Pooja Brar

Pooja Brar is a doctoral candidate in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and expects to receive her PhD in 2019. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she will participate in the Leadership and Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) pre-doctoral interdisciplinary fellowship with Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics at University of Minnesota. This is a competitive university-wide predoctoral fellowship funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The fellowship is focused on training future leaders in child and adolescent health.

International, relational, and ecological perspectives have informed her work with adolescents and young adults. Being a 1.5 generation immigrant to the United States fueled her interest in the role of culture on adolescent development. This interest led to an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She sought out graduate education in family studies to immerse herself in a systemic perspective and consider the influence of family and culture on individual development. After training as a family therapist, she applied an ecological lens to her work in various capacities with individuals, couples, and children, in the US and internationally.

During her time in India, she was struck by the rapid changes in the country brought about by globalization and urbanization, and the impact of these changes on urban youth. It became clear that this generation of youth was experiencing a coming of age unknown to previous generations. One of the most striking changes could be seen in youths’ liberal attitudes and behaviors around premarital romantic and sexual relationships. With little to no sex and relationship education, abortions, illegal and repeat, are a growing concern among unmarried youth, as are HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and intimate partner violence. She entered the PhD program in the Department of Family Social Science (FSOS) at University of Minnesota with goals of tackling issues around youth intimate relationships and sexual health.

With the support of her adviser, Dr. Jodi Dworkin, she collected data with college students in India. The data focused on perceptions of parenting, risk taking behaviors, and well-being. This research resulted in a first author journal article in Sexuality and Culture (Brar, Dworkin, & Jang, 2018). The article, Association of Parenting with Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors of College Students in India, highlights the changing norms in the experience of adolescents in rapidly globalizing urban India.

Building on this work, her dissertation research extends her scholarship on youth romantic relationships and sexual health. Her dissertation study examines sexual self-efficacy among sexually active adolescent women. Self-efficacy, a component of Social Cognitive theory, is a key determinant of individual behavior often included in some of the most prominent health behavior theories. In conjunction with Bronfenbrenner’s Human Ecological theory, her dissertation examines the role of family and romantic partners on adolescent women’s self-efficacy to refuse sex without condoms and use condoms. Her long-term research agenda is to extend her research to examine the role of culture, media, and health policies on adolescent sexual health.

She also has a strong interest in teaching undergraduate students, particularly first-generation college students. She would like to focus her teaching around adolescent development, immigrant/refugee families, and cultural globalization.