Andrea Roberts

Senior Research Scientist

Department of Environmental Health

677 Huntington Avenue

Boston, Massachusetts 02115


My research focuses on mental and cognitive health, including causes and consequences of autism, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and cognitive decline. I also study the psychological, behavioral, and physical health outcomes of trauma and stress, including PTSD, depression, intimate partner violence, and health-risk behaviors.  I am particularly interested in the effects of trauma on health across generations.

In addition to studying the effects of psychological trauma, I conduct research on the effects of playing professional football, including physical injury, as part of the Football Players Health Study at Harvard Medical School.

List of all publications:  PubMed,  Google scholar.

Related Links

Nicholas Kristof NYT op-ed: Is a Hard Life Inherited?

“Obviously, some people born into poverty manage to escape, and bravo to them. That tends to be easier when the constraint is just a low income, as opposed to other pathologies such as alcoholic, drug-addicted or indifferent parents or a neighborhood dominated by gangs…. Too often wealthy people born on third base blithely criticize the poor for failing to hit home runs. The advantaged sometimes perceive empathy as a sign of muddle-headed weakness, rather than as a marker of civilization.”

Selected Publications

Football Players Health Study

Roberts AL, et al. (2019). “Exposure to American football and neuropsychiatric health in former National Football League (NFL) players: Findings from the Football Players Health Study ” American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2019.

Grashow, Weisskopf, Miller, Nathan, Zafonte, FE Speizer, Baggish, Taylor, Pascual-Leone, Nadler, and Roberts AL. “Concussion Symptoms and Indicators of Low Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction in a Cohort of Former Professional American-Style Football Players ” JAMA Neurology. 2019.

Intergenerational effects of exposure to violence

Roberts AL, Gladish N, Gatev E, Jones M, Chen Y, MacIsaac J, Tworoger SS, Austin SB, Tanrikut C, Chavarro JE, Baccarelli AA, Kobor MS. Exposure to childhood abuse is associated with human sperm DNA methylation. Translational Psychiatry, 2018. Full text:

Roberts AL, Lyall K, Rich-Edwards JW, Ascherio A, Weisskopf MG. Association of maternal exposure to childhood abuse with elevated risk for autism in offspring. JAMA Psychiatry, 2013. JAMA psych full text & JAMA psych figureInterview BBC World Service (at minute 49:40). Commentary Forbes Magazine. News coverage Time, CNN, The Boston Globe.

Roberts AL, Galea S, Austin SB, Corliss HL, Williams MA, Koenen KC. Women’s experience of abuse in childhood and their children’s smoking and overweight. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2014. AJPM full text.

Roberts AL, Galea S, Austin SB, Cerda M, Wright RJ, Rich-Edwards JW, Koenen KC. Posttraumatic stress disorder across two generations: Concordance and mechanisms in a population-based sample. Biological Psychiatry 2012. AJPM full text.

Roberts AL, Chen Y, Slopen N, McLaughlin KA, Koenen KC, Austin SB. Maternal experience of abuse in childhood and depressive symptoms in adolescent and adult offspring: A 21-year longitudinal study. Depression and Anxiety 2015.

Roberts AL, McLaughlin KA, Conron KJ, Koenen KC. Adulthood stressors, history of childhood adversity, and risk of perpetration of intimate partner violence.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011; 40(2). AJPM full text.

Roberts AL, Gilman SE, Fitzmaurice G, Decker MR, Koenen KC. Witness of intimate partner violence in childhood and perpetration of intimate partner violence in adulthood. Epidemiology 2010; 21 (809-18).  Epidemiology full text.

Autism epidemiology

Roberts AL, Lyall K, Hart JE, Laden F, Just AC, Bobb JF, Koenen KC, Ascherio A, Weisskopf MG. Perinatal Air Pollutant Exposures and Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Children of Nurses’ Health Study II Participants. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013. EHP full text.   Interview on CNNCoverage on CBS news.

Roberts AL, Koenen KC, Lyall K, Ascherio A, Weisskopf MG. Women’s posttraumatic stress symptoms and autism spectrum disorder in their children. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2014;8(6):608-616.  RASD full text. News coverage New York Times.

Roberts AL, Lyall K, Rich-Edwards JW, Ascherio A, & Weisskopf MG. Maternal exposure to intimate partner abuse before birth is associated with autism spectrum disorder in offspring. Autism, 2015. Autism full text.

Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Roberts AL, Agnew-Blais JC, Spiegelman D, Kubzansky LD, Mason SM, Galea S, Hu FB, Rich-Edwards JW, Koenen KC. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in a Sample of Women: A 22-Year Longitudinal Study. JAMA Psychiatry 2015.  JAMA Psych full text.

Roberts AL, Rosario M, Corliss HL, Koenen KC, Austin SB.  Childhood gender nonconformity: a risk indicator for childhood abuse and posttraumatic stress in youth.  Pediatrics, 2012; Feb 20. Pediatrics full text. Figure.  News coverage in USA Today, Chicago Tribune, ReutersInterview on CommonHealth.

Roberts AL, Rosario M, Slopen N, Calzo JP, Austin SB. Childhood Gender Nonconformity, Bullying Victimization, and Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence and Early Adulthood: An 11-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2013; February. JAACAP full text. Figure. JAACAP interview podcast.

Roberts AL, Glymour MM, Koenen KC. Does maltreatment in childhood affect sexual orientation in adulthood? Archives of Sexual Behavior. ASB full text & ASB figure. Response to commentary 1. Response to commentary 2.

Roberts AL, Austin SB, Corliss HL, Vandermorris AK, Koenen KC. Pervasive trauma exposure among US sexual orientation minority adults and posttraumatic stress disorder risk. American Journal of Public Health 2010; 100(6). AJPH full text.

Roberts AL, Gilman SE, Breslau J, Breslau N, Koenen KC. Race/ethnic differences in exposure to traumatic events, development of post-traumatic stress disorder, and treatment-seeking for post-traumatic stress disorder in the United States. Psychological Medicine 2010; 40:1-13. Psych Med full text.