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Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Section on Child and Family Research


6705 Rockledge Drive
Rockville, MD 20817


Research Topics

Child and Family Development across the First Two+ Decades of Life

The Child and Family Research Section (CFRS) was established with the broad aim of investigating the ways in which human development is affected by variations in the conditions under which human beings are reared. We investigate dispositional, experiential, and environmental factors that contribute to physical, mental, emotional, and social development in human beings across the first three decades of life. Our research goals are to describe, analyze, and assess (i) the capabilities and proclivities of developing children and youth, including their physiological functioning, perceptual and cognitive abilities, emotional and social growth, and interactional styles; (ii) the nature and consequences of interactions within the family and the social world for offspring and parents; and (iii) influences on development of children's exposure to and interactions with the natural and designed environments. Research topics concern the origins, status, and development of psychological constructs, structures, functions, and processes across the first three decades of life; effects of child characteristics and activities on parents; and the meaning of variations in parenting and in the family across different socio-demographic and cultural groups. Laboratory and home-based studies employ a variety of approaches, including psycho-physiological recordings, behavioral observations, standardized assessments, rating scales, interviews, and demographic/census records in both longitudinal and cross-sectional designs. Socio-demographic comparisons under investigation include, for example, family socio-economic status, maternal age and employment status, parenthood status (adoption, birth), child parity, and daycare experience. In addition to the United States, cultural study sites include Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, England, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Peru, and the Republic of South Korea; in all places, we pursue intra-cultural as well as cross-cultural comparisons.

We also conduct broad programs of research in developmental neuroscience and behavioral pediatrics that investigate questions at the interface of child development, biology, and health. Childhood is a time of vulnerability (to accidents, in risk taking), as it is formative in habit development and decision making (nutrition, exercise) for the balance of the life span. Our developmental neuroscience research has several facets, including fetal development and psychological functioning after birth; cardiac function and EEG in psychological development; eye-tracking, perception, and cognition in infancy; and categorization. Our program of research in behavioral pediatrics investigates developmental sequelae of cancer in infancy; children's understanding and coping with medical experiences; parental depression and child development; development following preterm birth; the deaf culture; and behavior problems in adolescence.

To meet this multifaceted charge, we pursue four integrated multi-age, multi-variate, multi-cultural research programs that are supplemented by a variety of ancillary investigations. These research programs represent an en bloc effort. The first program is a prospective longitudinal study designed to explore multiple aspects of child development in the context of major socio-demographic comparisons. The second program broadens the perspectives of the first to encompass cultural influences on development within the same basic longitudinal framework. The third program comprises basic neuroscience research, and the fourth applies extensions of this basic research to behavioral pediatrics. The ultimate aims of these research programs are to promote aware, fit, and motivated children who will grow into knowledgeable, healthy, and happy adults.


Dr. Marc H. Bornstein is Senior Investigator and Head of Child and Family Research in NICHD. He holds a B.A. from Columbia College, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Padua. Dr. Bornstein was a J. S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and he received a Research Career Development Award from the NICHD. He also received the C. S. Ford Cross-Cultural Research Award from the Human Relations Area Files, the B. R. McCandless Young Scientist Award and the G. Stanley Hall Award from the American Psychological Association, a United States PHS Superior Service Award from the NIH, two Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowships, three Awards for Excellence from the American Mensa Education & Research Foundation, the Arnold Gesell Prize from the Theodor Hellbrügge Foundation, an Award of Merit from the NIH, and the Distinguished International Contributions to Child Development Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. Dr. Bornstein has held faculty positions at Princeton University and New York University as well as academic appointments as Visiting Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie in Munich, Visiting Fellow at University College London, Professeur Invité at the Laboratoire de Psychologie Expérimentale at the Université René Descartes in Paris, Child Clinical Fellow at the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York, Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo, Professeur Invité at the Laboratoire de Psychologie du Développement et de l'Éducation de l'Enfant at the Sorbonne in Paris, Visiting Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Visiting Scientist at the Human Development Resource Centre, Bamenda, Cameroon, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Psychology, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea, Visiting Professor, Faculty of Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Italy, and Profesor Visitante, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Dr. Bornstein serves on the Executive Committee of the International Society of Infancy Studies and is a past member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development. He was named to the Top 20 Authors for Productivity in Developmental Science by the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Bornstein is coauthor of Development in Infancy , Development: Infancy through Adolescence, Lifespan Development, and Perceiving Similarity and Comprehending Metaphor. He is general editor of The Crosscurrents in Contemporary Psychology Series, including Psychological Development from Infancy, Comparative Methods in Psychology, Psychology and Its Allied Disciplines (Vols. I-III), Sensitive Periods in Development, Interaction in Human Development, Cultural Approaches to Parenting, Child Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, and Well-Being: Positive Development Across the Life Course, and he is general editor of the Monographs in Parenting series, including Socioeconomic Status, Parenting, and Child Development, Acculturation and Parent-Child Relationships, and Parenting: Essential Readings. He edited Maternal Responsiveness: Characteristics and Consequences, the Handbook of Parenting (Vols. I-V), and The Handbook of Cultural Developmental Science (Parts 1 & 2), and has coedited Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook, Stability and Continuity in Mental Development, Contemporary Constructions of the Child, Early Child Development in the French Tradition, The Role of Play in the Development of Thought, Acculturation and Parent-Child Relationships, Immigrant Families in Contemporary Society, The Developing Infant Mind, and Early Childhood Development and Later Achievement. He is author of or consultant on several children's books, videos, and puzzles in The Child's World and Baby Explorer series. Bornstein administers both Federal and Foundation grants, sits on the editorial boards of several professional journals, is a member of scholarly societies in a variety of disciplines, and consults for governments, foundations, universities, publishers, scientific journals, the media, and UNICEF. Bornstein is Editor Emeritus of Child Development and founding Editor of Parenting: Science and Practice. His has published in experimental, methodological, comparative, developmental, and cultural science as well as neuroscience, pediatrics, and aesthetics.

Selected Publications

  1. Bornstein MH, Putnick DL, Cote LR, Haynes OM, Suwalsky JT. Mother-Infant Contingent Vocalizations in 11 Countries. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(8):1272-84.
  2. Bornstein MH, Putnick DL, Suwalsky JTD. Parenting cognitions → parenting practices → child adjustment? The standard model. Dev Psychopathol. 2017:1-18.
  3. Bornstein MH, Putnick DL, Lansford JE, Al-Hassan SM, Bacchini D, Bombi AS, Chang L, Deater-Deckard K, Di Giunta L, Dodge KA, Malone PS, Oburu P, Pastorelli C, Skinner AT, Sorbring E, Steinberg L, Tapanya S, Tirado LMU, Zelli A, Alampay LP. 'Mixed blessings': parental religiousness, parenting, and child adjustment in global perspective. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;58(8):880-892.
  4. Bornstein MH, Esposito G. Beyond cry and laugh: toward a multilevel model of language production. Behav Brain Sci. 2014;37(6):548-9.
This page was last updated on August 15th, 2017