Carol M. Worthman, PhD

Carol M. Worthman currently holds the Samuel Candler Dobbs Chair in the Department of Anthropology, Emory University (Atlanta), where she also directs the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology. After taking dual undergraduate degrees in biology and botany at Pomona College, Dr. Worthman took her PhD in biological anthropology at Harvard University, having also studied endocrinology at UCSD and neuroscience at MIT. She joined the nascent anthropology faculty at Emory University in 1986, and has helped to build its biocultural focus and establish its leadership position in the field.

Professor Worthman takes a biocultural approach to pursuit of comparative interdisciplinary research on human development, reproductive ecology, and biocultural bases of differential mental and physical health. She has conducted cross-cultural ethnographic and biosocial research in ten countries, including Kenya, Tibet, Nepal, Egypt, Japan, and Papua New Guinea, as well as in rural, urban, and semi-urban areas of the United States. For the past 14 years, she has collaborated with Jane Costello and Adrian Angold in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, a large, longitudinal, population-based developmental epidemiological study. Her early work demonstrated the impact of cultural practices on biological outcomes, including breastfeeding effects on infant survival and birth spacing, of child care on child survival and growth, of sex differentiated care on the timing of puberty, and reproductive life history on chronic health risk. Her later work has focused on mental health outcomes, including pubertal bases for gender differences in adult rates of depression, interactions of endocrine with experiential factors in child behavior problems, and biomediation of long term consequences of early abuse and neglect. Recent work incorporates fine-grained, household-based studies of everyday life that incorporate biological, behavioral, and cultural markers and measures, to track the proximal pathways in the social ecology of stress and its sequelae. In addition to empirical contributions, Professor Worthman’s theoretical work includes life history theory and human development, biocultural anthropology, comparative developmental ecology of sleep and state regulation, and the emerging field of evolutionary medicine generally.

Since 1987 Professor Worthman has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on grants from major funding agencies, including the NIH, NSF, W.T. Grant Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Geographic Society, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. Current NIH funding includes a new life history measure that links cultural models to individual attainment and well-being.


The 2007 Conference