Sheila Grant

Professor Sheila Grant
(818) 677-2983
Office location:
SH 401



  • Ph.D. 1996, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • M.A. 1989, California State University, Northridge
  • B.A. 1987, California State University, Northridge
Specialty Areas: Clinical Counseling, Cross Cultural, Persons with Disabilities

Courses Taught

  • Psy 150 - Introductory Psychology
  • Psy 310 - Behavioral Disorders
  • Psy 370 - The Psychology of Personality
  • Psy 460 - Counseling and Interviewing

Selected Publications and Presentations

Ghavami, N., Fingerhut, A., Peplau, L. A., Grant, S. K., & Wittig, M. A. (2011). Testing a model of minority identity achievement, identity affirmation, and psychological well-being among ethnic minority and sexual minority individuals. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(1):79-88. DOI:10.1037/a0022532

How is social identity related to psychological well-being among minority individuals? Drawing on developmental models of identity formation (e.g., Erikson, 1968) and on Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), we tested a conceptual model examining links between two key aspects of social identity and psychological well-being. We proposed that the association between identity achievement (exploring and understanding the meaning of one's identity) and psychological well-being is mediated by identity affirmation (developing positive feelings and a sense of belonging to one's social group). Across three studies, including ethnic minority high school students (Study 1), ethnic minority college students (Study 2) and lesbian and gay male adults (Study 3), we found strong support for the model. Results suggest that the process of exploring and understanding one's minority identity can serve as an important basis for developing positive feelings toward and an enhanced sense of attachment to the group, which can in turn confer psychological benefits for minority individuals. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

 Maton, K. I., Wimms, H. E., Grant, S. K., Wittig, M. A., Rogers, M. R., & Vasquez, M. J. T. (2011). Experiences and perspectives of African American, Latina/o, Asian American, and European American psychology graduate students: A national study. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(1):68-78. DOI:10.1037/a0021668

A national, Web-based survey of 1,219 African American, Latina/o, Asian American, and European American psychology graduate students revealed both similarities and differences in experiences and perspectives. Mentoring was found to be the strongest predictor of satisfaction across groups. Academic supports and barriers, along with perceptions of diversity within the academic environment, were also important predictors of satisfaction. Students of color perceived less fairness of representation of their ethnic group within psychology than European American students, and a greater linkage between aspects of the graduate school experience and their ethnicity. Limitations of the study and implications for future research and action are discussed.

 Simmons, S. J., Wittig, M. A., & Grant, S. K. (2010). A mutual acculturation model of multicultural campus climate and acceptance of diversity. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 16(4):468-75. DOI:10.1037/a0020237

This study examines the relationship between college students' perceptions of their campus' multicultural climate and their acceptance of racial/ethnic diversity. A two-mediator model, based on acculturation principles, was successfully fit to survey data from 434 college students of diverse racial/ethnic heritage. Results showed that valuing positive interactions with members of ethnocultural groups other than one's own is a positive mediator and strength of ethnocultural identity is a (much less important) negative mediator of the relationship between student perceptions of multicultural campus programming and personal acceptance of diverse racial/ethnic groups. Furthermore, each mediator independently contributed to the prediction of such acceptance. Overall, the model accounts for about 25% of the variance in acceptance of diversity and was a better fit to the data than a reverse path model. Follow-up analyses, separately by ethnic group, showed that perceptions of campus programming predicted acceptance of diversity for the White subsample, but not for the Latino subsample. Nevertheless, the two acculturation-related constructs were important for both groups, with the model accounting for 28% and 24% of their respective variances in acceptance of diversity. Practical implications are drawn.

 Vasquez, M. J. T. Lott, B., García-Vázquez, E., Grant, S. K., Iwamasa, G., Molina, L. E., Ragsdale, B. L., & Vestal-Dowdy, E. (2006). Personal reflections: barriers and strategies in increasing diversity in psychology. American Psychologist, 61(2):157-72. DOI:10.1037/0003-066X.61.2.157

In this article, six faculty and students of color who participated in a panel discussion at a symposium during the National Multicultural Conference and Summit of 2003 talk about the barriers they encountered and continue to encounter in their graduate training and places of employment. They also discuss strategies they found to be effective, enhancing, and positive and suggest other possibilities. The contributors describe their relationships with dominant-group and minority peers and talk about how issues of social class, disability, and sexual orientation as well as color have been part of their experience.

 Wittig, M. A., & Grant-Thompson, S. (1998). The utility of Allport's conditions of intergroup contact for predicting perceptions of improved racial attitudes and beliefs. Journal of Social Issues, 54(4), 795-812.

Tests the predictive power Reof perception as it relates to G. W. Allport's (1954/1979) classic articulation of the conditions of contact conducive to reducing intergroup prejudice and increasing tolerance (Contact Hypothesis). The authors present results of an evaluation of a prejudice reduction program that trains and places college student facilitators in middle and high school classrooms to lead discussions about race. Survey data was taken from 35 teachers. Results show that a composite of 5 classroom climate conditions that the Contact Hypothesis suggests are conducive to prejudice reduction predicts teachers' and college student facilitators' perceptions of change in 3 aspects of middle and high school student racial attitudes. Students' perceptions of the school interracial climate are modestly predictive of their changes in these 3 aspects of racial attitudes. However, teacher and facilitator estimates of student outcomes are uncorrelated with actual student outcomes. Implications of these results for prejudice reduction theory and practice are discussed.

 Grant-Thompson, S. K., & Atkinson, D. R. (1997). Cross-cultural mentor effectiveness and African American male students. Journal of Black Psychology, 23(2), 120-134.

Examined the effects of mentor ethnicity, cultural sensitivity, and student level of cultural mistrust on perceptions of mentor credibility and cultural competence. 74 African American men attending Southern California community colleges listened to a tape-recorded mentoring session in which the faculty mentor was described as either African American or European American, and was portrayed as either culturally responsive or culturally unresponsive. Mentor ethnicity, as well as an interaction between mentor ethnicity and participant level of cultural mistrust, were found to be related to perceptions of mentor credibility/effectiveness. In addition, mentor ethnicity and cultural sensitivity were found to be related to perceptions of mentor cross-cultural competence.

  Grant, S. K. (1997). Disability identity development: An exploratory investigation. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 57(9-B), 5918.

Prior to the current study, there was no model of disability identity development in the psychology literature. The purpose of this study was to empirically develop and evaluate an identity development model for people with disabilities. The results from Part I, with its three rounds of Delphi polling, were 564 responses, which were subsequently decreased to 113, and eventually reduced to 69 attitudinal statements. In Part II this reduced set of 69 items was then pilot tested on a final sample of 111 individuals with visible physical disabilities. Exploratory factor analytic studies revealed 37 items loading on four subscales. Preliminary reliability and validity studies supported the existence of disability identity. The four subscales represent four stages of Disability Identity Attitude Development (DIAD). In Part III, a panel of 4 judges, expert in developmental psychology, ranked and labeled the stages. The most important outcome from this study is the production of an instrument, Disability Identity Attitude Scale (DIAS), to measure the DIAD of people with disabilities. The DIAS more than meets the minimum criterion for using the scale, with high internal consistency reliability coefficients which ranged from.82 to.90. The validity studies in general supported the use of the DIAS as a meaningful measure of Disability Identity Attitude Development. The subscales correlated with other measures that previous research and other theoretical identity development models have shown to be related to identity attitude development (e.g., self-esteem). For example, there was a statistically significant relationship between participant's stage of Disability Identity Attitude Development and degree of acceptance of disability. Evidence also revealed higher Stage 2 (Diffusion/Dysphoria) attitudes associated with lower levels of global self-esteem and higher Stage 4 (Introspective/Acceptance) attitudes associated with higher levels of global self-esteem, thus providing for criterion-related validity. It is suggested that the subscales not be used separately until further validity studies have been conducted on the DIAS. In addition, the importance and use of the DIAS to assess within-group variance is discussed, especially with regards to counselors addressing the psychological needs of clients with disabilities.

 Atkinson, D. R., Thompson, C. E., & Grant, S. K. (1993). A three-dimensional model for counseling racial/ethnic minorities. Counseling Psychologist, 21(2), 257-277.

Proposes that at least 3 factors should be considered when selecting the roles and strategies to adopt when working with a racial/ethnic minority client (REMC). These factors are (1) the client's level of acculturation, (2) the locus of the problem's etiology, and (3) the goals of helping. Each of these factors is examined, and a 3-dimensional model for identifying appropriate counseling roles and strategies when working with an REMC is presented. Because each of the 3 factors represents a continuum, their interaction can be conceptualized along 3 axes. Eight roles of counseling associated with the intersection of the 3 continua extremes are discussed. These are the adviser, advocate, facilitator of indigenous support systems, facilitator of indigenous healing systems, consultant, change agent, counselor, and psychotherapist roles.


Research and Interests

Project HEALTH: Holistic Eating, Active Living, Thought Harmony

Holistic Eating – Understanding the benefits of balanced nutrition and ways to transform typical and favorite cultural dishes into still flavorful yet healthier versions (i.e., lower sodium, higher fiber with whole grain/vegetable/fruit options)

Active Living – Making small modifications in activity levels at the beginning to lead toward bigger changes establishing regular exercise plans (but not as another ‘task’ to do, but something fun to engage in with friends, e.g., ‘Zumba’ or ‘Moving to Motown’ or ‘Hip-Hop Burn’)

Thought Harmony – Identifying unproductive cognitive thoughts/beliefs that support unhealthy behaviors associated with food and exercise and changing these attitudes into intentional healthful behavior patterns.


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:  Office of Minority Health (OMH), African American women, in comparison to other groups in the U.S., have the highest rates of being overweight or obese. More specifically, OMH indicated that four out of five (80%) African American women are overweight or obese. Moreover, OMH reported that in 2010 (1) African Americans in general were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as their non-Hispanic White counterparts and that (2) African American women were 70% more likely to be obese than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. In addition, OMH indicated that African American girls, between 2007 and 2010, were 80% more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic White girls.

Eliminating these types of health disparities became a public health priority after it was established that there are racial differences in health at every level of SES for multiple indicators of health status, including self-rated health, heart disease mortality, hypertension and obesity (Healthy People 2010, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).

This project is to modify and improve the East Harlem Project HEAL Program (Goldfinger, Arniella, Wylie-Rosett, & Horowitz, 2008), adapting it to the needs of a younger, Southern Californian (rather than an older East Coast) population of African American church-affiliated women, being careful to include the most recent research and intervention findings on efficacy in health improvement. The first phase of Project  HEALTH will involve the development and pilot implementation of a program for healthy eating and activity habits, weight loss/maintenance, and cognitive attitude change from dysfunctional beliefs associated with food and exercise into functional reality-based thoughts about wellness and longevity.

Minority Academic Personal Success (MAPS)... Exploring Pathways to Actualize Student Potential. This project is a formal, systematic educational research program, exploring the differences between the resilient and the at‑risk student. Exploration of various social and psychological factors is conducted to ascertain which variables or sets of variables contribute to this lack of academic success. Research Interns will receive training in basic and applied research principles and gain experience in drafting assessments, coding, data entry, and analyzing results. Motivated students will have the opportunity to prepare and present posters at professional meetings and co-author articles, depending on the nature of their contributions to the overall project.