Bio


Dr. DiRago is a bilingual (English/Spanish) licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in diagnostic psychological assessments of individuals across the lifespan. She is Adjunct Faculty at Palo Alto University/PGSP-Stanford Consortium where she teaches child assessment and personality and psychopathology assessment to graduate students.
Prior to her appointment at Stanford University, Dr. DiRago was the co-director of the assessment center at the Palo Alto University Gronowski Center where she trained and supervised advanced doctoral students on the psychological and neuropsychological assessment of children and adults. She also worked at Children's Health Council where she led multidisciplinary team evaluations for children and adolescents suspected of having severe and complex psychopathology, developmental disabilities, disruptive behavior disorders, learning disabilities, in-utero exposure to substances and/or autism spectrum disorders. She also conducted juvenile court ordered evaluations for San Mateo County. Dr. DiRago is currently the lead psychologist for Stanford's Program in Psychiatry and the Law.

Administrative Appointments


  • Co-Director, Assessment Clinic, Palo Alto University (2016 - 2018)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations


  • Co-Chair of Forensics Committee, Santa Clara County Psychological Association (2018 - 2019)
  • Char of Forensic Assessment/Neuropsychology Subcommittee, Santa Clara County Psychological Association. (2018 - 2019)

Professional Education


  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Clinical Psychology
  • M.A., University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Psychology
  • Sc.B., Brown University, Psychology

All Publications


  • Prospective inter-relationships between late adolescent personality and major depressive disorder in early adulthood PSYCHOLOGICAL MEDICINE Wilson, S., DiRago, A. C., Iacono, W. G. 2014; 44 (3): 567-577

    Abstract

    A well-established body of literature demonstrates concurrent associations between personality traits and major depressive disorder (MDD), but there have been relatively few investigations of their dynamic interplay over time.Prospective inter-relationships between late-adolescent personality and MDD in early adulthood were examined in a community sample of male and female twins from the Minnesota Twin Family Study (MTFS; n = 1252). Participants were classified into naturally occurring MDD groups based on the timing (adolescent versus adult onset) and course (chronic/recurrent versus remitting) of MDD. MDD diagnoses were assessed at ages 17, 20, 24 and 29 years, and personality traits [negative emotionality (NEM), positive emotionality (PEM) and constraint (CON)] were assessed at ages 17, 24 and 29 years.Multilevel modeling (MLM) analyses indicated that higher age-17 NEM was associated with the subsequent development of MDD, and any MDD, regardless of onset or course, was associated with higher NEM up to age 29. Moreover, the chronic/recurrent MDD groups failed to show the normative decrease in NEM from late adolescence to early adulthood. Lower age-17 PEM was also associated with the subsequent development of MDD but only among the chronic/recurrent MDD groups. Finally, the adolescent-onset MDD groups reported lower age-17 CON relative to the never-depressed and adult-onset MDD groups.Taken together, the results speak to the role of personality traits for conferring risk for the onset of MDD in late adolescence and early adulthood, in addition to the pernicious implications of chronic/recurrent MDD, particularly when it onsets during adolescence, for adaptive personality development.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S0033291713001104

    View details for Web of Science ID 000330592300011

    View details for PubMedID 23689064

  • Prospective interrelationships between personality traits and Major Depressive Disorder during the transition from adolescence to adulthood Psychological Medicine Wilson, S., DiRago, A. C., Iacono, W. G. 2013; 44 (3): 567-577
  • Gene-environment interplay in internalizing disorders: consistent findings across six environmental risk factors JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY Hicks, B. M., DiRago, A. C., Iacono, W. G., McGue, M. 2009; 50 (10): 1309-1317

    Abstract

    Behavior genetic methods can help to elucidate gene-environment (G-E) interplay in the development of internalizing (INT) disorders (i.e., major depression and anxiety disorders). To date, however, no study has conducted a comprehensive analysis examining multiple environmental risk factors with the purpose of delineating general mechanisms of G-E influence in the development of INT disorders.The sample consisted of 1315 male and female twin pairs participating in the age 17 assessment of the Minnesota Twin Family Study. Quantitative G-E interplay models were used to examine how genetic and environmental risk for INT disorders changes as a function of environmental context. Multiple measures and informants were employed to construct composite measures of INT disorders and six environmental risk factors including: stressful life events, mother-child and father-child relationship problems, antisocial and prosocial peer affiliation, and academic achievement and engagement.Significant moderation effects were detected between each environmental risk factor and INT such that in the context of greater environmental adversity, nonshared environmental factors became more important in the etiology of INT symptoms.Our results are consistent with the interpretation that environmental stressors have a causative effect on the emergence of INT disorders. The consistency of our results suggests a general mechanism of environmental influence on INT disorders regardless of the specific form of environmental risk.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02100.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269977800014

    View details for PubMedID 19594836

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2758614

  • Environmental Adversity and Increasing Genetic Risk for Externalizing Disorders ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY Hicks, B. M., South, S. C., DiRago, A. C., Iacono, W. G., McGue, M. 2009; 66 (6): 640-648

    Abstract

    Studies of gene-environment interplay in the development of psychiatric and substance use disorders are rapidly accumulating. However, few attempts have been made to integrate findings and to articulate general mechanisms of gene-environment influence in the emergence of psychopathology.To identify patterns of gene-environment interplay between externalizing disorders (antisocial behavior and substance use) and several environmental risk factors.We used quantitative genetic models to examine how genetic and environmental risk for externalizing disorders changes as a function of environmental context.Participants were recruited from the community and took part in a daylong assessment at a university laboratory.The sample consisted of 1315 male and female twin pairs participating in the assessment of the Minnesota Twin Family Study at age 17 years.Multiple measures and informants were used to construct a composite of externalizing disorders and composite measures of 6 environmental risk factors, including academic achievement and engagement, antisocial and prosocial peer affiliations, mother-child and father-child relationship problems, and stressful life events.A significant gene x environment interaction was detected between each environmental risk factor and externalizing such that greater environmental adversity was associated with increased genetic risk for externalizing.In the context of environmental adversity, genetic factors become more important in the etiology of externalizing disorders. The consistency of the results further suggests a general mechanism of environmental influence on externalizing disorders regardless of the specific form of the environmental risk.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266566800009

    View details for PubMedID 19487629

  • Mature coping mechanism The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology DiRago, A. C., Vaillant, G. E., Beauchamp, A. edited by Lopez, S. London: Blackwell Publishing. 2009
  • Resilience in inner city youth: Childhood predictors of occupational status across the lifespan JOURNAL OF YOUTH AND ADOLESCENCE DiRago, A. C., Vaillant, G. E. 2007; 36 (1): 61-70
  • Satisfaction with retirement in men’s lives Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics: The Crown of Life: Dynamics of the Early Post-Retirement Period Vaillant, G. E., DiRago, A. C., Wink, P. edited by James, J. NY: Springer. 2007
  • Natural history of male psychological health, XV: Retirement satisfaction AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY Vaillant, G. E., DiRago, A. C., Mukamal, K. 2006; 163 (4): 682-688

    Abstract

    Although previous studies of shorter duration have identified numerous risks and protective factors that powerfully influence outcomes in young adulthood and midlife, this long-term prospective study examines the effect of these prognostic factors on age at retirement and satisfaction with retirement.In this prospective study, a cohort of socially disadvantaged men (N=151) were followed from adolescence until a mean age of 75 years (SD=2). Periodic interviews, biennial administration of questionnaires, and physical examinations every 5 years were conducted to determine biopsychosocial risk variables, age at retirement, and satisfaction with retirement.Early age of retirement was found to be a function of preexisting mental and physical health and later age of retirement a function of occupational status. A surprising finding was that risk factors such as poor objective physical health, low income, and depression, which are commonly associated with poor outcomes in young adulthood and in midlife, were largely unrelated to satisfaction with retirement.A relatively high level of satisfaction with retirement was often attained by men who had reported many risk factors for poor child and midlife development (e.g., low IQ, dropping out of school, poor mental health, and being part of a multiproblem family) but who in later life had some positive resources (e.g., a good marriage, a low level neuroticism, enjoyment of vacations, and a capacity for play). In short, retirement may offer some men a fresh lease on life.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000236541200021

    View details for PubMedID 16585444