Image of Bruce Compas

Bruce Compas

Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Professor of Pediatrics, Co-Director of Clinical Psychology Training, and Director of Psychology at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

An expert on how stress affects the physical and mental health of children and families, and the power of coping and preventative measures.


Bruce Compas is an expert on how children, adolescents and adults cope with stress and adversity. In his research, he seeks to find solutions for individuals and families coping with stress. He examines the cycle of depression in families; the impact of stress on families with a sick child; and the affects of adverse childhood experiences on learning. His work includes children and families dealing with cancer, congenital heart disease, brain tumors, Huntington Disease, Leukemia and Sickle Cell Disease.

Media Appearances

  • Kids, are you overworked at school? Here’s how you can cope with the stress

    Between homework, schoolwork, exams and test anxiety, post-school activities and bullying, kids can be super stressed out, but now, a team of researchers has outlined which coping strategies work best. The study’s lead author Bruce Compas said that learning effective ways to manage stress is especially important for children.

    July 23rd, 2017

  • When a Teenager’s Coping Mechanism Is SpongeBob

    Bruce Compas, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University and the author of a research review on teenage coping notes that adolescents may “just need to take a break from something that is stressful, particularly if they can’t change it or control it.” Dr. Compas’s research demonstrates that teenagers facing chronic or unavoidable stress feel better when they find positive distractions that can help “lift their spirits and get them out of a down or depressed mood.”

    February 8th, 2017

  • Stress causes brain shrinkage

    Bruce Compas, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, said that anything that leads to a reduction in the number of connections between neurons, such as a decrease in gray matter, hurts the brain’s ability to store information and respond quickly to the environment. He also commended both the design and measurements of the study.

    January 17th, 2012