Nicki Bush, PhD

Dr. Bush is the Lisa and John Pritzker Distinguished Professor of Developmental and Behavioral Health, jointly appointed in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Pediatrics, and the Director (Division Chief) of the Division of Developmental Medicine.

Dr. Bush is an international leader with clinical and research expertise in child and family health and wellbeing. She is an M-PI for the ECHO National Children's Study PATHWAYS cohort (NIH) and a site PI for the ECHO NYU Center cohort (NIH), the Co-Scientific Director of the CANDLE study (Urban Child Institute; NIH), an MPI on the UCSF CARES intervention study (State of CA Gov Office), the PI of the SEED prenatal programming study (R01), the UCSF PI of the TIDES multi-site prenatal programming study (R01), the Co-PI of the CANDLE DOHaD Epigenetics Study (CIHR, Canada), the PI of the CPP-HEALTH Trauma and Biomarkers study (CTSI; RWJF; JPB Foundation), and a scientist in the JPB Toxic Stress Network.

Dr. Bush has published more than 130 empirical papers and book chapters on research focused on the manner in which early life psychosocial environments, beginning in utero, affect developmental trajectories of health and disease across the life course. She investigates the ways in which contextual experiences of adversity, ranging from socioeconomic status to interpersonal violence, become biologically embedded by changing children’s developing physiologic systems and organs, thereby shaping individual differences that influence development and mental health in childhood and later life. Her work focuses on identifying points for prevention of disease as well as protective factors and interventions that promote resilience, with special attention to vulnerable populations and the unique interplay between maternal-child health across generations.

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within research, clinical, and academic contexts is a core component of Dr. Bush's work. For example, she is a past recipient of the UCSF Chancellor's Award for the Advancement of Women, and she currently serves on the Diversity Advisory Council for the Executive Committee of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and is a founding member of the NIH ECHO consortium's DEI Working Group. Moreover, her work explicitly strives to illuminate social determinants of health and advance anti-racist practices across scholarly and community contexts, employing diverse teams and data from communities underrepresented in research.

Biography Summary:

Nicole (Nicki) Bush joined the faculty after completing a postdoctoral fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the UCSF/UCB site. 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. She has a background in basic research as well as clinical and community intervention with families from high-stress contexts, and she is actively involved in policy-oriented projects.

Her research has examined relations among biobehavioral predispositions (e.g., temperament and physiology) and stressful life circumstances (e.g., poverty, parenting, and neighborhood) in the prediction of a broad range of children's mental health outcomes. In recent years, Dr. Bush has expanded understanding of contextual risk effects by infusing scientific models with 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. 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. She collaborates with clinical interventionists to identify preventative and intervention efforts that can promote resilience in children and families and reverse biological and psychological harm from adversity.

Clinical Expertise:

Caregiver-child relationships; disruptive behaviors in early childhood; adolescent mood and anxiety; adolescent delinquency; family therapy; individual adult therapy; community intervention in high-risk neighborhoods and schools.
  1. Placental Transcriptomic Signatures of Spontaneous Preterm Birth.
  2. The association between prenatal F2-isoprostanes and child wheeze/asthma, and modification by maternal race.
  3. Associations Between Prenatal Urinary Biomarkers of Phthalate Exposure and Preterm Birth: A Pooled Study of 16 US Cohorts.
  4. Associations of Pre- and Postnatal Air Pollution Exposures with Child Behavioral Problems and Cognitive Performance: A U.S. Multi-Cohort Study.
  5. Commentary to 'Is parenteral antibiotic prophylaxis associated with fewer infectious complications stented, distal hypospadias repair?'
  6. Trajectories of depressive symptoms among mothers of preterm and full-term infants in a national sample.
  7. Prenatal bisphenol A exposure in relation to behavioral outcomes in girls aged 4-5 and modification by socio-demographic factors in The Infant Development and Environment Study (TIDES).
  8. Oxidative Balance Score during Pregnancy Is Associated with Oxidative Stress in the CANDLE Study.
  9. Translating the Biology of Adversity and Resilience Into New Measures for Pediatric Practice.
  10. Association of prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution with adverse birth outcomes and effect modification by socioeconomic factors.
  11. Prenatal exposure to particulate matter and placental gene expression.
  12. The association between duration of breastfeeding and childhood asthma outcomes.
  13. Associations between social, biologic, and behavioral factors and biomarkers of oxidative stress during pregnancy: Findings from four ECHO cohorts.
  14. Intergenerational Transmission of Effects of Women's Stressors During Pregnancy: Child Psychopathology and the Protective Role of Parenting.
  15. Prenatal Phthalate Exposure and Child Weight and Adiposity from in Utero to 6 Years of Age.
  16. Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and gestational age at birth.
  17. Intergenerational transmission of maternal childhood adversity and depression on children's internalizing problems.
  18. Urinary phthalate metabolite mixtures in pregnancy and fetal growth: Findings from the infant development and the environment study.
  19. Youth Well-being During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  20. Cardiometabolic Pregnancy Complications in Association with Autism-Related Traits as Measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale in ECHO.
  21. Associations between APOL1 genetic variants and blood pressure in African American mothers and children from a U.S. pregnancy cohort: Modification by air pollution exposures.
  22. The Effects of a Prenatal Mindfulness Intervention on Infant Autonomic and Behavioral Reactivity and Regulation.
  23. Associations Between Maternal Stressful Life Events and Perceived Distress during Pregnancy and Child Mental Health at Age 4.
  24. Maternal early exposure to violence, psychopathology, and child adaptive functioning: pre- and postnatal programming.
  25. The prism of reactivity: Concordance between biobehavioral domains of infant stress reactivity.
  26. Prenatal phthalate exposure in relation to placental corticotropin releasing hormone (pCRH) in the CANDLE cohort.
  27. Prenatal urinary metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and toddler cognition, language, and behavior.
  28. Developmental Consequences of Early Life Stress on Risk for Psychopathology: Longitudinal Associations with Children's Multisystem Physiological Regulation and Executive Functioning.
  29. Maternal childhood trauma and prenatal stressors are associated with child behavioral health.
  30. First- and Third-Trimester Urinary Phthalate Metabolites in the Development of Hypertensive Diseases of Pregnancy.
  31. Maternal Stressful Life Events during Pregnancy and Atopic Dermatitis in Children Aged Approximately 4-6 Years.
  32. A Comprehensive Assessment of Associations between Prenatal Phthalate Exposure and the Placental Transcriptomic Landscape.
  33. Longitudinal hair cortisol in low-income young children: A useful biomarker of behavioral symptom change?
  34. An Immunogenomic Phenotype Predicting Behavioral Treatment Response: Toward Precision Psychiatry for Mothers and Children with Trauma Exposure.
  35. Adversity in early life and pregnancy are immunologically distinct from total life adversity: macrophage-associated phenotypes in women exposed to interpersonal violence.
  36. Distributional Properties and Criterion Validity of a Shortened Version of the Social Responsiveness Scale: Results from the ECHO Program and Implications for Social Communication Research.
  37. A path model examination: maternal anxiety and parenting mediate the association between maternal adverse childhood experiences and children's internalizing behaviors.
  38. Gestational diabetes and childhood asthma in a racially diverse US pregnancy cohort.
  39. Maternal Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Pregnancy and Child Growth from Birth to Age 6.
  40. Associations Between Maternal Nutrition in Pregnancy and Child Blood Pressure at 4-6 Years: A Prospective Study in a Community-Based Pregnancy Cohort.
  41. Associations of prenatal metabolomics profiles with early childhood growth trajectories and obesity risk in African Americans: the CANDLE study.
  42. Associations of Pre- and Postnatal Air Pollution Exposures with Child Blood Pressure and Modification by Maternal Nutrition: A Prospective Study in the CANDLE Cohort.
  43. Maternal exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy and asthma risk in early childhood: consideration of phases of fetal lung development.
  44. Identifying profiles of multisystem physiological activity across early childhood: Examining developmental shifts and associations with stress and internalizing problems.
  45. Second-Trimester Placental and Thyroid Hormones Are Associated With Cognitive Development From Ages 1 to 3 Years.
  46. Exposure to prenatal phthalate mixtures and neurodevelopment in the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early childhood (CANDLE) study.
  47. The Revised WIC Food Package and Child Development: A Quasi-Experimental Study.
  48. Externalizing and Internalizing Problems: Associations with Family Adversity and Young Children's Adrenocortical and Autonomic Functioning.
  49. Phthalate mixtures in pregnancy, autistic traits, and adverse childhood behavioral outcomes.
  50. Maternal Plasma 25-Hydroxyvitamin D during Gestation Is Positively Associated with Neurocognitive Development in Offspring at Age 4-6 Years.
  51. Digit ratio, a proposed marker of the prenatal hormone environment, is not associated with prenatal sex steroids, anogenital distance, or gender-typed play behavior in preschool age children.
  52. A Pilot Validation Study of the Newborn Behavioral Observations System: Associations with Salivary Cortisol and Temperament.
  53. Associations between multisystem stress reactivity and peer nominated aggression in early childhood vary by sex.
  54. How a Pandemic Could Advance the Science of Early Adversity.
  55. Infant weight-for-length gain associated with autonomic nervous system reactivity.
  56. Identification of Modifiable Social and Behavioral Factors Associated With Childhood Cognitive Performance.
  57. Omega-3 fatty acid supplement use and oxidative stress levels in pregnancy.
  58. Maternal exposure to childhood traumatic events, but not multi-domain psychosocial stressors, predict placental corticotrophin releasing hormone across pregnancy.
  59. Associations between prenatal phthalate exposure and sex-typed play behavior in preschool age boys and girls.
  60. Associations between urinary biomarkers of oxidative stress in the third trimester of pregnancy and behavioral outcomes in the child at 4 years of age.
  61. Maternal Stress During Pregnancy Predicts Infant Infectious and Noninfectious Illness.
  62. A lifestyle intervention randomized controlled trial in obese women with infertility improved body composition among those who experienced childhood adversity.
  63. Child and caregiver executive function in trauma-exposed families: Relations with children's behavioral and cognitive functioning.
  64. A combined cohort analysis of prenatal exposure to phthalate mixtures and childhood asthma.
  65. Examination of the associations between young children's trauma exposure, trauma-symptomatology, and executive function.
  66. Distribution, Stability, and Continuity of Autonomic Nervous System Responsivity at 18- and 36-Months of Age.
  67. Family Environment, Neurodevelopmental Risk, and the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Initiative: Looking Back and Moving Forward.
  68. Evidence for discrete profiles of children's physiological activity across three neurobiological system and their transitions over time.
  69. Maternal trauma and fear history predict BDNF methylation and gene expression in newborns.
  70. Prenatal Maternal Objective and Subjective Stress Exposures and Rapid Infant Weight Gain.
  71. Associations between classroom climate and children's externalizing symptoms: The moderating effect of kindergarten children's parasympathetic reactivity.
  72. Biological sensitivity to context: A test of the hypothesized U-shaped relation between early adversity and stress responsivity.
  73. Pregnancy intention and phthalate metabolites among pregnant women in The Infant Development and Environment Study cohort.
  74. Effects of Maternal Dietary Patterns during Pregnancy on Early Childhood Growth Trajectories and Obesity Risk: The CANDLE Study.
  75. Informant-specific reports of peer and teacher relationships buffer the effects of harsh parenting on children's oppositional defiant disorder during kindergarten.
  76. Immune Biomarkers of Early-Life Adversity and Exposure to Stress and Violence-Searching Outside the Streetlight.
  77. Prenatal sex hormones and behavioral outcomes in children.
  78. Exposure to ambient air pollution and early childhood behavior: A longitudinal cohort study.
  79. Prenatal polyunsaturated fatty acids and child asthma: Effect modification by maternal asthma and child sex.
  80. Joint impact of phthalate exposure and stressful life events in pregnancy on preterm birth.
  81. Prenatal Omega-3 and Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Childhood Atopic Dermatitis.
  82. The PedBE clock accurately estimates DNA methylation age in pediatric buccal cells.
  83. Effects of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Distress, Weight Gain, and Glucose Control for Pregnant Low-Income Women: A Quasi-Experimental Trial Using the ORBIT Model.
  84. Transactions between Maternal and Child Depressive Symptoms Emerge Early in Life.
  85. The Impact of the Revised WIC Food Package on Maternal Nutrition During Pregnancy and Postpartum.
  86. Childhood adversity and women's cardiometabolic health in adulthood: associations with health behaviors, psychological distress, mood symptoms, and personality.
  87. Prenatal air pollution and childhood IQ: Preliminary evidence of effect modification by folate.
  88. Predictors of Steroid Hormone Concentrations in Early Pregnancy: Results from a Multi-Center Cohort.
  89. Power of the Positive: Childhood Assets and Future Cardiometabolic Health.
  90. Maternal metabolic factors during pregnancy predict early childhood growth trajectories and obesity risk: the CANDLE Study.
  91. Measuring socioeconomic adversity in early life.
  92. Maternal urinary phthalate metabolites in relation to gestational diabetes and glucose intolerance during pregnancy.
  93. Association of Maternal Social Relationships With Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.
  94. Association of Prenatal Phthalate Exposure With Language Development in Early Childhood.
  95. Urinary oxidative stress biomarkers and accelerated time to spontaneous delivery.
  96. The biological embedding of early-life socioeconomic status and family adversity in children's genome-wide DNA methylation.
  97. Differences in Febrile and Respiratory Illnesses in Minority Children: The Sociodemographic Context of Restrictive Parenting.
  98. Autonomic nervous system functioning assessed during the Still-Face Paradigm: A meta-analysis and systematic review of methods, approach and findings.
  99. Children's biobehavioral reactivity to challenge predicts DNA methylation in adolescence and emerging adulthood.
  100. Pathways and Barriers to the Transition to Parenthood: Existential Concerns regarding Fertility, Pregnancy, and Early Parenthood. (Ed. O. Taubman-Ben-Ari)
  101. Maternal experiences of trauma and hair cortisol in early childhood in a prospective cohort.
  102. Family Socioeconomic Status, Cortisol, and Physical Health in Early Childhood: The Role of Advantageous Neighborhood Characteristics.
  103. The mindful moms training: development of a mindfulness-based intervention to reduce stress and overeating during pregnancy.
  104. Novel Interventions to Reduce Stress and Overeating in Overweight Pregnant Women: A Feasibility Study.
  105. Autonomic nervous system functioning assessed during the still-face paradigm: A meta-analysis and systematic review of methods, approach and findings
  106. Association between prenatal psychological stress and oxidative stress during pregnancy.
  107. Effect of prenatal mindfulness training on depressive symptom severity through 18-months postpartum: A latent profile analysis.
  108. Maternal depressive symptoms and infant healthcare utilization: The moderating role of prenatal mindfulness.
  109. Basal and reactivity levels of cortisol in one-month-old infants born to overweight or obese mothers from an ethnically and racially diverse, low-income community sample.
  110. Child temperament and teacher relationship interactively predict cortisol expression: The prism of classroom climate.
  111. Effects of pre- and postnatal maternal stress on infant temperament and autonomic nervous system reactivity and regulation in a diverse, low-income population.
  112. Parent and Child Trauma Symptoms During Child-Parent Psychotherapy: A Prospective Cohort Study of Dyadic Change.
  113. Poor Sleep Quality, Psychological Distress, and the Buffering Effect of Mindfulness Training During Pregnancy.
  114. Child temperament, classroom climate, and changes in cortisol over the kindergarten year
  115. Socioeconomic Disparities in Childhood Obesity Risk: Association With an Oxytocin Receptor Polymorphism.
  116. Associations between childhood adversity and daily suppression and avoidance in response to stress in adulthood: can neurobiological sensitivity help explain this relationship?
  117. Introduction to the Special Issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Mechanisms Linking Early-Life Adversity to Physical Health.
  118. Mechanisms Underlying the Association Between Early-Life Adversity and Physical Health: Charting a Course for the Future.
  119. Socioeconomic Adversity, Negativity in the Parent Child-Relationship, and Physiological Reactivity: An Examination of Pathways and Interactive Processes Affecting Young Children's Physical Health.
  120. An epigenetic clock for gestational age at birth based on blood methylation data.
  121. Participation in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children is not associated with early childhood socioemotional development: Results from a longitudinal cohort study.
  122. First trimester phthalate exposure and male newborn genital anomalies.
  123. Sugary beverage and food consumption, and leukocyte telomere length maintenance in pregnant women.
  124. Epigenetic marks as the link between environment and development: examination of the associations between attachment, socioeconomic status, and methylation of the SLC6A4 gene.
  125. A Prospective Investigation of Prenatal Mood and Childbirth Perceptions in an Ethnically Diverse, Low-Income Sample.
  126. Layered Social Network Analysis Reveals Complex Relationships in Kindergarteners.
  127. Measuring Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Activity in Toddlers - Resting and Developmental Challenges.
  128. Developmental psychopathology (D. Cicchetti, Eds.)
  129. The symphonic structure of childhood stress reactivity: patterns of sympathetic, parasympathetic, and adrenocortical responses to psychological challenge.
  130. Handbook of developmental psychopathology (M. Lewis & K. Rudolph. Eds.)
  131. Treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders (R. Hagerman & R. Hendren Eds.)
  132. Rigor, vigor, and the study of health disparities.
  133. Social stratification, classroom climate, and the behavioral adaptation of kindergarten children.
  134. Poverty and single parenting: Relations with preschoolers' cortisol and effortful control
  135. Kindergarten stressors and cumulative adrenocortical activation: the "first straws" of allostatic load?
  136. Temperament variation in sensitivity to parenting: predicting changes in depression and anxiety.
  137. Autonomic and adrenocortical reactivity and buccal cell telomere length in kindergarten children.
  138. Differentiating challenge reactivity from psychomotor activity in studies of children's psychophysiology: considerations for theory and measurement.
  139. The interactive effect of marital conflict and stress reactivity on externalizing and internalizing symptoms: the role of laboratory stressors.
  140. Temperament as a moderator of the relation between neighborhood and children's adjustment.
  141. Biological sensitivity to context: the interactive effects of stress reactivity and family adversity on socioemotional behavior and school readiness.
  142. Effortful control as a moderator of the relation between contextual risk factors and growth in adjustment problems.
  143. Contextual risk and parenting as predictors of effortful control and social competence in preschool children.
  144. Temperament in context: Infant temperament moderates the relationship between perceived neighborhood quality and behavior problems.
  145. Unlicensed residential programs: the next challenge in protecting youth.