Research

Current Projects

Black Boys’ Positive Development

Black boys interact with their neighborhoods much earlier and with greater frequency than Black girls, and Black youth are more likely than youth of other racial and ethnic groups to reside in neighborhoods marked by significant challenges. While many Black boys in these conditions manage to thrive, others face trajectories characterized by poor mental and physical health. We explore the contributions of parenting practices, family structure and support, peer relations, neighborhoods, and individual factors to the lived lives of Black American boys and men.

Social Media Use and Parental Mediation

Social media is the dominant new socialization space for adolescents and emerging adults, with many children in the U.S. owning a smartphone by age 11 and an overwhelming number of teens accessing social media daily. Unfortunately, through experiences like online racial discrimination, social media can negatively influence adolescent mental health, predicting troubling outcomes like depression, anxiety, and suicide. We investigate how racially marginalized youth are protected in digital spaces by exploring resilience-building and parent protective efforts on adolescent outcomes.

Black Men’s Mental Health and Well-Being

In Wisconsin, Black men have a life expectancy seven years shorter than white men and are more likely to report serious psychological stress and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Black men face health equity issues including low mental health literacy and education, stigma around mental health problems and lack of access to mental health support services. Their stress has been further heightened by the dual crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice. In partnership with the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association and the Urban League of Madison, this project, designed by and for Black men, aims to normalize and destigmatize mental health issues in Wisconsin’s Black communities, improve access to mental health supports, and help men address the historical and current health inequities they are experiencing. It represents the largest investment in Black men and boys’ health in the history of the state of Wisconsin.

Father Involvement in Mental Health Services

Fathers face numerous challenges in their attempts to be involved in the provision of mental health services for their children and families, even while fathers are expressing interest in being actively involved in the healthcare decisions regarding their children. Often fathers are never included in any meaningful way, with non-resident fathers moreover generally perceived in a negative light. But the barriers to father involvement in therapy are multifaceted, including father and clinician dimensions. This project investigates factors that influence fathers’ decisions to engage in therapeutic services with their children and families.

Recent Publications

View a full list of Dr. Thomas’s scholarly work on his ResearchGate profile.


Thomas, A., Lee, J. R. S., Muhammed, M., & Caldwell, C. H. (2021). “Why Don’t You Reach Out to Dad?”: Involving Fathers in Therapy. Research on Social Work Practice, doi:10497315211024345.

Thomas, A., Assari, S., Odukoya, E., Caldwell, C. H. Enhancing Resilience: Social and Psychological Mediators of Violence Exposure for African-American Boys. Development and Psychopathology. In Press

Cooper, S. M., Thomas, A., & Bamishigbin, O. (2021). Black American Fathers Employed in Higher-Risk Contexts for Contracting COVID-19: Implications for Individual Wellbeing and Work-Family Spillover. American Journal of Men’s Health, 15(2), 15579883211005617.

Del Toro, J., Wang, M., Thomas, A., Hughes, D. An Intersectional Approach to Understanding the Academic and Health Effects of Policing among Urban Adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence. In Press

Del Toro, J., Fine, A., Wang, M. T., Thomas, A., Schneper, L. M., Mitchell, C., … & Notterman, D. A. (2020). The Longitudinal Associations Between Paternal Incarceration and Family Well-Being: Implications for Ethnic/Racial Disparities in Health. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. In Press

Assari, S., Boyce, S., Mistry, R., Thomas, A., Nicholson, H. L., Cobb, R. J., … & Zimmerman, M. A. (2021). Parents’ Perceived Neighborhood Safety and Children’s Cognitive Performance: Complexities by Race, Ethnicity, and Cognitive Domain. Urban Science, 5(2), 46.

Assari, S., Boyce, S., Bazargan, M., Thomas, A., Cobb, R., Hudson, D., … & Zimmerman, M. A. (2021). Parental Educational Attainment, the Superior Temporal Cortical Surface Area, and Reading Ability among American Children: A Test of Marginalization-Related Diminished Returns. Children, 8(5), 412.

Recent Scholarly Events

16th Annual Milwaukee Fatherhood Summit, 2021 – Fatherhood and Mental Health, a critical intersection.

Indiana Youth Institute, Inc. Kid’s Count Conference 2021. Father Engagement in Child and Family Services

The National Black Leadership Commission on Health, Inc. Panel: Social support and Socio-economic Conditions

Eddie Gaffney Faculty Lecture Series (Morehouse College). “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?: A Career of vocation and dedication”

University of Illinois, Chicago, School of Nursing Meet & Learn: Men’s Health: A Roundtable Discussion at the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Health.

Health Equity Leaders Institute 2021 Meeting: The Power of Community-Academic Partnerships in Health Equity

MLK Mental Health Presentation (Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus) A Panel Discussion on Physical and Mental Health in the Black Community: COVID-19 and Beyond.