Nicki Bush, PhD

Associate Adjunct Professor
+1 415 476-7655

Dr. Bush is an Associate Professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics.
She is the Associate Director of Research for the Division of Developmental Medicine.

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) the PI of the SEED prenatal programming study (R01), the UCSF PI of the TIDES multi-site prenatal programming study (R01), the PI of the PAWS-Genetics Substudy (RWJF), and the PI of the CTRP-HEALTH Trauma and Biomarkers study (CTSI; RWJF).

Dr. Bush’s research focuses on the manner in which early social contexts interface with individual differences to affect developmental trajectories across the life course. She examines how socioeconomic, parental, and environmental risks for maladaptive behavior and developmental psychopathology are modulated by individual differences in children’s temperamental, neurobiological, and genetic reactivity to stress. She also investigates the ways in which contextual experiences of adversity become biologically embedded by changing children’s developing physiologic systems and epigenetic processes, thereby shaping individual differences that mediate and moderate the effects of context on trajectories of development and mental health.

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 her examination of contextual risk effects by infusing her 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.

Clinical Expertise:

Disruptive behaviors in early childhood; adolescent mood and anxiety; adolescent delinquency; family therapy; dialectical behavioral therapy; individual adult therapy; community intervention in high-risk neighborhoods and schools; unlicensed wilderness therapy programs.


Bush, N., Jones-Mason, K.*, Coccia, M.*, Caron, Z.*, Thomas, M., Prenatal programming of infant ANS, HPA axis, and temperamental reactivity by multiple levels of maternal stress

Bush, N., Jones-Mason, K.*, Coccia, M.*, Caron, Z.*, Thomas, M., Development and Psychopathology.

Bush, N., Jones-Mason, K.*, Coccia, M.*, Caron, Z.*, Thomas, M., Wadhwa, P., Laraia, B., Adler, N., & Epel, E.

Child temperament, classroom climate, and changes in cortisol over the kindergarten year

Child temperament, classroom climate, and changes in cortisol over the kindergarten year.

Roubinov, D.*, Boyce, W.T., Adler, N., & Bush, N.

Socioeconomic Disparities in Childhood Obesity Risk: Assocation With an Oxytocin Receptor Polymorphism

JAMA pediatrics

Bush, N., Allison*, A., Miller, A., Deardorff, J., Adler, N., Boyce, W.T.

Psychosomatic Medicine

Mechanisms underlying the association between early-life adversity and physical health: Charting a course for the future

Bush, N. R., Lane, R., McLaughlin, K.

Associations between childhood adversity and daily suppression and avoidance in response to stress in adulthood: Can neurobiological sensitivity help explain this relationship?

Associations between childhood adversity and daily suppression and avoidance in response to stress in adulthood: Can neurobiological sensitivity help explain this relationship?

Melissa J. Hagan PhD, MPH, Nicole Bush PhD, Wendy Berry Mendes PhD, Justine Arenander BA, Elissa Epel PhD & Eli Puterman PhD

Psychosomatic Medicine

Mechanisms Linking Early-Life Adversity with Physical Health

McLaughlin, K., Lane, R., Bush, N.R.

Poor Sleep Quality, Psychological Distress, and the Buffering Effect of Mindfulness Training During Pregnancy

Behavioral sleep medicine

Jennifer N. Felder1a, Barbara Laraia2*, Kimberly Coleman-Phox1, Nicole Bush1, Madhuvanthi Suresh1, Melanie Thomas1, Nancy Adler1*, Elissa Epel1*, Aric Prather1*

An epigenetic clock for gestational age at birth based on blood methylation data

Genome Biology

Anna K Knight; Jeffrey M Craig; Christiane Theda; Marie Bækvad-Hansen; Jonas Bybjerg-Grauholm; Christine S Hansen; Mads V Hollegaard; David M Hougaard; Preben B Mortensen; Shantel M Weinsheimer; Thomas M Werge; Patricia A Brennan; Joseph F Cubells; D Jeffrey Newport; Zachary N Stowe; Jeanie LY Cheong; Philippa Dalach; Lex W Doyle; Yuk J Loke; Andrea A Baccarelli; Allan C Just; Robert O Wright; Mara M Téllez-Rojo; Katherine Svensson; Letizia Trevisi; Elizabeth M Kennedy; Elisabeth B Binder; Stella Iurato; Darina Czamara; Katri Räikkönen; Jari MT Lahti; Anu-Katriina Pesonen; Eero Kajantie; Pia M Villa; Hannele Laivuori; Esa Hämäläinen; Hea Jin Park; Lynn B Bailey; Sasha E Parets; Varun Kilaru; Ramkumar Menon; Steve Horvath; Nicole R Bush; Kaja Z LeWinn; Frances A Tylavsky; Karen N Conneely; Alicia K Smith

First trimester phthalate exposure and male newborn genital anomalies

Environmental research

Sathyanarayana, S., Grady, R., Barrett, E. S., Redmon, B., Nguyen, R. H. N., Barthold, J. S., Bush, N. R., Swan, S. H.

Sugary beverage and food consumption and leukocyte telomere length maintenance in pregnant women

European journal of clinical nutrition

Leung, C., Laraia, B., Coleman-Phox, K., Bush, N., Lin, J., Blackburn, E. H., Adler, N., & Epel, E.

Layered social network analysis reveals complex relationships in kindergarteners

Frontiers in psychology

Golemiec, M., Schneider, J., Boyce, W.T., Bush, N., Adler, N. Levine, J.

Measuring cardiac autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity in toddlers — Resting and developmental challenges

Journal of Visualized Experiments

Bush, N., Caron, Z., Blackburn, K., & Alkon, A.

Developmental psychopathology (D. Cicchetti, Eds.)

Differential sensitivity to context: Implications for developmental psychopathology.

Bush, N., & Boyce, W. T.

The symphonic structure of childhood stress reactivity: patterns of sympathetic, parasympathetic, and adrenocortical responses to psychological challenge.

Development and psychopathology

Quas JA, Yim IS, Oberlander TF, Nordstokke D, Essex MJ, Armstrong JM, Bush N, Obradovic J, Boyce WT

Handbook of developmental psychopathology (M. Lewis & K. Rudolph. Eds.)

The contributions of early experience to biological development and sensitivity to context.

Bush, N., & Boyce, W. T.

Treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders (R. Hagerman & R. Hendren Eds.)

Neurodevelopmental and Neurobiological Aspects of Major Depression

Rawdin, B., Lindqvist, D., Bush, N., Hamilton, S., Boparai, R., Makin, S., Reus, V., Mellon, S, & Wolkowitz, O.

Rigor, vigor, and the study of health disparities.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Adler N, Bush NR, Pantell MS

Social stratification, classroom climate, and the behavioral adaptation of kindergarten children.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Boyce WT, Obradovic J, Bush NR, Stamperdahl J, Kim YS, Adler N

Poverty and single parenting: Relations with preschoolers' cortisol and effortful control

Infant and child development

Zalewski, M., Lengua, L., Fisher, P., Bush, N., Trancik, A., & Meltzoff, A.

Kindergarten stressors and cumulative adrenocortical activation: the "first straws" of allostatic load?

Development and psychopathology

Bush NR, Obradovic J, Adler N, Boyce WT

Temperament variation in sensitivity to parenting: predicting changes in depression and anxiety.

Journal of abnormal child psychology

Kiff CJ, Lengua LJ, Bush NR

Autonomic and adrenocortical reactivity and buccal cell telomere length in kindergarten children.

Psychosomatic medicine

Kroenke CH, Epel E, Adler N, Bush NR, Obradovic J, Lin J, Blackburn E, Stamperdahl JL, Boyce WT

Temperament as a moderator of the relation between neighborhood and children's adjustment.

Journal of applied developmental psychology

Bush NR, Lengua LJ, Colder CR

Effortful control as a moderator of the relation between contextual risk factors and growth in adjustment problems.

Development and psychopathology

Lengua LJ, Bush NR, Long AC, Kovacs EA, Trancik AM

Contextual risk and parenting as predictors of effortful control and social competence in preschool children.

Journal of applied developmental psychology

Lengua LJ, Honorado E, Bush NR

Unlicensed residential programs: the next challenge in protecting youth.

The American journal of orthopsychiatry

Friedman RM, Pinto A, Behar L, Bush N, Chirolla A, Epstein M, Green A, Hawkins P, Huff B, Huffine C, Mohr W, Seltzer T, Vaughn C, Whitehead K, Young CK

Temperament in context: Infant temperament moderates the relationship between perceived neighborhood quality and behavior problems

Journal of applied developmental psychology

Colder, C, Lengua, L, Fite, P., Mott, J., & Bush, N.