Teachers College, Columbia University
Dr. Brooks-Gunn has had a distinguished and pioneering career as an interdisciplinary developmental psychologist with both basic and applied interests. Her research on the biological and environmental conditions that contribute to poor developmental outcome has been consistently at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary efforts to combine a behavioral and biological approach to the study of human development.
Critically important examples of this work include: (1) the interaction of social and contextual determinants of menarcheal timing; (2) the associations between stressful life events and HPA functioning in adolescent girls; (3) the buffering effects of exercise upon the links between eating problems and bone loss; (4) the links between racial discrimination, pubertal growth, HPA functioning, blood pressure, and depressive symptoms in black and Latina girls; (5) the links between witnessed and experienced violence in the family and neighborhood upon mental health, HPA functioning, and physical health; (6) the impact of low birthweight on health and school function and the interaction of LBW and environmental risk conditions upon well-being; and (7) the examinations of the effects of poverty and SES gradients on health and achievement outcomes of children and youth.
Dr. Brooks-Gunn is widely considered to be one of the most prominent developmentalists doing policy-oriented research on family and community influences upon the well-being of children and youth. This work includes both experimental and survey studies as well as prevention studies based on her own and other scholars research. The results of these studies have informed both national and state level social policies on topics ranging from welfare reform, to residential relocation, to pre-school education.
Dr. Brooks-Gunn is also widely known for her collaborative research activities with economists, sociologists, demographers, epidemiologists, pediatricians, and reproductive endocrinologists on large scale national survey studies, large scale longitudinal studies, and local experimental studies. In much of this work, she has brought an important developmental psychology perspective to comprehensive, interdisciplinary, nationally representative studies.
Through these efforts she has helped to create developmentally-relevant data sets that will be of use to psychologists, as well as researchers in the other social sciences, for years to come. Her collaborative efforts have created the data sets necessary to implement the kinds of studies proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner as essential for furthering our understanding of the complexity of human development.