Care Lab


In the Childhood Adversity and Resilience (C.A.RE) Lab, we examine how early life experiences of adversity and stress affect children’s physical and mental health. We also study the factors that can help promote resilience in the face of early life stressors because this information can be used to develop tailored treatment programs and public health policies for at-risk children and families. In other words, the research we conduct has “real world” applications for supporting children who are facing adversity.

There are a variety of different types of adversity that children may encounter when they are young. Research in our lab has examined how children develop in the context of exposure to economic hardship, difficult parent-child relationships, parent mental health problems, and other stressful experiences. Children don’t develop in a vacuum, so we look at the many different environments that can support or undermine children during the early years of life – from neighborhoods to classrooms to families.

Just like children many encounter different sources of adversity, they may also be “buffered” from negative consequences by different types of protective factors. We examine how resilience might be fostered by factors at the individual level (e.g., physiological responses to stress, DNA methylation) to the macrolevel (e.g., neighborhood qualities). This work is inherently interdisciplinary and we regularly collaborate with individuals across various field of psychology (social, health, biological, developmental, cognitive) and in complementary fields (epidemiology, genetics, epigenetics).

Our work has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and internal support from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The early childhood years are formative, but not deterministic. This means that early adversity may place children on a negative trajectory, but protective, resilience-promoting factors can “redirect” their development towards more positive outcomes. Research in the C.A.RE Lab is dedicated to conducting rigorous studies to understand how all children can flourish and thrive.