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Associate Professor, Tulane University

Marva L. Lewis is an Associate Professor at Tulane University with a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Psychology. Her past clinical experience includes work psychotherapist on an interdisciplinary team working with high risk infants placed in foster care in Colorado and Louisiana and work as a child protection social worker. Her scholarship focuses on the hair-combing task as a context for research, assessment, and intervention with caregivers and young children. She founded and Directs the Center for Natural Connections. She developed the 'Talk, Touch & Listen While Combing Hair' community-based, parent support group focused on reunification of parents separated from their children due to incarceration or placement of the child into foster care. This approach incorporates highly experiential, improv, storytelling, and other arts techniques to engage parents, remind them of their strengths and resilience, restore the joy in connecting with their child, culture, build community support among parents, and to have fun as they re-story their family.

She has published and presented nationally and internationally on her research on issues related to parent-child attachment, parenting practices based on Childhood Experiences of Racial Acceptance and Rejection, and the intergenerational stress associated with internalized oppression and “colorism” (valuing light skin color). She also developed tools for individual and organizational audits on stereotypes and emotions associated with topics of race and diversity. In 2011 she was commissioned by the National Zero to Three Safe Babies Court Teams to conduct a series of workshops titled, "Healing from the Historical Trauma of Slavery."


  • 2004–present
    Associate professor, Tulane University School of Social Work
  • 2004–present
    Clinical professor, Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Neurology,


  • 1996 
    Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Post Doctoral Fellowship
  • 1993 
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Denver, Ph.D., Sociocultural Psychology
  • 1973 
    Michigan State University, East Lansing, B.A., Psychology


  • 2015
    ‘Getting the Parts Straight’: The Psychology of Hair Combing Interaction and African American Mother-Daughter Relationships, In (Ed.) K. Craddock, Black Motherhoods. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.
  • 2014
    Promoting social justice in families. , In series Editors: C. Johnson & H. Friedman. Volume Editors: C. Johnson, H. Friedman, J. Diaz, B. Nastasi, & Z. Franco Praeger Handbook of Social Justice and Psychology – Vol. II, pp. 39-58. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Grants and Contracts

  • 2015
    Talk, Touch & Listen While Combing Hair
    Principal Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Institute for Mental Hygiene, New Orleans, Louisiana

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • Association of Black Psychologists
  • Louisiana Infant Mental Health Association