Chelsea Williams, Ph.D.

Chelsea Williams in front of greenery

Assistant Professor
Developmental Psychology
808 W Franklin, rm 211
(804) 828-1620

Formerly Chelsea L. Derlan
Assistant Professor (tenure-track)
Developmental Psychology  
Ph.D. (2016), Arizona State University


Empower Youth Research Lab

Research Interests

My research focuses on understanding how risk and resilience factors contribute to psychological, educational, and health outcomes/disparities among Latinx, African American, and Multiracial youth, emerging adults, and families. Specifically, I am interested in ethnic-racial identity, ethnic-racial socialization, discrimination/colorism, and cultural experiences across the lifespan. I am especially passionate about extending our understanding of these processes in adolescence/emerging adulthood to earlier developmental periods (e.g., early and middle childhood) by advancing theory and measurement in innovative ways. My work centers primarily in applied settings (e.g., homes, schools, and communities), and uses advanced quantitative methods to model processes, as well as translate findings into interventions and programs.
I view collaborative team science as one of the most exciting parts of being a scientist! As the Director of the EMPOWER Youth Lab, I work collaboratively with students, staff, and community members to strengthen positive development for youth and families. As a Core Member of the Culture, Race and Health Transdisciplinary Core at the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation (iCubed) at VCU, I am part of a transdisciplinary team that designs studies and interventions aimed at examining and addressing health disparities. I am also part of two centers at VCU that work in interdisciplinary teams: Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, as well as Institute Faculty at the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development.

Select Publications

Townsend, T., Dillard-Wright, J., Prestwich, K., Alapatt, V., Kouame, G., Kubicki, J., Johnson, K. F., & Williams, C. D. (2023). Public safety redefined: Mitigating trauma by centering the community in community mental health. American Psychologist.

Williams, C. D., Lozada, F. T., Hood, K. B., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Jahromi, L. B. & Updegraff, K. A. (2022). Mexican-origin 5-year-old children’s ethnic-racial identity centrality and attitudes predicting social functioning. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 28(2), 158-170.

Walker, C. J., Williams, C. D., Winter, M. A., & Everhart, R. S. (2022). African American children’s racial discrimination experiences and mental health. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31, 1621–1629.

Williams, C. D., Hood, K. B., Moreno, O., Chartier, K. G., Johnson, K. F., Townsend, T., Kuo, S. I., The Spit for Science Working Group, Vassileva, J., Dick, D. M., & Amstadter, A. B. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 disruptions and perceived discrimination on well-being and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: Testing the moderating role of exercise among African American and Asian American emerging adults. Emerging Adulthood, 9(5), 506-515.

Williams, C. D., Byrd, C. M., Quintana, S. M., Anicama, C., Kiang, L., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Calzada, E. J., Pabón Gautier, M. C., Ejesi, K., Tuitt, N. R., Martinez-Fuentes, S., White, L., Marks, A. K., Rogers, L. O., & Whitesell, N. (2020). A lifespan model of ethnic-racial identity. Research in Human Development, 17(2-3), 99-129.

Abrams, J. A., Belgrave, F. Z., Williams, C. D., & Maxwell, M. L. (2020). African American adolescent girls’ beliefs about skin tone and colorism. Journal of Black Psychology, 46(2-3), 169-194.

Williams, C. D., Bravo, D. Y, Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Updegraff, K. A., Jahromi, L. B., Martinez-Fuentes, S. & Elias, M. J. (2020). Intergenerational transmission of cultural socialization and effects on young children’s developmental competencies among Mexican-origin families. Developmental Psychology, 56(2), 199–207.

Derlan, C. L., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Updegraff, K. A., & Jahromi, L. B. (2017). Longitudinal relations among Mexican-origin mothers’ cultural characteristics, cultural socialization, and 5-year-old children’s ethnic-racial identification. Developmental Psychology, 53(11), 2078-2091.

Derlan, C. L., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Toomey, R. B., Jahromi, L. B, & Updegraff, K. A. (2016). Measuring cultural socialization attitudes and behaviors of Mexican-origin mothers with young children: A longitudinal investigation. Family Relations, 65, 477-489.

Brittian, A., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Derlan, C. L. (2013). An examination of biracial college youths’ family ethnic socialization, ethnic identity, and adjustment: Do self-identification labels and university context matter? Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19, 177-189.

Recent Courses

  • PSYC 603: Developmental Processes, graduate level
  • PSYC 304: Lifespan Developmental Psychology, undergraduate level

Recent Grants

Ethnic-Racial Disparities in the Impact of COVID-19 on Emerging Adult Students of Color and the Role of Sociocultural Risk and Resilience Factors in Mental Health Trajectories through the Pandemic (PI: Williams). Loan Repayment Program Grant, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2022-2024.

Merging Developmental and Educational Perspectives on Ethnic-Racial Identity and Ethnic-Racial Socialization to Foster Culturally Responsive Education (Co-PIs: Williams, Lozada, Parkhouse, Senechal). Breakthroughs Fund Grant, VCU, 2022-2024.

Building Undergraduate Research Training as a Foundation for Diversifying Addiction Research (PI: Dick; Role: Co-I). Summer Research Education Experience Program (R25) Grant, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021-2026.

Are Cultural Risk and Resilience Mechanisms Predictors of Mental Health Disparities Longitudinally in Black and Latinx Elementary School-Aged Children? (PI: Derlan). Loan Repayment Program Grant, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2019-2021.

Virginia Commonwealth University Guided Research Experiences & Applied Training (VCU GREAT) Program (PI: Adkins; Role: Program Faculty). Summer Research Education Experience Program (R25) Grant, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2018-2023.

A Lifespan Conceptual Model of Ethnic-Racial Identity (PI: Calzada; Role: Collaborator). Working Group Grant, National Science Foundation, 2017-2019.


  • Dissertation Award, Latino Caucus, 2017
  • Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, Society for Research in Child Development, 2017
  • Distinguished Student Research Award, Division 45: Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race (selected for outstanding research accomplishments and potential leadership in the field), 2016
  • Martha E. Bernal Memorial Award (selected for record of contributions and career plans in research relevant to ethnic minority populations), 2015

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