Texas Tech University

Human Development and Family Sciences Graduate Student Awarded by the National Council on Family Relations for Pregnancy Research

Matilda Beckanovic

October 10, 2022

Emma Willis-Grossmann

Emma Willis-Grossmann received recognition for her research on nonmarital pregnancy effects in the Latino community

Emma Willis-Grossmann is a graduate student pursuing her doctorate in Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS). She was recently awarded the 2022 Latinx Research Focus Group Best Student Poster Award by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR).

“The Latinx Research Focus Group is a section within the larger NCFR structure,” said Sylvia Niehuis, Ph.D., professor in Human Development and Family Sciences. “The group considers these awards to play a very necessary and important role in the professional development of its student members. I see the awards program as an excellent way to encourage students to conduct research on Latinx families and reward those who do well at it.” 

Willis-Grossmann's research focuses on the effect of nonmarital pregnancy effects specifically on the Latino community. She focused primarily on how the presence or absence of a premarital pregnancy may be entangled with socioeconomic factors. Along with Niehuis, Willis-Grossmann collaborated with many HDFS faculty including Alan Reifman, Ph.D., Jacki Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., and Dana Weiser, Ph.D. Together, she said they compared 50 premaritally pregnant and 50 socioeconomically and demographically matched non-pregnant newlywed couples on various measures of relationship functioning and quality, using a predominantly Latinx sample.

“I found pregnant and non-pregnant couples to be surprisingly similar in their relationship progression and functioning,” Willis-Grossmann said. “For example, both within premaritally pregnant couples and within non-pregnant couples, greater similarity in partners' development of commitment to marry was associated with quicker progression to feeling in love, wanting to marry the partner, and getting engaged.” 

Willis-Grossmann has been conducting her research study since she was an undergraduate student at Fresno State University in California. There, she received her bachelor's degree in Child Development and then received her master's degree in Human Development and Family Sciences from Texas Tech. Since then, she has worked to develop research questions by finding relevant literature, studying statistical methods, and analyzing collected data. 

“Although the field of family studies has increased its interest in Latinx families in recent years, there still is not as much prior research on this topic as I would have expected,” Niehuis said. “Hence, Emma has had to search intensively to learn what has been discovered regarding nonmarital pregnancies in Latinx populations. The award recognizes all of this.”

The Human Development and Family Sciences graduate program has helped prepare Willis-Grossmann for her future career by challenging her to reach her full potential both in her research and as a student. 

“Dr. Niehuis greatly cares about her students and has made sure I have had what I needed to pursue my research on premarital pregnancy,” Willis-Grossmann said. “Drs. Reifman, Weiser, and Fitzpatrick have also generously shared their time and expertise with me. I could not have come as far as I have without this program and the support of the HDFS faculty and staff.”