Marsha Kline Pruett, M.S., Ph.D., M.S.L.

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Maconda Brown O'Connor Professor

Marsha Kline Pruett headshot

Contact Information

Lilly Hall 310



B.A., University of Pennsylvania

M.S., University of Pennsylvania

Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley

M.S.L., Yale School of Law


Marsha Kline Pruett joined the Smith faculty from the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the Maconda Brown O’Connor Chair at the Smith School for Social Work and is currently serving as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. She has master’s degrees in education (University of Penn) and in legal studies (Yale Law School), and a Ph.D. in clinical/community psychology (University of California at Berkeley). She is a clinical diplomate from the American Board of Professional Psychology in Couples and Family. 

Kline Pruett’s interests revolve around the promotion of healthy family development during life transitions, particularly those transitions related to adverse events or circumstances. Her work involves the development, implementation and evaluation of preventive interventions in schools, community agencies and courts. She specializes in family issues pertaining to early development, communication, conflict and the power of group interventions and professional collaborations. 

Kline Pruett's writings include more than 100 scholarly articles, chapters, co-edited and co-written books, including: Your Divorce adviser: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (2001, Simon and Schuster); and Partnership Parenting (2009, Perseus). Kline Pruett has maintained a clinical practice since 1990; she has treated individual adults and children, couples and families. She also provides clinical consultation to programs and institutions, with organizational, family and alternative dispute resolution foci. Through private practice and consulting, her clinical expertise includes couples counseling and consultation, father involvement consultation, mediation, child custody case consultation, expert witness testimony and collaborative divorce. 

Since much of her scholarship and clinical work has implications for family policy, Kline Pruett writes for lay as well as professional audiences. She also works locally and nationally with task forces (e.g., governor- or judicially appointed) charged with developing best practice guidelines or legislation. She has taught in the doctoral and master’s programs at the Smith College School for Social Work. She teaches an undergraduate psychology seminar with a colleague in community-engagement and learning that includes practicum experience in a local agency and focus on entering agencies, ethical dilemmas and boundary management, and handling direct client contact. 

She is involved in projects spanning supporting father involvement group interventions in the U.S. and Canada; the evaluation of online parenting programs; and the design and evaluation of model ADR programs that help families resolve disputes outside of the adversarial system. She has been a key consultant for numerous prevention programs, including the Out of Court Divorce program in Denver, Colorado, and the Family Resolutions Specialty Court in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Her research on a model continuum of effective and cost-efficient co-parenting services in the Connecticut courts, father involvement, and parenting plans for young children earned her the Association of Family and Conciliation Court’s Stanley Cohen Award for Distinguished Research. She is the immediate-past President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. She is the current Social Science Editor for the Family Court Review. 

One primary area of research and intervention concentrates on increasing fathers' involvement with their children. The Supporting Father Involvement project aims to reduce child abuse and neglect and enhance family well-being through an intervention that encourages father involvement and couple co-parenting (among married and unmarried parents). The state of California funded a 10-year study that examined the efficacy of father-only versus couples intervention groups against a third-condition control group. In the last phase of the project, intervention effectiveness is compared for child welfare–involved and non-involved families. The project is producing data about how to involve men early in their children’s lives, and how to best work with parents and other caregivers as a team to promote children’s development. Since funding has ended, the project continues through private sources in various locales in California, and has spread to Alberta, Canada; Connecticut; Massachusetts; and the U.K.

In addition to producing new research, Kline Pruett is currently involved in making research more accessible to parents, nurses, mental health professionals and legal professionals through curricula that integrate new science in six areas: 1. Plasticity of Human Development; 2. Impact of Early Adverse Experiences; 3. Risk Factors in Addiction; 4. Resilience in the Face of Risk; 5. Paternal Engagement; 6. Co-parenting Perspectives. Through various curricular training programs, professionals learn core concepts that define each of the six topics and learn about groundbreaking research that has shaped these fundamental ideas. Clinical implications and practical translations of the curriculum material are emphasized. Training opportunities and structures also aim to foster systems-level change, as professionals working in different settings and at different levels have opportunities to interact with each other and reconsider their approach to prevention and early intervention.

Selected Publications

Epstein, K., Pruett, M.K., Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Pradhan, L., Mah, E. & Pruett, K.D. (2015). More than one way to get there: Pathways of change in co-parenting conflict after a preventive intervention. Family Process, 54(4), 610-618.

Cornett, L., Gerety, C.D. & Pruett, M.K. (June, 2016). Out of court and in collaboration: Evaluating a new model for separation and divorce in a university setting. Denver, CO: Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

Gerety, C.D., Cornett, L., & Pruett, M.K. (April, 2016). Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families at the University of Denver, Evaluation report: Second year of operations. Denver, CO: Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

Pruett, M.K., Drozd, L. & Deutsch, R. (2016). Considerations for step-up planning: When and how to determine the “right” time. In L. Drozd, M. Saini & K. Olsen (Eds.), Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family court (2nd edition, pp. 535-554). Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

Pruett, M.K., Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., Pradhan, L. & Robins, S. (2016). Supporting father involvement in the context of separation/divorce. In L. Drozd, M. Saini & K. Olsen (Eds.), Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family court (2nd edition, pp. 85-117). Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

Researchers’ Roundtable* (2016). Bending evidence for a cause: Scholar-advocacy bias in family law. Family Court Review, 54(2), 134–149.

Researchers’ Roundtable* (2016). Convenient and inconvenient truths in family law: Preventing scholar-advocacy bias in the use of social science research for public policy. Family Court Review, 54(2), 150–166.

*Researchers’ Roundtable is a group of researchers convened by AFCC, who co-authored two papers listed in alphabetical order and designated as equal authorship. Members: Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, Robert E. Emery, Marsha Kline Pruett, Janet R. Johnston, Michael Saini, JoAnne L. Pedro-Carroll, and Irwin Sandler

Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Pruett, M.K. & Pruett, K.D. (2017). An attachment-informed couple intervention: A review of the evidence base from independent studies in California and England.  In H.S. Steele & M. Steele (Eds.), Handbook of attachment-based interventions (pp. 466-492). New York, NY: Guilford.  

Pruett, M.K. (2017). Guest editorial introduction. Smith College Studies in Social Work. Published online: Jun 2, 2017,

Pruett, M.K. Everett, J. & del Mar Farina, M. (Eds.) (2017). Smith College Studies in Social Work. Special issue on perspectives of clinicians of color, 87(2/3). Published online

Pruett, M.K. & Cornett, L. (2017). Evaluation of the University of Denver’s Center for Separating and Divorcing Families: The first out-of-court divorce option. Family Court Review, 55(3), 375-389.

Pruett, M.K., Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A. & Pruett, K.D. (2017). Enhancing father involvement in low-income families: A couples group approach to preventive intervention. Child development: Special section, developmental research and translational science: Evidence-based interventions for at-risk youth and families, 88(2), 398-407.

Pruett, M.K., Gillette, P. & Pruett, K.D. (2017). Supporting father involvement to promote co-parent, parent and child outcomes in a Canadian context. Psychology and Psychological Research International Journal, 1(1).

Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2017). Enhancing paternal engagement in a co-parenting paradigm. Child Development Perspectives, DOI: 10.1111/cdep.12239

Schepard, A. Pruett, M.K., & Kourlis, R. (2017). The family law bar, the Interdisciplinary Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families, and the “spark to kindle the white flame of progress”. Special Issue of Family Court Review, 55(1), 84-96.

Pruett, K.D., Pruett, M.K. & Deutsch, R. (in press) Bringing the previously absent father into the family. In L. Greenberg, B. Fidler, & M. Saini (Eds.)., Evidence-informed interventions for court-involved families: Promoting coping and healthy child development.

Pruett, M.K., Cowan P.A., Cowan, C.P., & Pruett, K.P. (in press). Supporting Father Involvement: A group intervention for low-income Community and Child Welfare referred couples. Family Relations.

Pruett, M.K., Schepard, A. Cornett, L., Gerety, C., & Kourlis, R.L. (in press). Law students on interdisciplinary, problem-solving teams: An empirical evaluation of educational outcomes at the University of Denver’s Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families. Family Court Review.

Schepard, A., Pruett, M.K., & Kourlis, R.L. (in press). If we build it, they might come: Bridging the implementation gap Between ADR services and separating and divorcing families. Harvard Negotiation Law Review.