Faculty Profile

Jennifer Unger, Ph.D.

Professor of Preventive Medicine

Jennifer B. Unger, Ph.D. is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the psychological, social, and cultural influences on health-risk and health-protective behaviors, including the role of acculturation and cultural values on adolescent substance use, with the ultimate goal of developing improved prevention programs to reduce health disparities. She and her colleagues have conducted several longitudinal studies of family acculturation patterns and substance use among Hispanic adolescents in Los Angeles and Miami. Her research also has examined cultural influences on ceremonial and commercial tobacco use among American Indian adolescents, smoking prevention among Chinese adolescents, and cultural influences on menthol smoking among African American adults. She is interested in entertainment-education strategies for health education among low-literacy minority populations and has collaborated on the design and evaluation of fotonovelas and telenovelas about secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure in multiunit housing; diabetes; asthma; and kidney transplantation. She is a co-investigator in the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORs), where she and her colleagues are investigating the diffusion of messages about emerging tobacco products to vulnerable populations through social media. Previously, she was a co-investigator in the USC Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC), which developed and evaluated culturally targeted smoking prevention programs for culturally diverse youth. Dr. Unger directs the Ph.D. program in Preventive Medicine / Health Behavior Research and teaches a predoctoral research methods course. She is a member of the NIH RPIA (Risk, Prevention, and Intervention in the Addictions) study section, a Deputy Editor for Nicotine & Tobacco Research, and an Associate Editor for Substance Use and Misuse, Journal of Addiction, and Tobacco Regulatory Science.


Characterizing Swisher Little Cigar-Related Posts on Twitter in 2018: Text Analysis
J Med Internet Res. 2019 Jul 19; 21(7):e14398.

Cartoon-based e-cigarette marketing: Associations with susceptibility to use and perceived expectations of use
Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Jun 08; 201:109-114.

Characterising KandyPens-related posts to Instagram: implications for nicotine and cannabis use
Tob Control. 2019 May 30.

A Software Tool Aimed at Automating the Generation, Distribution, and Assessment of Social Media Messages for Health Promotion and Education Research
JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2019 May 07; 5(2):e11263.

Acculturation and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among Hispanic adolescents: The moderating effect of impulsivity
Appetite. 2019 Mar 01; 134:142-147.

Alcohol initiation among recently immigrated Hispanic adolescents: Roles of acculturation and sociocultural stress
Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2019 Jan 31.

Cultural Stress, Emotional well-being, and Health Risk Behaviors among Recent Immigrant Latinx families: The Moderating Role of Perceived Neighborhood Characteristics
J Youth Adolesc. 2019 Jan; 48(1):114-131.