VCU Psychology Department

Does forgiving others affect your meaning in life?

Relationships are a vital source of meaning in life. But conflicts are inevitable in every relationship. Might forgiving an offense by your partner increase or restore how meaningful you feel your life is? read more...


How can we track the psychosocial functioning of patients?

Understanding a patient’s psychological profile over time can aid in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment planning. What method can we use to track the psychosocial functioning of patients? read more...


How important are routines for our well-being?

William Blake suggested that we "Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night." How critical is the timing and regularly of our daily activities for our well-being? read more...


Dr. Danielle Dick

Professor of Psychology, African American Studies, and Human and Molecular Genetics (tenured)

Developmental Psychology (primary), Health Psychology and Clinical Psychology (secondary)


PhD (2001), Indiana University

Contact Information

Phone: 804-828-8756

Office: 816 W Franklin St, rm 203


Research Interests

My research focuses on how genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of patterns of substance use and related behaviors, such as childhood conduct problems and depression, and how we can use that information to inform prevention and intervention.  It integrates developmental and clinical psychology, behavior genetics/twin studies, and statistical genetics/gene identification. There are many active grants and projects in the group that span (1) twin studies (2) gene-identification projects and (3) community-based, longitudinal studies. We have studied samples of >10,000 twins from early in adolescence until young adulthood (the FinnTwin projects), collecting longitudinal data on health behaviors and personality traits at multiple assessments from age 12 to 25. We are currently studying how environmental risk factors, such as parental monitoring and home atmosphere, peers, and neighborhood influences, interact with genetic predispositions, and how this changes across development.  In addition, I am involved in the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism, a project with the goal of identifying the specific genes involved in alcohol dependence and related disorders and characterizing their risk across development, and in conjunction with the environment.  In addition, my lab coordinates the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, with extensive phenotypic assessments spanning from early childhood to mid-adulthood. These include the Child Development Project, a sample of ~500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama; the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an epidemiological cohort of ~10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly -- prenatally through young adulthood; and the Project Alliance Sample, which has followed a cohort of ~1000 adolescents with phenotypic and genotypic information and has a prevention component. In these projects we are studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk. 

I am particularly interested in substance use and mental health outcomes in youth and young adults.  I run a large longitudinal project at VCU called Spit for Science (, in which we have enrolled nearly 10,000 VCU students, and are following them longitudinally to study risk and protective factors for substance use and emotional health outcomes across the college years and beyond.  I also direct an interdisciplinary initiative focused on promoting behavioral and emotional health in college communities through the integration of research with coursework, programming, and policy ( 

Selected Publications

Dick, D. M., & Hancock, L. C. (2015). Integrating basic research with prevention/intervention to reduce risky substance use among college students. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 544.

Dick, D. M., Agrawal, A., Keller, M., Adkins, A., Aliev, F., Monroe, S., Hewitt, J., Kendler, K. S., & Sher, K. (2015). Candidate gene-environment interaction research: Reflections and Recommendations. Perspectives on Psychological Science,10(1), 37-59.

Dick, D. M., Nasim, A., Edwards, A. C., Salvatore, J., Cho, S. B., Adkins, A., Meyers, J., Yan, J., Cooke, M., Clifford, J., Goyal, N., Halberstadt, L., Ailstock, K., Neale, Z., Oplaesky, J., Hancock, L., Donovan, K. K., Sun, C., Riley, B., & Kendler, K. S. (2014). Spit for Science: Launching a longitudinal study of genetic and environmental influences on substance use and emotional health at a large US university. Frontiers in Genetics (Behavioral and Psychiatric), 5, 47.

Dick, D.M., Cho, S. B, Latendresse, S. J., Aliev, F., Nurnberger Jr, J. I., Edenberg, H. J., Schuckit, M., Hessebrock, V. M., Porjesz, B., Bucholz, K., Wang, J. C., Goate, A., Kramer, J. R., & Kuperman, S. (2014). Genetic influences on alcohol use across stages of development: GABRA2 and longitudinal trajectories of drunkenness from adolescence to young adulthood. Addiction Biology,19, 1055-64.

Dick, D. M., Aliev, F., Latendresse, S. J., Hickman, M., Heron, J., Macleod, J., Joinson, C., Maughan, B., Lewis, G., & Kendler, K. S. (2013). Adolescent alcohol use is predicted by childhood temperament factors before age 5, with mediation through personality and peers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37, 2108-17.

Recent Courses
Recent Grants

Preventing underage and risky drinking among college students. Principal Investigator. June 2015-June 2016. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. $7,500

Gene-environment Interplay in the Development of Alcohol Use and Related Problems. Principal Investigator. September 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 2R01 AA015416-A1, $2,687,133

Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2014-August 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 5 U10 AA008401, $1,372,500

Characterizing Pathways of Risk Associated with Identified Genes and Gene Networks (Project 5 of the VCU Alcohol Research Center Grant). Principal Investigator, Project 5. August 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 1P50 AA022537, $6,942,968 (Center)

A Longitudinal Study of Genes, Environment and Alcohol Misuse in College Students. Acting Multiple PI (with Kendler). September 2012-August 2017. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R37 AA011408, $2,372,763

Family Etiology and Prevention of Young Adult Addictive Behavior. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2011-May 2016. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). R01 DA007031-A1, $1,274,408

Pathways to Alcohol Use Disorders in ALSPAC: A Genetic-Developmental Study. MPI (with Kendler). September 2010-August 2016 NCE. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R01 AA018333, $668,791