Rob Turrisi

Ph.D., Psychology, University at Albany - State University of New York, 1988

Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Program Areas: Emerging Adulthood (Leader); Family Science & Intervention; Translation, Dissemination & Implementation

Contact Information

210 Biobehavioral Health Building


Phone: (814) 865-7808

Fax: (814) 865-2530


Recent Awards

2010 Pattishall Research Award, College of Health and Human Development, Penn State / Pattishall Research Lecture 2010

2012 Prevention Science Award, Society for Prevention Research

2012 Ralph Hingson Researcher of the Year Award, MADD

Online Articles and Video

Online Articles

MADD and Archie Comics Team Up to Prevent Underage Drinking

Article in the Digital Journal, online, March 22, 2011

Online Video

How Do Parents Tackle Teen Drunk Driving?

Dateline: NBC, April 22, 2012

Research Interests

Parent-adolescent relationships; alcohol and substance use prevention; skin cancer prevention

Examples of Current Prevention Projects

Parent-based Interventions to Prevent Student Drinking

(Project ACT, the ENALC Project, Project PACT)

Start Date: 1999

Funder: NIAAA

The present study is the further development of a program of research designed to reduce the onset and extent of drinking and contribute to the changing campus norms through implementation of efficacious Parent-Based Interventions (PBIs) based on the work of Turrisi and colleagues (1999; 2000; 2001). The focus is on influencing drinking behavior of the students through an intervention with their parents during their first year of college. The conversations are taking place in one of three conditions; (1) prior to college matriculation during the transition period between high school and college (PCM), (2) Prior to college matriculation and then throughout the fall semester resulting from booster parent "check-ins" (PCMB), or (3) after college matriculation during the fall of the first semester at college (AMC).

Enhancing Patient Communication among Dermatologists

(Project Options)

Start Date: 2009

Funder: National Cancer Institute

The objective of this etiological research is to train MDs to deliver a BNI intervention to their patients in the context of a routine office visit. The primary aim of the study is to fully develop a sustainable BNI training program focused on UVL risk and protective behaviors for MDs and evaluate whether MDs can be trained to deliver the BNI to patients with fidelity.

A Community-based ZT Program: Completing the Model of MLDA Enforcement

(The Zero Tolerance Project)

Start Date: 2009

Funder: NIAAA

In this project we are implementing an enforcement-and-publicity zero-tolerance program in two communities in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Both communities are college towns and have a large number of underage drinkers. The zero-tolerance program will be evaluated using a telephone survey of community residents and a web-survey of university students. In addition, roadside surveys will be used to collect physiological measures of blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) from a random sample of young persons recruited in each community on weekend nights.

An Appearance-based Intervention to Reduce Teen Skin Cancer Risk

(Project iSTART)

Start Date: 2010

Funder: NCI

Project iSTART, a collaboration with East Tennessee State University, is a web-based, appearance-focused intervention directed at a nationally representative sample of high school girls with a goal of reducing tanning intentions, frequency, and the overall percentage of users while increasing sun protective behavior.  We will track these students for two years to examine whether the intervention is able to reduce long-term skin cancer risk behaviors.  We will also identify subgroups for whom the intervention is more effective versus less effective, such as having a mother who tans, peer group affiliation or year in school.  High school represents a critical developmental stage for both melanoma risk and for the development of regular, frequent tanning habits, and Project iSTART will be the first anti-tanning intervention delivered to high school teens via the internet.

Project Skin Watch

Start Date: 2011

Funder: NCI/NIH

Project Skin Watch was designed to enhance the ability of patients with a history of melanoma and their significant others to self-identify the recurrence of skin cancer in order to promote early detection and treatment. The focus of the study is to teach individuals who are at an increased risk of developing melanoma and their partners how to detect future melanomas through the utilization of skin self-examinations. Further the study implements a longitudinal design and compares intervention delivery mechanisms (take home manual vs. in-person training) which will help us identify whether the intervention enhances early detection as well as the optimal method of intervention delivery.

Representative Publications

Selected Publications—Alcohol

Spoth, , R., Greenberg, M., & Turrisi, R. (2009). Overview of preventive interventions addressing underage drinking: State of the evidence and steps toward public health Impact. Alcohol Research & Health, 32, 53–66. PMCID: PMC2895811.

Turrisi, R., Larimer, M. E., Mallett, K. A., Kilmer, J. R., Ray, A. E., Mastroleo, N. R., Giesner, I. M., Grossbard, J., Tollison, S., Lostutter, T. W., & Montoya, H. (2009). A randomized clinical trial evaluating a combined alcohol intervention for high-risk college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70(4), 555–567. PMCID: PMC2696296.

Turrisi, R., Abar, C., Mallett, K. A., &  Jaccard, J. (2010). An examination of the mediational effects of cognitive and attitudinal factors on a parent intervention to reduce college drinking. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 2500–2526.

Turrisi, R., & Ray, A. E. (2010). Sustained parenting and college drinking in first-year students. Developmental Psychobiology, 52(3), 286–294. PMID: 20213752.

Mallett, K. A., Marzell, M., Varvil-Weld, L., Turrisi, R., Guttman, K., & Abar, C. (2011). One-time or repeat offenders? An examination of the patterns of alcohol-related consequences experienced by college students across the freshman year. Addictive Behaviors, 36, 508–511.

Mallett, K. A., Varvil-Weld, L., Turrisi, R., & Read, A. (2011). An examination of college students’ willingness to experience consequences as a unique predictor of alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 25, 41–47.

Turrisi, R., Abar, C., Mallett, K. A., & Jaccard, J. (2010). An examination of the mediational effects of cognitive and attitudinal factors on a parent intervention to reduce college drinking. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 2500–2526. PMCID: PMC3035912

Turrisi, R., Mallett, K. A., Cleveland, M., Varvil-Weld, L., Abar, C., Scaglione, N., & Hultgren, B. (2013). An evaluation of timing and dosage of a parent-based intervention to minimize college students' alcohol consumption. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74, 30–40.

Selected Publications—Skin Cancer

Turrisi, R., Mastroleo, N. R., Stapleton, J., & Mallett, K. A. (2008). A comparison of 2 brief intervention approaches to reduce indoor tanning behavior in young women who indoor tan very frequently. Archives of Dermatology, 144(11), 1521–1524. PMID: 19015434.

Stapleton, J., Turrisi, R., Hillhouse, J., Robinson, J. K., & Abar, B. (2010). A comparison of the efficacy of an appearance-focused skin cancer intervention within indoor tanner subgroups identified by latent profile analysis. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 181–190.

Hillhouse, J., & Turrisi, R. (2011). Motivations for tanning: A review of theoretical models of indoor tanning use. In C. Heckman & S. Manne (Eds.), Shedding light on artificial tanning. New York: Springer.

Robinson, J. K., Turrisi, R., Stapleton, J., Mallett, K. A., & Martini, M. (2011). Aids to detection of changing pigmented lesions during partner-assisted skin examination. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 64, 1186–1188.

Turrisi, R., Hillhouse, J., Mallett, K., Stapleton, J., & Robinson, J. (2011). A systematic review of intervention efforts to reduce indoor tanning. In C. Heckman & S. Manne (Eds.), Shedding light on artificial tanning. New York: Springer.

Hillhouse, J., Turrisi, R., Jaccard, J., & Robinson, J. (2012). Evaluating the accuracy of self-reports of sun exposure and sun protection over a summer. Prevention Science.