Yzette Lanier headshot

Yzette Lanier

Assistant Professor

1 212 998 5803

433 First Avenue
Room 406
New York, NY 10010
United States

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Professional overview

Dr. Lanier is a developmental psychologist whose research broadly centers on health promotion and disease prevention in communities of color, with a special focus on preventing HIV/STIs and unintended pregnancy among African American adolescents. Using health equity and strengths-based lenses, her research seeks to understand how individual, social, and cultural factors influence adolescents’ sexual decision-making. Dr. Lanier’s current research examines how adolescent romantic relationships influence sexual behaviors. Her long-term goal is to develop effective developmentally-appropriate, culturally tailored interventions that promote healthy romantic relationships and protective sexual behaviors among adolescents.  In June 2016, Dr. Lanier was awarded $1.2 million from the CDC for HIV behavior intervention based on young black heterosexual couples' dynamics.  


BS, Psychology, Howard University
MS, Developmental Psychology, Howard University
PhD, Developmental Psychology, Howard University
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for HIV Prevention in Communities of Color, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center for Health Equity Research, University of Pennsylvania

Honors and awards

Visiting Scholar, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, Yale University


Infectious disease
Community/population health
Vulnerable & marginalized populations

Professional membership

American Psychological Association
Society for Research on Adolescence
Association of Black Psychologists
American Public Health Association



Development of a Barbershop-Based HIV/STI Risk Reduction Intervention for Young Heterosexual African American Men

Jemmott, L. S., Jemmott, J. B., Lanier, Y., Thompson, C., & Baker, J. L. (2017). Health Promotion Practice, 18(1), 110-118. 10.1177/1524839916662601
Young, heterosexual African American men ages 18 to 24 years continue to be at high risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. However, few interventions have been designed to meet the needs of this “forgotten” population. The article describes the systematic development of a theory-based, culturally-tailored, gender-specific, barbershop-based HIV risk reduction intervention for heterosexual African American men ages 18 to 24. The process included developing a community advisory board, selecting a guiding theoretical framework, incorporating community-based participatory research principles, and conducting formative research with African American males, barbers, and barbershop owners. The result was Shape Up: Barbers Building Better Brothers, a 2-day, HIV risk reduction intervention focused on increasing HIV knowledge and condom use and reducing the number of sexual partners. Intervention sessions were facilitated by barbers who used iPads to deliver the content. As a high-risk population, this intervention has great public health significance for the health of African American men and their sexual partners.

Disparities in Retention in HIV Care among HIV-Infected Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in the District of Columbia, 2013

Morales-Alemán, M. M., Opoku, J., Murray, A., Lanier, Y., Kharfen, M., & Sutton, M. Y. (2017). LGBT Health, 4(1), 34-41. 10.1089/lgbt.2016.0126
Purpose: Among young men who have sex with men (YMSM), aged 13-24 years, Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 58% and 21%, respectively, of diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States. In the District of Columbia (DC), YMSM of color are also disproportionately affected by HIV. National goals are that 80% of HIV-infected persons be retained in HIV care. We analyzed DC surveillance data to examine retention among YMSM living with HIV infection in DC. Methods: We characterized correlates of retention in HIV care (≥2 clinical visits, ≥3 months apart, within 12 months of diagnosis) among YMSM in DC to inform and strengthen local HIV care efforts. We analyzed data from DC HIV surveillance system for YMSM aged 13-29 years diagnosed between 2005 and 2012 and alive in 2013. We also combined demographic and clinical variables with sociodemographic data from the U.S. American Community Survey (ACS) by census tracts. Results: From 2005 to 2012, 1034 YMSM were diagnosed and living with HIV infection in DC; 83% were Black or Latino. Of the 1034 YMSM, 910 (88%) had census tract data available and were included in analyses (72% Black, 10% Latino, and 17% White); among the 854 (94%) linked to care, 376 (44%) were retained in care. In multivariate analyses, retention in care was less likely among 19-24 year YMSM compared with 13-18-year-old YMSM (adjusted prevalence ratios [aPR] = 0.89, 95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.80-0.99). Conclusion: Retention in HIV care was suboptimal for YMSM. Increased retention efforts are warranted to improve outcomes and reduce age and racial/ethnic disparities.

Examining Racial Discrimination Frequency, Racial Discrimination Stress, and Psychological Well-Being Among Black Early Adolescents

Lanier, Y., Sommers, M. S., Fletcher, J., Sutton, M. Y., & Roberts, D. D. (2017). Journal of Black Psychology, 43(3), 219-229. 10.1177/0095798416638189
Racial discrimination is a ubiquitous experience for Black adolescents; it has been linked to poorer psychological outcomes including higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem. However, the mechanisms through which racial discrimination is associated with psychological well-being are still not well understood, particularly among Black early adolescents. The current study investigated two dimensions of racial discrimination: racial discrimination frequency (RDfreq) and racial discrimination stress (RDstress). Specifically, we explored the prevalence of RDfreq and RDstress among Black youth and whether RDstress mediated the association between RDfreq and psychological well-being. Seventy-four Black middle school students (68.1% female; mean age = 12.1) completed self-report questionnaires assessing RDfreq, RDstress, depression, and self-esteem; 72 were included in the final analyses. Mediation analyses were conducted using bootstrapping. Ninety percent of the sample reported experiencing some type of racial discrimination and 99% reported that these experiences bothered them. Controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity, RDstress partially mediated the relationship between RDfreq and depression. Study findings elucidate one pathway in which racial discrimination influences psychological well-being.

Feelings Matter: Depression Severity and Emotion Regulation in HIV/STI Risk-Related Sexual Behaviors

Brawner, B. M., Sweet Jemmott, L., Wingood, G., Reason, J., Daly, B., Brooks, K., & Lanier, Y. (2017). Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(6), 1635-1645. 10.1007/s10826-017-0674-z
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention models may not address psychological complexities among adolescents with mental illnesses. This study examined contextual factors related to HIV/STI risk among heterosexually active Black adolescents with mental illnesses to inform the development of targeted HIV/STI prevention strategies. Black adolescent males and females (aged 14–17) were recruited from outpatient mental health programs in Philadelphia, PA to complete a computer-assisted personalized interview on sociodemographics, sexual behaviors, and emotion regulation (N = 53). Two sample t-tests, Wilcoxon Rank Sum tests and regression modeling were used to examine differences in the study measures by gender and relationship status. Reports of sexual partner concurrency were high—both while already in a sexual relationship (67.3%) and multiple sexual partners in the same day (42.3%). Boys reported significantly more risk behaviors than girls. Sadness dysregulation predicted currently being in a relationship, older age at first oral sex, fewer vaginal sexual partners and fewer unprotected oral sexual encounters. Coping difficulties predicted a greater number of vaginal and oral sexual partners, and a lower age at first vaginal sex. Increasing depression severity was related to older age at first vaginal sex, fewer vaginal sexual partners and fewer unprotected oral sexual encounters in the past 3 months. This formative work suggests that coping mechanisms should be addressed in HIV/STI prevention research through the inclusion of activities targeted toward emotion regulation and decreasing sexual risk behaviors. Psycho-education and skills building may mitigate the psychopathology that contributes to HIV/STI risk in the target demographic.

"It Was a Learning Experience": Lessons Learned From Young African American Men and Women's Sexual Debut

Lanier, Y., Hettenbach, J., Stoute, K., Hollender, L., Sutherland, G., & Stewart, J. (2017). Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. 10.1016/j.jana.2017.04.006

Moving Beyond Age: An Exploratory Qualitative Study on the Context of Young African American Men and Women’s Sexual Debut

Lanier, Y., Stewart, J. M., Schensul, J. J., & Guthrie, B. J. (2017). Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 1-10. 10.1007/s40615-017-0366-9
African American youth continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. Early sexual debut has been identified as a major determinant of HIV risk. However, emerging research suggests that the overarching context in which first sex occurs may have greater implications for sexual health than simply age alone. The purpose of this exploratory, qualitative study was to better understand the broader context of African Americans’ sexual debut. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 African American men and women aged 18–24 years. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. The mean age at sexual debut for the sample was 15.4 (SD = 3.3), and youth framed their sexual debut as positive (50%), negative (30%), and both positive and negative (20%). The majority of youth initiated pre-sex conversations with their partners to gauge potential interest in engaging in sexual activity, and all youth utilized at least one HIV/sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy prevention method. However, most youth failed to talk to their partners prior to sex about their past sexual histories and what the experience meant for their relationship. Key differences emerged between youth who framed the experience as positive and those who framed the experience as negative or both positive and negative in terms of their motivations for initiating sex (i.e., readiness to initiate sex, pressure, and emotionally safety) and post-sex emotions (i.e., remorse and contentment). Findings provide further support for examining the broader sexual context of African American’s sexual debut. A more comprehensive understanding of sexual debut will aid in the development and tailoring of sexual risk reduction programs targeting African American youth.

“You Know What You Gotta Do”: African American Fathers and Sons Perspectives’ on Parent–Child Sexual Risk Communication and HIV Intervention Development Needs

Baker, J. L., Lanier, Y., James, G., Fletcher, J., Delish, M., Opara, O., Sampson, C., Jemmott, L., & Stewart, J. (2017). Journal of Family Issues. 10.1177/0192513X17720960
Context: Although parents can be influential toward the sexual attitudes and behaviors of adolescents, fathers are significantly underrepresented in studies of parental influences on adolescent sexual practices and behaviors. Method: This mixed method study assessed the feasibility of implementing a HIV/STI (human immunodeficiency virus/sexually transmitted infection) risk reduction program for African American fathers and sons. Focus groups were conducted with 30 father–son pairs at a local barbershop. Adolescents ranged between 11 and 19 years old with a mean age of 14.71 years (SD = 2.14). Results: Fathers and sons were not in agreement about frequency of communication about sexual health issues. However, the majority of fathers and sons indicated they would attend a father–son HIV/STI risk reduction program together. Conclusion: This study supports the development of a HIV/STI risk reduction program for that can enhance sexual risk communication practices among African American fathers and sons.

The sexual health of young and young adults of color

Riley, D., Lasswell, S. M., Lanier, Y., & Miller, K. (2015). In The fight against HIV/AIDS/STIs in African American communities: Understanding risk context for HIV/AIDS/STIs with our young people. American Public Health Press.

Brief sexual histories and routine HIV/STD testing by medical providers

Lanier, Y., Castellanos, T., Barrow, R. Y., Jordan, W. C., Caine, V., & Sutton, M. Y. (2014). AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 28(3), 113-120. 10.1089/apc.2013.0328
Clinicians who routinely take patient sexual histories have the opportunity to assess patient risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and make appropriate recommendations for routine HIV/STD screenings. However, less than 40% of providers conduct sexual histories with patients, and many do not receive formal sexual history training in school. After partnering with a national professional organization of physicians, we trained 26 (US and US territory-based) practicing physicians (58% female; median age=48 years) regarding sexual history taking using both in-person and webinar methods. Trainings occurred during either a 6-h onsite or 2-h webinar session. We evaluated their post-training experiences integrating sexual histories during routine medical visits. We assessed use of sexual histories and routine HIV/STD screenings. All participating physicians reported improved sexual history taking and increases in documented sexual histories and routine HIV/STD screenings. Four themes emerged from the qualitative evaluations: (1) the need for more sexual history training; (2) the importance of providing a gender-neutral sexual history tool; (3) the existence of barriers to routine sexual histories/testing; and (4) unintended benefits for providers who were conducting routine sexual histories. These findings were used to develop a brief, gender-neutral sexual history tool for clinical use. This pilot evaluation demonstrates that providers were willing to utilize a sexual history tool in clinical practice in support of HIV/STD prevention efforts.

Impact of parent-child communication interventions on sex behaviors and cognitive outcomes for black/african-american and hispanic/latino youth: A systematic review, 1988-2012

Sutton, M. Y., Lasswell, S. M., Lanier, Y., & Miller, K. S. (2014). Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(4), 369-384. 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.11.004
Purpose We reviewed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted infection (STI)- behavioral interventions implemented with disproportionately affected black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino youth and designed to improve parent-child communications about sex. We compared their effectiveness in improving sex-related behavior or cognitive outcomes. Methods A search of electronic databases identified peer-reviewed studies published between 1988 and 2012. Eligible studies were U.S.-based parent-child communication interventions with active parent components, experimental and quasiexperimental designs, measurement of youth sexual health outcomes, and enrollment of ≥50% black/African-American or Hispanic/Latino youth. We conducted systematic, primary reviews of eligible papers to abstract data on study characteristics and youth outcomes. Results Fifteen studies evaluating 14 interventions were eligible. Although youth outcome measures and follow-up times varied, 13 of 15 studies (87%) showed at least one significantly improved youth sexual health outcome compared with controls (p <.05). Common components of effective interventions included joint parent and child session attendance, promotion of parent/family involvement, sexuality education for parents, developmental and/or cultural tailoring, and opportunities for parents to practice new communication skills with their youth. Conclusions Parent-child communication interventions that include parents of youth disproportionately affected by HIV/STIs can effectively reduce sexual risk for youth. These interventions may help reduce HIV/STI-related health disparities and improve sexual health outcomes.