Dr. Duane E. Thomas

(Health Fellows & Scholars)
Coping Power in the City Project
Towson, Maryland
United States

Focus Areas

Mental Health / Psychology
Racial Equity & Healing
African-American / Black Communities
Social Justice
Gender-Based Violence


Dr. Thomas serves as one of the core faculty in the Applied Psychology and Human Development Division. He has a diverse professional background that includes providing a range of psychological services for children, youth, and families from diverse backgrounds and participating in large-scale community-based violence prevention research. Dr. Thomas joined Penn GSE in the fall of 2005. His courses address topics such as professional development and sociocultural factors in the provision of applied psychology. Although trained as a general scientist-practitioner, Dr. Thomas has been developing specialization in three key areas: youth violence prevention research, partnership-based methodologies, and the identification of risk and protective factors for urban African-American children and youth. His interest in these areas was engendered, in part, through his doctoral training at Penn State University, where he worked as a research assistant for the Children, Youth and Families Consortium and the Fast Track Program, a multi-site prevention program for the prevention of conduct disorders. His training has also included collaborating with key investigators at the Hopkins Center for Early Intervention and Prevention and the Hopkins-Morgan Center for Health Disparities on community-based risk-prevention while completing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). As part of this training experience, Dr. Thomas partnered with the aforementioned centers, various faculty from the departments of Health Policy & Management and Mental Health at JHSPH, local community agencies, and not-for-profit community-based organizations to develop preventive interventions for urban children and youth at risk for academic failure, delinquency, and serious antisocial behavior. He is currently collaborating with researchers from various schools at Penn, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and several other institutions in the Philadelphia area to forge academic-community partnerships to reduce the incidence of interpersonal violence. Dr. Thomas is interested in the identification of early risk factors for the development of conduct problems in children, as well as the development of prevention efforts to preempt this onset. Specifically, his research has focused on elucidating school contextual determinants for the early development of serious aggressive behavior problems for children. Supported by NIMH funding and a research grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, a recent study in this area investigated the influence of different temporal patterns of exposure to high-aggression classrooms on the behavioral trajectory of children during their first three years in elementary school. His research has also investigated sociocultural protective factors contributing to resiliency in urban African-American youth exposed to high levels of community violence and related environmental risks. His recent work has involved spearheading the development of a family-strengthening initiative for high-risk families using principles of community-based participatory research. Funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the project involves partnering with a community-based organization in East Baltimore to promote resilience in families challenged by poverty and community violence through culturally sensitive and contextually-relevant ameliorative efforts targeting both youth and their caretakers.