Faculty Directory

Kirsten Davison

Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Chair

Associate Dean for Research


Kirsten Davison is the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Chair and Associate Dean for Research in the School of Social Work at Boston College. Her research and teaching focuses on the health wellbeing of children and families. She received her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from The Pennsylvania State University and held faculty appointments at the University of Albany School of Public Health (2003-2011) and Harvard Chan School of Public Health (2011- 2019) before joining the faculty at Boston College School in 2019.

Dr. Davison’s research primarily focuses on the development and evaluation of family- and community-based interventions to support children’s nutrition, sleep, emotional regulation and general wellbeing. The interventions are designed and implemented in collaboration with community partners using participatory methods and target parents as agents of change. Key community partners include public school districts (New Bedford, Fitchburg), special education schools (the Manville School), state departments of public health (New York State, Massachusetts), community health centers (East Boston Neighborhood Health Center), hospitals (Mass General Brigham) and social service programs (Head Start, WIC).

Dr. Davison is leading two five-year studies funded by more than $4 million in research support from the National Institutes of Health. The first, Fathers & Families, is a cohort study of approximately 1000 fathers with children ages 1-6 years and their coparents. The study examines the role of fathers, and their coparents, in promoting children’s physical and mental health. The second study, MI VACUNA (Motivational Interviewing for VACcine Uptake in latiNx Adults), is an intervention study conducted in collaboration with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and co-led with Rocio Calvo from Boston College and Sebastien Haneuse from Harvard School of Public Health. In the MI VACUNA intervention, behavioral health clinicians are trained to use motivational interviewing to engage Latinx patients in conversations about COVID and influenza vaccination and to link those interested in vaccination with in-house vaccination services.

Dr. Davison engages students at all levels in her research and has trained and mentored more than 20 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Students interested in working with Dr. Davison and her research team on either study can contact her at kirsten.davison@bc.edu.

Selected Publications

Davison K.K., Birch L.L. Childhood overweight: a contextual model and recommendations for future research. Obesity Reviews. 2001; 2(3):159-171.

Davison K.K., Gicevic S., Aftosmes-Tobio A., et al. Fathers' Representation in Observational Studies on Parenting and Childhood Obesity: A Systematic Review and Content AnalysisAmerican Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(11):1980.

Bowling A, Slavet J, Miller D, Hanuese S, Beardsley W, Davison KK. Cybercyling effects on classroom behavior in children with behavioral health disorders: An RCTPediatrics 2017;139(2): e20161985.

Beckerman J.P., Aftosmes-Tobio A., Kitos N., Jurkowski J.M., Lansburg K., Kazik C., Gavarkovs A., Vigilante A., Kalyoncu Z.B., Figueroa R., Klabunde R., Barouch R., Hanuese S., Taveras E., Davison K.K. and the CHL study team. Communities for Healthy Living (CHL) – A family-centered childhood obesity prevention program integrated into Head Start services: Study protocol for a pragmatic cluster randomized trialContemporary Clinical Trials. 2019, 78, 34-45.

Gago C, Jurkowski J, Beckerman-Hsu J, Aftosmes-Tobio A, Figueroa R, Oddleifson C, Mattei J, Kenney E, Haneuse S, & Davison KK. Exploring a theory of change: Are increases in parental empowerment associated with healthier weight-related parenting practices? Social Science and Medicine. 2022: Mar; 296: 114761.

Grafft, N., Aftosmes-Tobio, A., Gago, C., Lansburg, K., Beckerman-Hsu, J., Trefry, B., Kumanyika, S & Davison, KK. (in press). Adaptation and implementation outcomes of a parenting program for low-income, ethnically diverse families delivered virtually versus in-personTranslational Behavioral Medicine.

Selected Grants

Fathers & Families
08/12/19-04/31/24 (R01HD098421)
Paternal Effects on Child Weight Outcomes
Sponsor: NIH, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Role: co-PI (multi-PI with Jess Haines)

MI VACUNA (Motivational Interviewing for VACcine Uptake in latiNx Adults
09/26/2022 – 6/30/2027 (R01NR20482)
Leveraging community- based behavioral health to increase vaccine uptake in Latinx adults with mental illness
Sponsor: NIH, National Institute of Nursing Research
Role: PI (multi-PI with Rocio Calvo and Sebastien Haneue)

Selected Appointments & Awards

2019  Donahue and DiFelice Professorship, Boston College

2017  Alice Hamilton Award, Harvard School of Public Health

2017  Leadership Institute, Society for Behavioral Medicine

2011  Donald and Sue Pritzker Professorship, Harvard School of Public Health