Theresa Betancourt

Associate Professor of Child Health and Human Rights

Department of Global Health and Population

665 Huntington Avenue
12th floor, Room 1213
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Other Affiliations

Dr. Betancourt is Director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity at the Harvard School of Public Health and an Affiliated Faculty member of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child.


Theresa S. Betancourt, Sc.D., M.A. is Director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity (RPCGA) and Associate Professor of Child Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Her central research interests include:

  • Developmental and psychosocial consequences of concentrated adversity on children and families;
  • Resilience and protective processes in child development;
  • Child health and human rights; and
  • Applied cross-cultural mental health research.

Dr. Betancourt has extensive experience in conducting research among children and families in low-resource settings, particularly in the context of humanitarian emergencies. She has been involved in the adaptation and testing of several mental health interventions for children and families facing adversity due to violence and chronic illness, including as PI of an NIMH-funded project to develop and evaluate a parenting/Family Strengthening Intervention (FSI) for HIV-affected families in Rwanda. She has recently worked with partners to adapt this intervention to focus on families with young children (<3 years) living in extreme poverty and options for delivering such family home visiting interventions via Rwanda’s Social Protection system.

Dr. Betancourt is currently PI of an ongoing project to integrate an evidence-based behavioral intervention for war-affected youth (the Youth Readiness Intervention) into education and employment programs in Sierra Leone. She is also PI of an NIMHD-funded project using community-based participatory research methods to study conceptualizations of mental health problems as well as attitudes about healing and help-seeking to design family-based preventive interventions for Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees in the Boston metropolitan area.  One of Dr. Betancourt’s longest standing projects (begun in 2002) is a prospective longitudinal/intergenerational study of war-affected youth in Sierra Leone. A current NICHD R01 research grant is supporting a fourth wave of data collection in the cohort to investigate the intergenerational effects of war in Sierra Leone by examining health and development of the young children of the original cohort as well as intimate partner relationships. This research comprises one of the few intergenerational studies of war ever conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Betancourt has written extensively on mental health, child development, family functioning and resilience in children facing adversity including recent articles in Child Development, Lancet Global Health, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, JAMA Psychiatry, Social Science and Medicine, and PLoS One.

Dr. Betancourt graduated summa cum laude in psychology from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon and holds a Master in Art Therapy from the University of Louisville. She completed her doctoral work in Maternal and Child Health with concentrations in Psychiatric Epidemiology and Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Sc.D., 2003, Harvard
School of Public Health

M.A., 1993, University
of Louisville

B.A., 1991, Linfield College