About Us

The Carolina Consortium on Human Development (CCHD) is an inter-institutional and multi-disciplinary community of scientists engaged in the advanced study and raining of human development.  Guided by the principles of Developmental Science, we recognize the complexity of developmental processes that underlie adjustment, health, and well-being across the phases of life.  Through our unique training and research mission, we pursue innovative methods to investigate the biological, cognitive, affective, and social systems that characterize the development of people in contexts, ranging from families to cultures.

Located at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CCHD is home to nearly 50 faculty and fellows. CCHD faculty specialize in such disciplines as anthropology, behavioral genetics, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, developmental psychobiology, education, epidemiology, experimental psychology, internal medicine, behavioral neurobiology, nursing, pediatrics, psychiatry, public health, and sociology. Representing multiple disciplines, our mentor faculty have primary appointments at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, NC State University, and Duke University.

CCHD Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a long-held tradition of striving for excellence; this includes the core values of encouraging equity, inclusion, and diversity into educational and employment opportunities throughout the University community. The CCHD shares this vision to build and sustain an inclusive community and to foster a welcoming climate that values and respects all members in the community. The CCHD affirms the University’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity as a critical element of academic and research excellence.

Our History

The Center for Developmental Science was established by the Governing Board of the University of North Carolina in 1994 and was originally funded by an National Institute on Mental Health initiative to support new behavioral research centers. The foundation of the CDS, however, predates the center and was first embodied in the Carolina Consortium on Human Development, established in 1987 by faculty and researchers from three neighboring universities to promote the interdisciplinary study of developmental theory and longitudinal methods. The aim was to transcend the limitations of institutional and disciplinary divisions in order to facilitate scholarship and collaboration among faculty and young scientists. In the first six years of its existence, the Consortium focused on issues of developmental theory and research, providing proseminars, workshops and lectures, and postdoctoral training. Although the CDS ceased operations in July, 2019, the Consortium continues under its original administrative home at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.

The CDS was founded by Dr. Robert Bennett Cairns, who served as its director from its inception until his death in 1999. Bob Cairns’ life was devoted to the study of behavioral development. A Los Angeles native, Bob received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1960. After graduate school, he taught for a few years at the University of Pennsylvania and for a more extensive period of time at Indiana University. Bob joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1973. He was internationally recognized for his work on social development across the lifespan, for his longitudinal analyses of alternative developmental pathways, and for his pioneering efforts to build an interdisciplinary developmental science. Bob’s landmark contributions to the field were based on a unique synthesis that involved the integration of ideas from biology, sociology, anthropology, and psychiatry into a mix that began with developmental psychology. The power of this synthesis fueled Bob’s research programs for decades, but also had a profound impact on the thinking of his students and colleagues. Indeed, because of his contagious enthusiasm for a rigorous developmental synthesis, Bob was able to bring together researchers from many disciplines — people who had a common interest in issues of development, but who nonetheless had never really talked to each other. The result of this integrative effort was the birth of a new intellectual endeavor, a truly developmental science, one that is grounded in interdisciplinary basic research but also has major implications for problems of society.

Martha Cox, PhD, was the Director of the Center for Developmental Science (CDS) from 2001 to 2011.  Over the past 25 years, Dr. Cox has become known for her theoretical contributions to the study of family systems and her empirical expertise in longitudinal and observational studies of families and children.  After earning her PhD at the University of Virginia she held several faculty and research positions prior in Chapel Hill, NC at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in 1993 as a Senior Research Scientist.  She has served as a Principal Investigator on four major longitudinal studies, including NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the NIMH funded Transition to Parenthood Study, the NSF funded Durham Child Health and Development Study, and the NICHD and NIDA funded Family Life Project.  In addition, Dr. Cox was the Principal Investigator and Director of the Family Research Consortium from 1993 to 1998.  This interdisciplinary group of 12 senior scientists was committed to increasing the quality of family research with focuses on socioeconomic and ethnic diversity in family structure, process, and context.  In 2001, Dr. Cox was named the Director of the Center for Developmental Science and focused much of her tenure as Director on strategically building the interdisciplinary collaborations that are the hallmark of developmental science as pioneered by those such as Dr. Robert Cairns. In addition, Dr. Cox recognized the importance of training the next generation of developmental scientists and as such provided extensive support for graduate, post-graduate training, and junior faculty training and career development.  Her individual efforts and passionate support of both the science and the scientists at the Center for Developmental Science helped position the CDS as one of the leading institutions for interdisciplinary research on human development.