Professor Chris Dunkel Schetter is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UCLA. She is Director of the NIMH pre and postdoctoral training program in Biobehavioral Issues in Mental and Physical Health, and CoChair of Health Psychology. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and completed postdoctoral training at UC Berkeley. Her broad research expertise is in stress, coping and social support in a variety of health and mental health contexts. She has studied social relationships and adjustment to cancer, coping with stress and social support in middle-aged couples, psychological adjustment to infertility, genetic screening for cystic fibrosis, and adjustment to HIV/AIDS.
Her primary program of research is on stress processes in pregnancy. In this work, Dunkel Schetter and collaborators examine various aspects of prenatal maternal stress including stress exposures, emotional responses, and appraisals of stress and their effects on preterm birth and low birthweight. This program of research involves prospective longitudinal studies of thousands of pregnant women of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic status including low income, Hispanic and African American women.
Dunkel Schetter and associates have documented that prenatal anxiety reliably predicts time of gestation and that corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) is involved in the mechanisms responsible for preterm delivery. In addition, Dunkel Schetter and colleagues have examined the HPA axis in pregnancy and published findings involving levels of ACTH and cortisol as well as CRH at various times in pregnancy and as significant correlates of self-report psychological measures.
Dunkel Schetter’s current research is focused mainly on unique risk and resilience factors and mechanisms involving African American and Latina women and preventive interventions. Her lab is also engaged in experimental studies of basic social support processes. She is currently collaborating with many others to publish findings from a community collaborative national study on SES and ethnic disparities in maternal and child health which also focuses on fathers. (See Projects)
Stress and coping processes; social support; biopsychosocial processes in pregnancy, preterm delivery, low birth weight and other maternal/infant outcomes; and women’s reproductive health.