NCFR recognizes Ijeoma Opara for Contributions to Knowledge About Ethnic Minority Families

Ijeoma Opara

The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) is proud to recognize Ijeoma Opara, M.P.H., LMSW, as the 2018 recipient of the John L. and Harriette P. McAdoo Dissertation Award, which provides support for the recipient to complete an approved doctoral dissertation with a focus on issues impacting ethnic minority families. Her paper is titled “Exploring the role of social support, ethnic identity, and psychological empowerment on drug use and sexual risk behavior among urban Black and Hispanic female adolescents”

Ms. Opara is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Family Science & Human Development at Montclair State University and is a research fellow for two programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Opara received her Master of Social Work from New York University, Master of Public Health in epidemiology from New York Medical College, and bachelor’s in psychology from New Jersey City University. Before pursuing her doctorate, Ms. Opara worked as a youth and family therapist for an alternative-to-incarceration agency in New York City where she primarily served urban youth of color and their families. Ms. Opara is also a lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work where she teaches adolescent development and human behavior and social environment courses.

Earlier this year, Ms. Opara received a training grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse to fund her dissertation and research on drug abuse prevention among adolescents of color. Through this grant, she is a fellow in the Behavioral Sciences Training in Drug Abuse Research Program at New York University where she receives training on grant writing and strategies for drug abuse prevention. Ms. Opara has received numerous national awards including the AcademyHealth’s Population Health Scholar Award, The New Writers Fellowship by the Family Process Institute, and was named POZ Magazine’s Top 100 Women Dedicated to ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.

Ms. Opara’s dissertation focuses on examining protective factors for sexual risk behavior and drug use among Black and Hispanic girls. Ms. Opara utilizes a strengths-based approach in her research which focuses on highlighting the resiliency in ethnic minority families and their role in HIV/AIDS and drug use prevention.

Robert J. Reid, Ph.D., who presently serves as Ms. Opara’s dissertation chair, writes in his letter of recommendation, “Ms. Opara’s dissertation proposal … is a timely topic and extremely relevant to the current health crisis that is impacting adolescent girls of color. Her dissertation truly fits the criteria of the award and exemplifies the work that Drs. John L. and Harriette P. McAdoo have effortlessly worked towards—to highlight the strengths of ethnic minority families that can impact family processes.”  

Ms. Opara will be recognized for her achievement at the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference, Nov. 7-10 in San Diego, California.

John L. and Harriette P. McAdoo, the namesakes of this award, made significant contributions to the scholarship on ethnic minority families, especially our understanding of African Americans' familial experiences.

The National Council on Family Relations is the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families. NCFR has a membership of nearly 3,000 family researchers, practitioners and educators. For more information on the National Council on Family Relations or its scholarly publications, visit the NCFR website at