Jennifer Kam

Associate Professor

Office Location

SSMS 4407


Stress, Coping, and Resilience of Immigrant Youth; Culturally-Grounded Interpersonal Health Communication; Communication about Substance Use with Parents and Friends


Utilizing a stress-coping-resilience framework, Dr. Kam’s research examines factors that protect immigrant youth against adverse mental health outcomes, poor academic performance, and alcohol and other substance use, particularly when faced with stressors. Although many stressors exist, she focuses on ones rooted in immigration, acculturation, and ethnic/racial identification (e.g., undocumented status, interpreting for older family members under stressful conditions, and ethnic/racial discrimination). As protective resources, Dr. Kam considers positive communication with parents, friends, teachers, and school counselors. For example, she most recently collected longitudinal survey data from documented and undocumented Latina/o 9th-11th grade students to examine how hope communication with parents, teachers, and friends predicts college intentions. Dr. Kam also examines how communication about substance use with parents and friends shapes Latina/o immigrant youth’s substance-use beliefs. Her goal is to identify messages that can discourage substance use in general, as well as when Latina/o youth face stressors related to immigration, acculturation, and ethnic/racial identification. Dr. Kam’s research often involves conducting semi-structured interviews and longitudinal surveys with Latina/o immigrant youth. Her goal is to identify communicative, psychological, and individual-action-oriented strategies that enable Latina/o immigrant youth to effectively manage immigration-related stressors. She hopes her research findings can inform the design of culturally-grounded programs and resources intended to enhance the well-being of immigrant youth from underserved backgrounds. 
Dr. Kam has published a number of peer-reviewed journal articles, most of which can be found in top communication, prevention, and adolescent journals such as Communication MonographsCommunication Research, Communication Yearbook, Human Communication Research, Journal of Communication, Health Communication, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Prevention Science, and Journal of Research on Adolescence. In addition, she has presented over 45 papers at national and international conferences and has received nine top paper awards. In 2016, she received the Early Career Award from the Interpersonal Division at the National Communication Association. Dr. Kam is the Chair of the National Communication Association's Health Communication Division. 
Related to her research interests, Dr. Kam teaches undergraduate courses in interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, and risk communication. She also has taught graduate seminars in interpersonal communication, relational communication, communication and race/ethnicity, and lifespan communication.