Dr. Gene Brody

Dr. Gene Brody

Dr. Brody is Regents Professor, Founder, and Co-Director of the Center for Family Research. His research program has shown how family caregiving practices protects the health, neurodevelopment, and well-being of rural African American youth from a range of life stressors such as rural poverty, economic hardship, and racial discrimination. Brody and his colleagues translated these findings into three efficacious family-centered prevention programs for African American youth—these prevention programs are being embedded in communities across the nation. He is Principle Investigator of P30 and P50 Center of Excellence Awards from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Positions and Employment

1976-1980 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Child and Family Development, University of Georgia, Athens

1980-1984 Associate Professor, Dept. of Child and Family Development, University of Georgia, Athens

1980- Fellow, Institute for Behavioral Research, University of Georgia, Athens

1984-1991 Professor, Department of Child and Family Development, University of Georgia, Athens

1988-1989 Acting Associate Vice President for Research, University of Georgia, Athens

1991-2004 Distinguished Research Professor, Dept. of Child and Family Development, University of  Georgia, Athens

1994- Director, Center for Family Research, Institute for Behavioral Research, University of Georgia, Athens

2004- Appointed Regents’ Professor, University of Georgia, Athens

Honors

University of Georgia Research Foundation Creative Research Medal

Fellow, Division 7, American Psychological Association

Fellow, American Psychological Society

Fellow, American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology

Appointed Distinguished Research Professor, University of Georgia

William A. Owens Award for Creative Research, 1994

Appointed Regents’ Professor, University of Georgia

Reuben Hill Award, National Council on Family Relations, 2005, 2007

Invited participant, White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth, 2005

Inducted into the Honor Hall of Recognition, University of Georgia, 2014

Advances in Culture and Diversity in Prevention Science Award, Society for Prevention Research, 2017

Presidents’ Award of Distinction for Team Science, Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, 2019

James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for lifetime achievement from the Association for Psychological Science, 2023

Contributions to Science

Family-Centered Drug Use Prevention for Rural African Americans

Historically, residing in rural communities in the southern United States has protected African American preadolescents and adolescents from drug use. Recent epidemiological data, however, indicate that African America youth in rural areas use drugs at rates equal to or exceeding those in densely populated inner cities. Initiation and escalation of drug use has prognostic significance for rural African American youth’s educational and occupational opportunities and attainment, involvement with the criminal justice system, and physical health. Prevention programs designed to deter drug use have been scarce in the rural South. These circumstances led to Brody and colleague’s development of SAAF for preadolescents, SAAF-T for adolescents, and AIM for emerging adults. SAAF-T and AIM build on SAAF, which was found to enhance parent and youth competence while inhibiting drug use, delinquent activity, and other co-occurring problems among youth in elementary and middle school. For broad public health impact, however, family-centered drug use prevention must be available for young people at all developmental stages, including adolescence and young adulthood. The development and evaluation of SAAF-T and AIM were designed to address this need. Each program has been tested and proven efficacious in longitudinal, randomized trials (N > 1600 participants). They have been, and continue to be, embedded in communities across the nation.

Recent contributions to science

Brody, G. H., Chen, Y.-f., Kogan, S. M., Murry, V. M., & Brown, A. C. (2010). Long-term effects of the Strong African American Families program on youths’ alcohol use. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 281-285. doi:10.1037/a0018552

Brody, G. H., Chen, Y.-f., Kogan, S. M., Yu, T., Molgaard, V. K., DiClemente, R. J., & Wingood, G. M. (2012). Family-centered program deters substance use, conduct problems, and depressive symptoms in Black adolescents. Pediatrics, 129, 108-115. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0623

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, Y.-f., Kogan, S. M., & Smith, K. (2012). The Adults in the Making program: Long-term protective stabilizing effects on alcohol use and substance use problems for rural African American emerging adults. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80, 17-28. doi:10.1037/a0026592

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Miller, G. E., Ehrlich, K. B., & Chen, E. (2019). Preventive parenting intervention during childhood and young Black adults’ unhealthful behaviors: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60, 63-71. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12968

Understanding Protective Properties of Supportive Parenting on Neurodevelopment and Precursors to Drug Use and the Chronic Diseases of Aging

Scientists now recognize that health disparities do not originate in adulthood but result from changes in biological processes at earlier stages of development. When Brody’s work began, little if any longitudinal, prospective research had been conducted on the contributions of poverty and social adversities to the development of health vulnerabilities among African American youth. To meet the need for such studies, Brody and colleagues added health-relevant biomarkers to their research, embedding them into existing longitudinal cohorts of rural African American youth. The goal was to determine whether and how poverty and contextual risks presage the development of health vulnerabilities among rural African American youth and young adults, and to learn whether supportive family environments could serve as countervailing buffers to deter the influences of poverty and social adversity on the biomarkers added to study protocols. The results from these studies showed that exposure to chronic poverty and social adversities, such as racial discrimination, presaged higher levels of inflammation, heightened levels of allostatic load, a biological composite of cardiometabolic risk, metabolic syndrome, indicators of accelerated biological aging, and poor connectivity in neural networks that support cognition and emotion regulation. These longitudinal associations were ameliorated among youth who received high quality, supportive parenting. The results converge with “parent effects” commonly observed in animal models, wherein caregiving tendencies exert lasting influences on offspring physiology, especially in the brain, endocrine, and immune systems.

Recent contributions to science

Brody, G. H., Lei, M.-K., Chen, E., & Miller, G. E. (2014). Neighborhood poverty and allostatic load in African American youths. Pediatrics, 134, e1362-e1368. doi:10.1542/peds.2014.1395

Brody, G. H., Lei, M.-K., Chae, D. H., Yu, T., Kogan, S. M., & Beach, S. R. H. (2014). Perceived discrimination among African American adolescents and allostatic load: A longitudinal analysis with buffering effects. Child Development, 85, 989-1002. doi:10.1111/cdev.12213

Brody, G. H., Miller, G. E., Yu, T., Beach, S. R. H., & Chen, E. (2016). Supportive family environments ameliorate the link between racial discrimination and epigenetic aging: A replication across two longitudinal cohorts. Psychological Science, 27, 530-541. doi:10.1177/0956797615626703

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Nusslock, R., Barton, A. W., Miller, G. E., Chen, E., Holmes, C., McCormick, M., & Sweet, L. H. (2019). The protective effects of supportive parenting on the relationship between adolescent poverty and resting state functional brain connectivity during adulthood. Psychological Science, 30, 1040-1049. doi:10.1177/0956797619847989

Barton, A. W., Yu, T., Brody, G. H., & Ehrlich, K. B. (2018). Childhood poverty, catecholamines, and substance use among African American young adults: The protective effect of supportive parenting. Preventive Medicine, 112, 1-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.03.016.

Barton, A. W., Yu, T., Gong, Q., Miller, G. E., Chen, E., & Brody, G. H. (2022). Childhood Poverty, Immune Cell Aging, and African Americans’ Insulin Resistance: A Prospective Study. Child Development, 93, 1616-1624. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13795

Brody, G. H., Lei, M. K., Chae, D. H., Yu, T., Kogan, S. M., & Beach, S. R. H. (2014). Perceived discrimination among African American adolescents and allostatic load: A longitudinal analysis with buffering effects. Child Development, 85, 989-1002.

Brody, G. H., Miller, G. E., Yu, T., Beach, S. R. H., & Chen, E. (2016). Supportive family environments ameliorate the link between racial discrimination and epigenetic aging: A replication across two longitudinal cohorts. Psychological Science, 27, 530-541.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Beach, S. R. H., & Philibert, R. A. (2015). Prevention effects ameliorate the prospective association between nonsupportive parenting and diminished telomere length. Prevention Science, 16, 171-180.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Nusslock, R., Barton, A. W., Miller, G. E., Chen, E., Holmes, C., McCormick, M., & Sweet, L. H. (2019). The protective effects of supportive parenting on the relationship between adolescent poverty and resting state functional brain connectivity during adulthood. Psychological Science, 30, 1040-1049.

Chen, E., Miller, G., Yu, T., & Brody, G. H. (2018). Unsupportive parenting moderates the effects of family psychosocial intervention on metabolic syndrome in African American youth. International Journal of Obesity, 42, 634-640. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2017.246

Hanson, J., Hilton, B. T., Holmes, C. J., Yu, T., Barton, A. W., Beach, S. R. H., Galván A., MacKillop, J., Windle, M., Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Sweet, L. H., & Brody, G. H. (2019). A family-focused intervention influences hippocampal-prefrontal connectivity through gains in self-regulation. Child Development, 90, 1389-1401.

The Health Benefits of Family-Centered Drug Use Prevention Programs

It is unclear whether drug use prevention programs that were designed to increase supportive parenting have effects that extend beyond drug use and “get under the skin” to affect biological and neural development. To address this issue, Brody and colleagues used the SAAF prevention trial in which 11-year-old children from rural Georgia were randomly assigned to a family-oriented intervention or a control condition. When youth were ages 19 and 25 (8 and 14 years after completing SAAF, respectively), antecubital blood samples were collected from which biomarkers of cardiometabolic health were measured at the Miller/Chen laboratory. At age 25, MRIs were performed on a subsample of SAAF participants to determine whether the intervention affected neural development; this work focused particularly on the development of the amygdala and hippocampus, which support learning, memory, and emotion regulation. Youth exposed to chronic poverty and its associated stressors who took part in SAAF showed lower levels of inflammation, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and epigenetic aging, along with larger amygdalar and hippocampal volumes than did control youth. These findings suggest that CFR’s family-centered preventive intervention may have protected rural African Americans from both the drug use and the variations in cardiometabolic health and regional brain development that typically accompany chronic poverty and social adversities in the rural South. If substantiated, these findings may provide a strategy for narrowing social and racial health disparities.

Recent contributions to science

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., Beach, S. R. H., & Miller, G. E. (2016). Family-centered prevention ameliorates the longitudinal association between risky family processes and epigenetic aging. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57, 566-574. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12495

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., & Miller, G. E. (2017). Family-centered prevention ameliorates the association between adverse childhood experiences and prediabetes status in young Black adults. Preventive Medicine, 100, 117-122. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.017

Brody, G. H., Gray, J., Yu, T., Barton, A. W., Beach, S. R. H., Galván, A., MacKillop, J., Windle, M., Chen, E., Miller, G. E., & Sweet, L. H. (2017). Protective prevention effects on the association of poverty with brain development. JAMA Pediatrics, 171, 46-52. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016 .2988

Brody, G. H., Chen, Y., Beach, S. H., Kogan, S. M., Yu, T., DiClemente, R. J., Wingood, G. M., Windle, M., & Philibert, R. A. (2014). Differential sensitivity to prevention programming: A dopaminergic polymorphism-enhanced prevention effect on protective parenting and adolescent drug use. Health Psychology, 33, 182-191.

Brody, G. H., Chen, Y., Kogan, S., Yu, T., Molgaard, V., DiClemente, R., & Wingood, G. (2012). Family-centered program deters substance use, conduct problems, and depressive symptoms in Black adolescents. Pediatrics, 129, 108-115.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., Beach, S. R. H., & Miller, G. E. (2015). Family-centered prevention ameliorates the longitudinal association between risky family processes and epigenetic aging. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57, 566-574.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E. & Miller, G. E. (2014). Prevention moderates associations between family risks and youth catecholamine levels. Health Psychology, 33, 1435-1439.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., & Miller, G. E. (2020). A family-centered prevention ameliorates the associations of low self-control during childhood with employment income and poverty status in young African American adults. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 61, 425-435.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Barton, A. W., & Kogan, S. M. (2021). Family-centered prevention effects on the association between racial discrimination and Black adolescents’ subsequent mental health: Results from two randomized clinical trials. JAMA Network Open, 4(3), e211964. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.1964

Chen, Y., Yu, T., & Brody, G. H. (2017). Parenting intervention at age 11 and cotinine levels at age 20 among Black youth. Pediatrics, 140(1), e20164162.

Miller, G. E., Brody, G. H., Yu, T., & Chen, E. (2014). A family-oriented psychosocial intervention reduces inflammation in low-SES African American youth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, 11287-11292. doi:10.1073/pnas.1406578111

Miller, G. E., Yu, T., Chen, E., & Brody, G. H. (2015). Skin-deep resilience: Self-control forecasts better psychosocial outcomes but faster epigenetic aging in low-SES youth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 10325-10330.

Skin-Deep Resilience: Self-Control Forecasts Better Psychosocial Outcomes but Higher Health Risks

Socioeconomic disparities persist in many aspects of American child development. Relative to their affluent peers, low-SES children complete fewer years of education, and have more health problems. On the basis of research indicating that low self-control underlies some of these disparities, policymakers have begun incorporating character-skills training into school curricula and social services. Emerging data from the research group suggest that, for low-SES youth, self-control may act as a double-edged sword, facilitating academic success and psychosocial adjustment while undermining physical health. SHAPE participants from low-SES backgrounds with better self-control displayed resilience as young adults. They displayed fewer depressive symptoms, and less substance use, rule breaking, and aggressive behavior, as young adults. To the extent they had better self-control, however, low-SES SHAPE participants showed greater cardiometabolic risk, as reflected on a composite of obesity; blood pressure; the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine; accelerated epigenetic aging; and metabolic syndrome. Similar conclusions emerged in subsequent analyses of the SHAPE cohort and of other independent data sets, which mapped the trajectories of a subgroup who would normatively be viewed as resilient. Despite academic success and good psychosocial adjustment, these youth showed relatively poor cardiometabolic health at age 20; their resilience was only “skin deep.”

Recent contributions to science

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., & Miller, G. E. (2020). Persistence of skin-deep resilience in African American adults. Health Psychology, 39, 921-926.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Kogan, S. M., & Beach, S. R. H. (2013). Is resilience only skin deep? Rural African Americans’ socioeconomic status-related risk and competence in preadolescence and psychological adjustment and allostatic load at age 19. Psychological Science, 24, 1285-1293. doi:10.1177/0956797612471954

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Miller, G. E., & Chen, E. (2016). Resilience in adolescence, health, and psychosocial outcomes. Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-1042.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Miller, G. E., & Chen, E. (2018). John Henryism coping and metabolic syndrome among young Black adults. Psychosomatic Medicine80, 216-221. DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000540.

Brody, G. H., Yu, T., Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Kogan, S. M., & Beach, S. H. (2013). Is resilience only skin deep? Rural African Americans’ preadolescent socioeconomic status-related risk and competence and age 19 psychological adjustment and allostatic load. Psychological Science, 24, 1285-1293.

Chen, E., Yu, T., Siliezar, R., Drage, J., Dezil, J., Miller, G. E., & Brody, G. H. (2020). Evidence for skin-deep resilience using a co-twin control design: Effects on low-grade inflammation in a longitudinal study of youth. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 88, 661-667.

Miller, G. E., Yu, T., Chen, E., & Brody, G. H. (2015, August 18). Self-control forecasts better psychosocial outcomes but faster epigenetic aging in low-SES youth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 10325-10330. doi:10.1073/pnas.1505063112

Miller, G.E., Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Brody, G.H., & Chen, E. (2016). Viral challenge reveals further evidence of skin-deep resilience in African Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds. Health Psychology, 35, 1225-1234. doi:10.1037/hea0000398