Faculty Directory

Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson

Rachel Lucas-Thompson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

419 Behavioral Sciences Building
1570 Campus Delivery
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1570

Phone: 970-491-5718
Fax: 970-491-7975
E-mail: Lucas-thompson.rachel.graham@colostate.edu


Family Relationships and Development Lab

Research Interests

I am a developmental psychologist with primary interests in family processes, parenting, and child and adolescent development. My research program is broadly focused on exploring how and why family relationships matter. I am particularly intrigued by the mechanisms through which both positive and negative qualities of the marital relationship predict parent-child relations and child health. The primary foci of my program of research are: 1) how marital conflict contributes to problems regulating and coordinating emotional and physiological responses to stressful experiences for children, and whether those problems are related to health problems; 2) whether marital conflict exposure produces an attentional bias to threatening stimuli, and whether that bias renders those exposed to conflict more vulnerable to health problems; 3) how characteristics of the family environment are related to risk for obesity in children and adolescents, and, 4) how we can best capture the quality of relationships (e.g., through self-reports, observations, and naturalistic assessments). In addition to these specific research areas, I utilize a process-oriented and social-contextual approach to study the ways that family relationships influence development. I also have a strong interest in the use of varied quantitative research methods to understanding family relationships and child development.

The current focus of my program of research is examining mechanisms that explain links between marital conflict, stress physiology, and mental health, as well as individual differences factors that strengthen or weaken the nature of these associations. I examine multiple measures of stress physiology, including indicators of the HPA axis (cortisol) and the autonomic nervous system, as well as emotional responses to a variety of stressors. In addition, I am investigating using the innovative technology of eye-tracking whether adolescents exposed to marital conflict develop an attention bias towards angry stimuli, and whether that attention bias makes adolescents exposed to conflict more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. In collaborative work, I am focusing on how characteristics of family relationships are related to obesogenic factors. In addition, I am working on novel assessments of relationship quality, including observations of family relationships in naturalistic settings.


B.A., 2004, Psychology and Theatre Arts, Beloit College
M.A., 2005, Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine
Ph.D., 2009, Developmental Psychology, University of California, Irvine

Honors and Awards

2008 - Most Promising Future Faculty Award, University of California, Irvine

2008 - American Psychological Foundation and Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology Graduate Research Scholarship

2009 - National Research Service Award (NRSA) Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health

2011 - Society for Research in Child Development Dissertation Award

2011 - National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program Contract from the National Institute of Mental Health

Current Research Projects

Parenting and Healthy Food Selection (Don’t Drink the Kool-aid: Using Front-of-Package Labeling and Consumer Education to Reduce Children’s Consumption of Sugary Drinks and Unhealthy Foods) NIFA and the CSU College of Health and Human Sciences Agricultural Experiment Station, Co-Principal Investigator (with Dr. Dan Graham).

Marital Conflict and Mental Health in Adolescence: The Roles of Stress Physiology and Attentional Biases. Principal Investigator.

Mentor Families and E-mentoring: Setting-Level Components to Improve Mentoring Outcomes for At-Risk Youth. William T Grant Foundation Grant, Co-Investigator (in charge of naturalistic assessments of mentor-mentee relationship quality)

Professional Experience

2009-2012: Assistant Professor of Psychology, Macalester College

2012-present: Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University

Selected Publications

Lucas-Thompson, R. & Clarke-Stewart, K.A. (2007). Forecasting friendship: The links from marital quality, maternal mood, and attachment security to children’s peer relationships. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 499-514.

Goldberg, W.A. Prause, J.A., Lucas-Thompson, R., & Himsel, A.J. (2008). Maternal employment and children’s achievement in context: A meta-analysis of four decades of research. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 77-108.

Lucas-Thompson, R.G., Goldberg, W.A., & Prause, J.A. (2010). Maternal work early in the lives of children and its distal associations with achievement and behavior problems: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 915-942.

Holman, E.A., Lucas-Thompson, R.G., & Liu, T. (2011). Social constraints, genetic vulnerability, and mental health following collective stress. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24, 497-505. doi: 10.1002/jts.20671

Lucas-Thompson, R.G. (2012). Associations of marital conflict with emotional and physiological stress: Evidence for different patterns of dysregulation. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22, 704–721.

Lucas-Thompson, R.G., & Holman, E.A. (2013). Environmental stress, oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism, and mental health following collective stress. Hormones & Behavior, 63, 615-624.

Lucas-Thompson, R.G. (2013). Relationship quality with parents, stressful life events, and cortisol production in emerging adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 1-13.

Lucas-Thompson, R.G., & Hostinar, C. (2013). Family income and appraisals of parental conflict as predictors of psychological adjustment and diurnal cortisol in emerging adulthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 784-794.

Lucas-Thompson, R.G., Lunkenheimer, E.S., & Dumitrache, A.+. (2015). Associations between marital conflict and adolescent conflict appraisals, stress physiology, and mental health. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

Lunkenheimer, E.S., Tiberio, S.S., Buss, K.A.,* Lucas-Thompson, R.G., Boker, S.M., Timpe, Z.C.* (2015). Coregulation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia between parents and preschoolers: Differences by child externalizing problems. Developmental Psychobiology.

Thematic Research Areas

  • Risk, Resilience, & Developmental Psychopathology
  • Emotion, Regulation, & Relational Processes