Human Development, Diversity, and Life History

Characteristically human capacities as well as differences are rooted in developmental processes that operate across the life course and even between generations. Commencing with pioneers such as Boas or Mead, anthropology has shown that human nature is innately nurtured: without the social world and its animating culture, we cannot become human. Viewing human nature as nurtured has sharpened attention to contexts for child development and highlighted that such contexts comprise evolutionary, historical, cultural, familial, proximal, and genetic dimensions. Each of these dimensions is actively engaged by faculty at Emory whose contributions have:

  • illuminated the evolution of human biosocial development
  • tackled puzzles about human cognition and learning
  • revealed patterns in human growth
  • highlighted the life history of families
  • identified household conditions mediating structural effects on youth welfare
  • probed epigenetics of psychobehavioral diversity

Such work informs how we think about development, about culture, about biology, and therefore about diversity in ways also relevant to action—in policy, prevention, or treatment. The range of faculty research also is reflected in a variety of research modes and settings: our faculty work in field sites and laboratories, perform interviews and experiments, employ intensive statistics and modeling, and work with individuals and whole populations. Such directions in anthropology also connect with multi-disciplinary programs within and outside Emory:

Given the strengths and resources, students at Emory benefit from opportunities for training in:

  • The evolutionary grounds of developmental processes, including neurodevelopment and cognition, skills acquisition, and life history trade-offs
  • Contemporary transformations in rearing conditions and life course construction in diverse settings (including sedentizing pastoralists in Ethiopia, politically fragile Nepal, de-industrializing Appalachia, and “mainstream” U.S.)
  • Cultural and material resources critical to successful physical, social, and emotional development, and the impact of insufficiency, disparities, hardship, and trauma on differential outcomes
  • Developmental roots of physical and mental health and health differentials across the life course, including growth, epigenetic, and cross-generational processes
  • Multimodal research that integrates qualitative and quantitative data from a wide range of tailored techniques including film, structured and ethnographic interview, imaging, or biomarkers

Faculty in Anthropology include:

  • Craig Hadley | Food insecurity, population health, East Africa, acculturation
  • Adrian Jaeggi | Primate and human behavioral ecology, Proximate mechanisms of behavior, Evolution of cooperation, Evolution of cognition, Food sharing, Sociality and health, Social learning and culture, Comparative phylogenetic methods
  • Melvin Konner | Evolution of childhood, human behavioral biology, human life cycle, San hunter-gatherers, anthropology of the Jews
  • Michelle Lampl | Human growth, biocultural aspects of human development, fetal growth and developmental predictors of lifespan health
  • Jim Rilling | Neural bases of human social behavior, evolution of social behavior, comparative primate neurobiology, human brain evolution
  • Bradd Shore | Cognitive and psychological anthropology, culture theory, language and culture; myth, ritual, religion
  • Dietrich Stout | Human evolution, brain and cognition, culture and technology, skill learning)
  • Carol Worthman | Developmental and reproductive ecology, gender and life history, biocultural factors in global health

Faculty in other programs include: