRoom blog, February 20, 2008; accessed March 5, 2015.
  30. ^ Santoro, M. (2008). "Columbia Professor in Noose Case Is Fired on Plagiarism Charges", New York Times, June 24, 2008.
  31. ^ a b Profile,; accessed March 5, 2015.
  32. ^ S.S. Luthar named Professor Emerita,; accessed October 27, 2014.