• About Me


    I am currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign's Department of Psychology Clinical Community Division. I completed my PhD at the University of Georgia (UGA), and prior to this attended the University of Miami and Florida International University. During my time at UGA, I was a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow (2017-2021), a PEO Scholar (2021-2022), and an NIMH R36 recipient(2021-2023).

    Research Interests

    The overall aims of my research are the following:

    • First, I aim to better understand causal and maintaining factors in youth and parent mental health disorders in understudied, underserved, and underprivileged groups, including health disparities in these groups.
    • Second, I am interested in developing improved assessment methods in parenting and family dynamics that are valid in different cultural, research, and clinical contexts.
    • Third, I aim to translate evidence-based health promotion strategies and interventions in underserved settings to promote health equity.

    Specifically, my goals are to maximize the impact of research aimed at improving mental health outcomes and programs for children and families from understudied, underserved, and underprivileged backgrounds by improving quantification of the complex influence of parenting and family factors on the development of psychopathology.

  • Education

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    University of Georgia


    Doctor of Philosophy

    APA- and PCSAS-Accredited Clinical Psychology Program

    Quantitative Methodology in Family Science (QMFS) Certificate Program, Fall 2020

    Advisor: Anne E. Shaffer, PhD

    University of Georgia


    Master of Science in Psychology

    Advisor: Anne E. Shaffer, PhD

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    University of Miami


    Master of Science in Education in Research, Measurement and Evaluation

    Advisor: Cengiz Zopluoglu, PhD

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    Florida International University


    Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Honors)

    Honors: Summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Honors College

    Advisor: Jeremy W. Pettit, PhD

  • Areas of Research

    Advances in Measurement

    Measuring psychological constructs that cannot be directly observed is a challenging process. When they can be observed, measurement is often costly and not realistic in low-income settings. Measuring psychopathology and interpersonal constructs, such as parenting, is critical for clinical settings, and it has been a primary focus of my research. For instance, recently, despite years of use of the Bayley Infant Neurodevelopmental Screener (BINS) in South Africa among HIV-exposed infants, I was the first to replicate the original factor structure of the BINS in this context.1 I also developed a measure to optimize evaluation of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission (PMTCT) program and its effectiveness.2 In the United States, under the mentorship of Dr. Shaffer, I developed a preliminary version of the Regulating Emotions in Parenting Scale (REPS), which has utility promoting greater specificity in parenting interventions.3 I have also collaborated with other researchers on optimizing other measures for use in low-income settings, international contexts, and racially and ethnically diverse samples4:


    1. Rodriguez, V.J., Zegarac, M., La Barrie, D.L., Parrish, M.S., Matseke, G., Peltzer, K., and Jones, D.L. (in press). Validation of the Bayley Infant Neurodevelopmental Screener among HIV-exposed infants in rural South Africa. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS)https://doi.org/10.1097/QAI.0000000000002479
    2. Rodriguez, V.J., Parrish, M.S., Jones, D.L., and Peltzer, K. (in press). Factor Structure of a Male Involvement Index to increase the effectiveness of prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) programs: Revised Male Involvement Index. AIDS Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2020.1786000. PMID: 32602359. 
    3. Rodriguez, V.J., and Shaffer, A.E. (in press). Validation of the Regulating Emotions in Parenting Scale (REPS): Factor Structure and Measurement Invariance. Journal of Family Psychology. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000808.
    4. Rodriguez, V.J., Shaffer, A., Are, F., Madden, A., Jones, D.L., and Kumar, M. (August, 2019). Identification of differential item functioning by race and ethnicity in the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Child Abuse and Neglect, 94(104030). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104030.  PMID: 31181398.

    Psychopathology in Understudied/Vulnerable Groups

    Another area of research focus is psychopathology among understudied, underserved, and underprivileged groups, which informs my research on measurement. Under the mentorship of Drs. Anne Shaffer and Deborah Jones, I examined cross-lagged effects between depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence among women living with HIV in South Africa,1 as well as factors associated with suicidal ideation in this group.2 Working with both Drs. Jones and Alcaide, I found that the use of efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication, predicted suicidal ideation in pregnant women living with HIV.3 These findings had important implications for women’s mental health and their infants’ socioemotional development. In the United States, under the mentorship of Drs. Jones and Kumar, I published a manuscript showing an association between child maltreatment and depression, an association that was moderated by levels of social support, which differed by whether the individuals were infected with HIV.4 These projects resulted in the following selected publications:


    1. Rodriguez, V.J., Shaffer, A., Lee, T.K. Peltzer, K., and Jones, D.L. (January, 2020). Psychological and physical intimate partner violence and maternal depressive symptoms during the pre- and post-partum period among women living with HIV in rural South Africa. Journal of Family Violence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-0027-8. PMID: 32636575.
    2. Rodriguez, V.J., Cook, R., Peltzer K, Jones D. (September, 2016). Prevalence and psychosocial correlates of suicidality among pregnant HIV positive women in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. AIDS Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2016.1238442. PMID: 27690544.
    3. Jones, D.L., Rodriguez, V.J., Alcaide, M.L., Weiss, S.M., and Peltzer, K. (July, 2018). The use of efavirenz during pregnancy is associated with suicidal ideation postpartum among women in rural South Africa. AIDS and Behavior, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-018-2213-3. PMID: 29607661. 978906.
    4. Rodriguez, V.J., Butts, S.A., Mandell, L.N., Weiss, S.M., Kumar, M., and Jones, D.L. (September, 2018). The role of social support in the association between childhood trauma and depression among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected individuals. International Journal of STDs and AIDS, 30(1), 29-36. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956462418793736. PMID: 30170529.

    Predictors of Infant Development and Health

    Consistent with my interest on the role of parenting factors that predict infant development and health in at-risk environments, several of my publications have examined the role of perinatal intimate partner violence and perinatal depression on neurodevelopmental outcomes among HIV-exposed children born to women living with HIV in rural South Africa under the direction of Dr. Jones.1,2 I have also collaborated on projects, contributing to the data analysis, that aim to optimize infant health by preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.3,4 Under the direction of Dr. Alcaide, I examined biological maternal factors that contribute to neurodevelopmental delays among HIV-exposed uninfected infants. In working with Dr. Cook, I learned Bayesian analyses in the process of identifying psychosocial factors predicting nonadherence to infant HIV medication regimen, which increases the risk for infant HIV infection.


    1. Rodriguez, V.J., Peltzer, K., Matseke, G., and Jones, D.L. (May, 2018). Pre- and postnatal exposure to intimate partner violence among South African HIV-infected mothers and infant developmental functioning at 12-months of age. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 21(6), 707-713. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-018-0857-7. PMID: 29796967. 
    2. Rodriguez, V.J., Matseke, G., Cook, R., Bellinger, S., Weiss, S.M., Alcaide, M.L., Peltzer, K., Patton, D., Lopez, M., and Jones, D.L. (October, 2017). Infant development and pre-and post-partum depression in rural South African HIV-Infected women. AIDS and Behavior 22:1766–1774. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-017-1925-0. PMID: 28986652. 
    3. Alcaide, M.L., Rodriguez, V.J., Abbamonte, J., Ramlagan, S., Sifunda, S., Weiss, S.M., Peltzer, K., and Jones, D.L. (October, 2019). Maternal factors associated with Infant Neurodevelopment in HIV-exposed uninfected infants. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 6(10), ofz351. https://doi.org/10.1093/ofid/ofz351. PMID: 31660335. 
    4. Cook, R., Peltzer, K., Weiss, S.M., Rodriguez, V.J., and Jones, D.L. (January, 2018). A Bayesian analysis of prenatal maternal factors predicting nonadherence to infant HIV medication regimen. AIDS and Behavior, 22(9), 2947-2955. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-017-2010-4.  PMID: 29302843. 

    Methodological/Mixed Methods Research

    have focused on the measurement of family-related constructs to address the increasing need for psychometrically sound measures in parenting. In this process, I have sought several quantitative training opportunities to enhance the psychometric properties of measures in research and clinical settings, particularly those used with vulnerable families. I have also sought extensive training opportunities in qualitative research and mixed methods research, which I plan to use in the proposed project.1-4 As part of my training, I have eagerly sought exposure to different methods, cultural contexts, and worked with understudied, underserved, and underprivileged groups under the mentorship of several accomplished researchers.


    1. Rodriguez, V.J., Chahine, A., de la Rosa, A., Lee, T.K., Cristofari, N.V., Jones, D.L., Zulu, R., Chitalu, N., and Weiss, S.M. (May, 2019). Identifying factors associated with successful implementation and uptake of an evidence-based voluntary medical male circumcision program in Zambia: The Spear and Shield 2 Program. Translational Behavioral Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz048. PMID: 31093661.
    2. Rodriguez, V.J., LaCabe, L.P., Privette, C.K., Douglass, K.M., Peltzer, K., Matseke, G., Molefe, A., Ramlagan, S., Sifunda, S., Prado, G., Horigian, V., Weiss, S.M., and Jones, D.L. (September, 2017). The Achilles' Heel of Prevention to Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV: Protocol Implementation, Uptake, and Sustainability. SAHARA J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, 14(1), 38-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/17290376.2017.1375425. PMID: 28922974.
    3. Rodriguez, V.J., Spence, A.D., Monda, M., and Jones D. (April, 2015). Couples Living with HIV: Men's Reproductive Intentions, Practices, and Attitudes. Journal of International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (JIAPAC), 16(2), 133-139. https://doi.org/10.1177/2325957415612127. PMID: 26467783.
    4. Alcaide, M.L., Rodriguez, V.J., Fischl, M., Jones, D.L., and Weiss, S.M. (January, 2017). Addressing Intravaginal Practices in Women with HIV and at Risk for HIV Infection, A Mixed Methods Pilot Study. International Journal of Women’s Health, 9, 123-132. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S125883. PMID: 28280394.


  • Reach Out

    My current email is vjrodrig@illinois.edu. If you do reach out about joining my lab, please include your CV.


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