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Dr. Karlen Lyons-Ruth

Karlen Lyons-Ruth, PhD
Professor of Psychology
Harvard Medical School
Director, Family Studies Lab


Cambridge Hospital
1493 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139


Phone:  (617) 547-3116

Fax:  (617) 503-8470

Dr. Lyons-Ruth is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, a clinical supervisor for the Cambridge Health Alliance Psychology and Psychiatry training programs and a core faculty member for the first-year Child Psychiatry Seminar for MGH/McLean, Children’s Hospital, and Cambridge Health Alliance fellows. She was a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Duke University and received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from Harvard University. Before coming to Harvard Medical School, she completed a clinical internship at McLean Hospital and served as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Child Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine.

Following her training, she won a New Investigator Award from NICHD to study social perspective taking in children's play. Subsequently, her work has focused on the assessment of attachment relationships in high-risk environments over the infancy, childhood, and adolescent periods and has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Smith-Richardson Foundation, the Borderline Foundation, the Mailman Foundation, and the Commonwealth Fund. Several attachment-focused assessments developed in her lab are now being disseminated internationally, including the AMBIANCE scales for atypical parent-infant interaction. She has served on a number of councils related to child mental health and social policy, including the Massachusetts Task Force on Perinatal Mental Health, the Committee on Policy and Communications of the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Massachusetts Infant Mental Health Consortium. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. She has served on the editorial boards of Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and the Infant Mental Health Journal.  She is the author of more than 90 research articles and book chapters on infant development, maternal depression, the early attachment relationship, and, more recently, the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in young adult psychopathology. Under current NIH funding, her group is developing tools for assessing attachment relationships at risk in adolescence and evaluating their interplay with traumatic experiences and genetic factors in contributing to young adult depression, suicidality, and borderline psychopathology. In collaboration with McLean neuroscientists Diego Pizzagalli and Martin Teicher, studies are also assessing the effects of early adversity on neurobiological structure and function in young adulthood.