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My research focuses on the ways that cultural and social forces relate to health behaviors. I focus specifically on dimensions related to addictive behaviors. I am particularly interested in the context of race and gender in physical and psychological well-being.

Gender, Substance Use, and Mental Health

Gender is an important dimension to consider in the relationship between substance use and mental health. I have examined the relevance of gender in relationship to alcohol and tobacco use. Specifically, I have investigated depression and coping strategies as related to addictive behaviors in college women. I have also studied  how body-related variables are related to addictive behaviors, such as smoking.

Substance Use, Context, and Protective Dimensions

Factors such as socioeconomic status, religion, and social support are related to alcohol use in college students. In a related line of research, I have examined aspects of these protective dimensions. My research has investigated how religious identity and the social aspects of religion relate to alcohol use. I have also examined how various indicators of socioeconomic status (e.g., income, education) predict college drinking behaviors.

Race and Well-Being

My work also examines outcomes related to racial identity and race socialization. My most recent work examines how these dimensions are related to college students’ use of alcohol. I have also conducted a pilot study of psychological and cultural predictors of well-being in Black Populations. Building on feminist and critical race theories of intersectionality, I have also examined the intersection of race and gender identity in Black women’s lived experiences. I have also examined the relationship between racial identity and socialization in college drinking and child development.

Applications and Consulting

Evaluation Consultant, Prevention Network Lansing, MI

Evaluation Consultant, National Bone Marrow Transplant Link, Southfield, MI

Mentor, Instructor, and Program Coordinator, Using Math: Girls Investigate Real Life intervention program, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan.

Diversity Consultant Private Sector


Last Updated on Sunday, 01 May 2011 04:33

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MSU Psychology:



MSU Ecological Community Graduate Program:



Multiple Identities Intersection Lab:



Prevention Network Lansing:



Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 09:24

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Lab Page

Health Behaviors in Social Context (HBSC)

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The mind and body are connected. Therefore, an individual’s mental health affects the behaviors that will either promote or compromise physical health. The aim of the HBSC research group is to further examine these factors among women and multiethnic samples. Our work focuses primarily on addictive behaviors, coping, social identity, and mental health.

Areas of Research

Gender and Race/Ethnicity in Addictive Behaviors

Coping, Mental Health, and Addictive Behaviors

Body-Related Dimensions in Women’s Health Behaviors

Optimal Functioning and Strengths-Based Approaches in Black Populations


Current Projects

College Students’ Health Behaviors

This study was a four year study of health behaviors across two institutions. The purpose was to examine the relationship between gender and health behaviors, as well as to further explore the relevance of body-related dimensions in women’s health. These data are available for collaborative work. Contact the lab for more information.


Racial/Ethnic Context and Alcohol Use

This is a multiethnic multigenerational study of college students’ alcohol use. We are currently analyzing data on parent-child dyads and alcohol and drug use behaviors.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 09:02

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Dr. Zaje A. T. Harrell is a professor, research psychologist, and evaluator. She has been on faculty in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University since 2004 where she is affiliated with the Ecological-Community Interest Group. Prior to coming to MSU, she was a teaching fellow at Oberlin College for two years. A feminist health psychologist, Dr. Harrell was the second graduate of the joint doctoral program in Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she specialized in Personality Psychology. Dr. Harrell approaches the study of addictive behaviors from a stress-and-coping perspective and her work is also informed by feminist and culturally relevant theoretical frameworks. She examines contextually relevant factors as predictors of health behaviors in women and ethnic minority populations.


Dr. Harrell was raised in Washington DC and Prince George’s County, Maryland. She graduated cum laude from Spelman College, where she earned a B.A. in Psychology. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Harrell has been a consultant for not-for-profit organizations focused on health education, minority populations, and youth. She has also worked with the Michigan Department of Corrections, Prevention Network and presented on issues of gender diversity in the private sector.


Last Updated on Sunday, 01 May 2011 06:01

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Dr. Zaje Harrell

Dr. Zaje A. T. Harrell
Assistant Professor of Ecological Community Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing