Grantee: Paula R. Pietromonaco

Paula R. Pietromonaco

Paula R. Pietromonaco, Ph.D.

Social Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dr. Pietromonaco's research focuses on how basic psychological processes in the context of people's closest relationships might impact emotional and physical health outcomes over time. She is widely recognized for her contributions to the study of close relationships and emotion. For example, groundbreaking work in her lab has demonstrated that young adults' expectations and beliefs about their romantic relationships, as well as those of their partners, predict their patterns of physiological stress reactivity and recovery.

Dr. Pietromonaco currently is conducting a three-wave longitudinal study of newly married couples that will specify how people's expectations and beliefs about close relationships (i.e., their attachment style) shape their biological stress responses (e.g., cortisol reactivity and recovery) and behavior during a stressful interaction with their spouse, and how these factors, in turn, increase or reduce risks for later depression and anxiety.

This work has considerable significance in the context of cancer because those diagnosed with cancer and their spouses are at higher risk for depression. Depression in turn predicts faster tumor growth and poorer adjustment over the course of cancer. Furthermore, disruptions in cortisol are related to depression and physical health consequences, such as impaired immune functioning, an increased risk of breast and colon cancers, and poorer survival among breast cancer victims. Knowledge from Dr. Pietromonaco's current basic research will be applied to develop more precise prevention and intervention efforts for couples at risk for cancer and couples coping with cancer.

My graduate mentors, Robert Zajonc and Hazel Markus, taught me how to effectively bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries to arrive at elegant solutions to psychological puzzles.”

Selected Grants