RWJF Health & Society Scholar:
Child/Adolescent Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Psychobiology, Health Psychology and Developmental Social Epidemiology
Area(s) of Expertise:
Children's Stress Reactivity and Regulation, Mental Health, Contextual Risk Effects on Mental and Physical Health, Prevention/Intervention, Individual Differences-by-Environment Interactions, Epigenetics, Parenting, Youth Mental Health Rights
Nicole (Nicki) Bush was originally trained as a child clinical psychologist with a background in basic research as well as clinical and community intervention with families from high-stress contexts. Dr. Bush’s research focuses on the manner in which early social contexts interface with individual differences to affect developmental trajectories across the life course. Dr. Bush’s models of contextual risk effects and resiliency integrate a new understanding of biology (physiology, genetics, epigenetics) throughout early development, including the prenatal period. Her work integrates insights from social epidemiology, sociology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychobiology to elucidate the interplay of biology and context in youth development, as physiological systems mature and social environments change.
Dr. Bush examines how socioeconomic, parental, and environmental risks for pathology and poor health are modulated by individual differences in children’s temperamental, neurobiological, and genetic reactivity to stress. She also investigates the ways in which contextual experiences of adversity become biologically embedded by changing children’s developing physiologic systems and epigenetic processes, thereby shaping individual differences that mediate and moderate the effects of context on trajectories of development and health. Many of her projects study the manner in which maternal stress and weight during pregnancy “programs” offspring physiology in ways that place infants on trajectories towards a life course of high stress reactivity and/or physical health problems. Her examinations of how social disadvantage interacts with and alters children’s biological stress response systems aim to clarify the etiology of children’s mental and physical health outcomes and subsequent adult health, with a larger goal of informing health policies and interventions aimed at reducing population health disparities.
In 2016, Dr. Bush was promoted to Associate Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. She was a Cohort 7 Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the UCSF/UCB site, and prior to that, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in children’s physiologic stress reactivity at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington and completed her child clinical training internship at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois, Chicago.