Donna Coffman, Ph.D. | The Methodology Center

Donna Coffman, Ph.D.

Donna Coffman, Ph.D.Research Associate Professor, College of Health and Human Development

Principal Investigator, The Methodology Center


The Methodology Center

The Pennsylvania State University

400 Calder Square II

State College, PA 16801




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Ph.D., University of North Carolina, 2005 (Quantitative Psychology)

M.A., James Madison University, 2001 (Psychological Sciences)

B.S., James Madison University, 1999 (Psychology) 


Research Interests & Collaborations

I am interested in behavioral health risk factors, namely, diet, substance use, stress, and physical activity (both exercise and reducing sedentary behavior), the causal antecedents of engagement in these behaviors, and the causal effects of these behaviors on health outcomes. My goal is to examine dynamic causal processes of health behavior change and maintenance. Ultimately, I hope to inform the development of individualized ecological momentary interventions to promote engagement in and maintenance of healthy behaviors. Achieving this goal requires high-resolution data on multiple time scales of observation and at multiple levels of analysis (e.g., environmental, social, behavioral, physiological, genetic).


I am currently developing and applying methods for analyzing data from biosensors, ecological momentary assessments, and genomics. My aim is to identify momentary risk states for physical inactivity and stress. I work on extending statistical learning/data mining methods to estimate propensity scores in the mediation context. I am developing a method to estimate multi-level propensity scores for continuous exposures. Finally, I collaborate on a project using propensity score methods to model peer influence and selection effects in social networks.


My current collaborators include Linda Caldwell, David Conroy, Angela Henneberger, Vasant Honavar, Kari Kugler, Noelle Leonard, Runze Li, Megan Schuler, Ed Smith, Rachel Smith, and Joshua Smyth



Recent Grants 

Novel methods to identify momentary risk states for stress & physical inactivity
Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K): K01 ES025437
2014-2017; Role: Principal Investigator


Dyadic influence in genomic medicine: Couples beliefs, disclosures, & wellbeing.

National Human Genome Research Institute, R21 HG007111
2014-2016; Role: Investigator


Social ecological determinants of young adult sexual risk behavior.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R03 HD079711

Role: Investigator

Recent Honors

2014: Early Career Award from the Society for Prevention Research

Recent Publications

Powers, C. J., Bierman, K., & Coffman, D. L. (in press). Restricted educational placements for students with early-starting conduct problems: Associations with high school non-completion and adolescent maladjustment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Van Hook, J., Bachmeier, J. D., Coffman, D. L., & Harel, O. (in press). Can we spin straw into gold? An evaluation of immigrant legal status imputation approaches. Demography.

Zhu, Y., Ghosh, D., Coffman, D. L., & Savage, J. (in press). Estimating controlled direct effects of restrictive feeding practices in the early dieting in girls study. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series C (Applied Statistics).

Ghosh, D., Zhu, Y., & Coffman, D. L. (2015). Penalized regression procedures for variable selection in the potential outcomes framework. Statistics in Medicine. doi: 10.1002/sim.6433

Scalco, M., Trucco, E., Coffman, D. L., & Colder, C. (2015). Selection and socialization effects in early adolescent alcohol use: A propensity score analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s10802-014-9969-3

Kordas, K., Ardoino, G., Coffman, D. L., Queirolo, E. I., Ciccariello, D., Manay, N., & Ettinger, A. (2015). Patterns of exposure to multiple metals and associations with neurodevelopment of preschool children in Montevideo, Uruguay. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. doi: 10.1155/2015/493471

Zhu, Y., Schonbach, M., Coffman, D. L., & Savage, J. (2015). Variable selection for propensity score estimation via balancing covariates. Epidemiology, 26(2), e14-15. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000237

Coffman, D. L., Melde, C., & Esbensen, F.-A. (2015). Gang membership and substance use: Guilt as a gendered causal pathway. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 11(1), 71-95. doi: 10.1007/s11292-014-9220-9 

Jones, J., Hartman, T. J., Klifa, C. S., Coffman, D. L., Mitchell, D. C., Vernarelli, J. A., ... Dorgan, J. F. (2014). Dietary energy density is positively associated with breast density among young women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.015

Coffman, D. L., Melde, C., & Esbensen, F. - A. (2014). Gang membership and substance use: Guilt as a gendered vausal pathway. Journal of Experimental Criminology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11292-014-9220-9 

Conroy, D. E., Ram, N., Pincus, A. L., Coffman, D. L., Lorek, A. E., Rebar, A. L., & Roche, M. J. (2014). Daily physical activity and alcohol use across the adult lifespan. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/hea0000157

Zhu, Y., Coffman, D. L., & Ghosh, D. (2014). A boosting algorithm for estimating generalized propensity scores with continuous treatments. Journal of Causal Inference. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1515/jci-2014-0022

Butera, N. M., Lanza, S. T., & Coffman, D. L. (2014). A framework for estimating causal effects in latent class analysis: Is there a causal link between early sex and subsequent profiles of delinquency? Prevention Science, 15(3), 397-407. doi: 10.1007/s11121-013-0417-3 PMCID: PMC3888479

Crowley, D. M., Coffman, D. L., Feinberg, M. E., & Greenberg, M. T. (2014). Evaluating the impact of implementation factors on family-based prevention programming: Methods for strengthening causal inference. Prevention Science, 15(2), 246-255. doi: 10.1007/s11121-012-0352-8  PMCID: PMC3859719

Crowley, D. M., Jones, D. E., Coffman, D. L., & Greenberg, M. T. (2014). Can we build an efficient response to the prescription drug abuse epidemic? Assessing the cost effectiveness of universal prevention. Preventive Medicine, 62, 71-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.01.029. PMCID: PMC4131945 

Ford, D. W., Hartman, T. J., Still, C., Wood, G. C., Mitchell, D. C., Bailey, R., Smiciklas-Wright, H., Coffman, D. L., & Jensen, G. (2014). Diet quality and body mass index are associated with healthcare resource use in rural older adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.02.016

Ford, D. W., Hartman, T. J., Still, C., Wood, G. C., Mitchell, D., Erickson, P., Bailey, R., Smiciklas-Wright, H., Coffman, D. L., & Jensen, G. (2014). Body mass index, poor diet quality, and health-related quality of life are associated with mortality in rural older adults. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, 33(1), 23-34. doi: 10.1080/21551197.2014.875819

Ford, D. W., Jensen, G., Still, C., Wood, C., Mitchell, D., Erickson, P., Bailey, R., Smiciklas-Wright, H., Coffman, D. L., & Hartman, T. J. (2014). The associations between diet quality, body mass index (BMI) and health related quality of life (HRQOL) in the Geisinger Rural Aging Study (GRAS). Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging, 18, 167-170.

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S. E., & Coffman, D. L. (2014). Alpha-1 couples: Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of spousal communication and stress. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(2), 212 - 220. doi:10.1007/s10897-013-9639-6 PMCID: PMC3921266

Solmeyer, A. R., Feinberg, M. E., Coffman, D. L., & Jones, D. E. (2014). The effects of the Family Foundations prevention program on coparenting and child adjustment: A mediation analysis. Prevention Science, 15(2), 213-233. doi: 10.1007/s11121-013-0366-x PMCID: PMC3683104

Ford, D. W., Hartman, T. J., Still, C., Wood, C., Mitchell, D., Hsiao, P.-Y., Bailey, R., Smiciklas-Wright, H., Coffman, D. L., & Jensen, G. (2014). Diet-related practices and body mass index (BMI) associated with diet quality in older adults. Public Health Nutrition, 17(7), 1565-1569. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013001729 

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