Programs of Research
PROGRAMS OF RESEARCH

Human Development

A developmental paradigm remains at the heart of our thinking, reflecting our concern with long-term processes, and to the temporal patterning of ontogeny and experience via that of internal and external conditions. Some aspects of our work in this area build on and contribute to established paradigms in human biology, particularly human growth and development as a sensitive indicator of environmental quality, including child care practices, nutrition, workload, and pathogen load. In this regard, our fine-grained data on adolescent development across multiple contexts has allowed evaluation of the developmental consequences of sex differentiated care, as a model for the impact of varying environmental quality within the family context of lower genetic difference and ostensibly shared (but potentially non-shared) environments. Collaborative research with Bundi, Hagahai, and Amele of Papua New Guinea and Hadza of Tanzania is relevant here, as is a chapter in press for the volume on Evolutionary Medicine.

In collaborative work with Catherine Panter-Brick on Kathmandu street children, we pushed the usual paradigm of international growth standards as developmental benchmark by using multiple physical, psychological, and behavioral measures of development and well-being, along with multiple (3) local comparison groups. Our findings did not confirm the expected homeless-children-in-trouble scenario; rather, they show a more complex picture in which village children emerge as most challenged in terms of health and growth, privileged schoolboys and homeless emerge as most aroused physiologically, and street boys appear to trade off short term survival benefits against long-term psychosocial costs. Both in this research and that on sex differences the model of a developmental microniche has proved useful.

An important by-product of our large collaborative (with Jane Costello, Adrian Angold, Psychiatry, Duke) population studies in western (GSMS) and central (CCC) North Carolina, is that we have amassed the largest extant database on pubertal development. Comparable endocrine, anthropometric and morphometric data have been, and continue to be, collected on 1150 GSMS participants, 450 Cherokee, and 1150 CCC children (in an area 52% African American).
Our observation of large individual differences in apparent feedback and end organ sensitivity underscores the developmental bases of large adult variation in these parameters, and provides a basis from which to explore future concomitants of such variation, in terms of both adult functional and psychobehavioral outcomes. The high ethnic and socioeconomic diversity represented in these samples also allows exploration of causes and consequences of maturational diversity. For instance, in the GSMS, developmental delays or decrements were not demonstrably related to the high prevalence (28%) of poverty and social adversity, but those same conditions of adversity were powerfully correlated with mental health risk. Thus, the conditions necessary and sufficient for physical well-being are not sufficient for mental well-being. This analysis represents a departure from the human biologists' focus on physical development, to demonstrate that we should not "quit early" in analyzing effects of environment on human well-being by conflating physical with overall health.

Finally, in recent years we have extended the scope of inquiry from preadult to lifespan developmental processes, spurred partly by an interest in life history as a possible, though incomplete, basis for unified developmental theory. The initiative on comparative lifespan endocrinology, commenced several years ago, is described in the subsequent section. With Wenda Trevathan and Mary Burleson, we have developed a developmental neuroendocrine model for bases of diversity in symptoms and distress over the menopausal transition, and have undertaken pilot work demonstrating the feasibility of our field protocol. The expanding time frame is generally supported by our databases, which provide opportunity to evaluate extent, causes, and long-term correlates of variation in early development and function.


Relevant Publications
in press C.M. Worthman, "Evolutionary perspectives on the onset of puberty." In: Evolutionary Medicine, W.R. Trevathan, J.J. McKenna, & E.O. Smith, eds. Oxford University Press.
1998 C.M. Worthman, entries on "Recumbent anthopometry" (500 words), "Fertility" (500 words), and "Growth and natural selection" (1000 words). Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Growth and Development, S.J. Ulijaszek, F.E. Johnston, and M.A. Preece, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1998 C.M. Worthman, "Adolescence in the Pacific: A biosocial view." In: Adolescence in Pacific Island Societies. Stephen Leavitt, ed. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
1996 J. Rilling, C.M. Worthman, B. Campbell, J.F. Stallings, and M. Mbizva, "Ratios of plasma and salivary testosterone throughout puberty: production vs. bioavailability." Steroids 61:374-8.
1996 C. Panter-Brick, C.M. Worthman, P. Lunn, R. Baker, and A. Todd, "Urban-rural and class differences in biological markers of stress among Nepali children." American Journal of Human Biology 8:151.
1995 C.M. Worthman, "Ethnopediatrics: A beginning outline." Items 49:6-10.
1995 C.M. Worthman, "Biocultural bases of human variation." ISSBD Newsletter 27:10-13.
1995 J.F. Stallings, A. Angold, E.J. Costello, and C.M. Worthman, "Environmental effects on pubertal development in western adolescents: report from the North Carolina Great Smoky Mountain Study." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 20:201.
1995 T. McDade, A. Angold, E.J. Costello, J.F. Stallings, & C.M. Worthman, "Physiologic bases of individual variation in pubertal timing and progression: report from the Great Smoky Mountains Study." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 20:148.
1995 C.M. Worthman, "Facultative adjustment of reproductive development in human males." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 20:224.
1995 C.M. Worthman, "Epidemiology of human development." American Journal of Human Biology 7:138-9.
1994 C.M. Worthman, "Developmental microniche: a concept for modeling relationships of biology, behavior and culture in development." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 18:210.
1994 J. Rilling, B.C. Campbell, J.F. Stallings, & C.M. Worthman, "Ratios of plasma and salivary testosterone throughout puberty: production vs. bioavailability." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 18:170.
1993 C.M. Worthman, "Bio-cultural interactions in human development." In: Juvenile Primates: Life History, Development and Behavior, M. Pereira & L. Fairbanks, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 339-58.
1993 C.M. Worthman, J.F. Stallings, & C.L. Jenkins, "Developmental effects of sex-differentiated parental care among Hagahai foragers." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 16:212.
1993 C.M. Worthman, J.F. Stallings, & C.L. Jenkins, "Developmental effects of sex-differentiated parental care among Hagahai foragers." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 16:212.
1993 B. Zemel, C.M. Worthman, and C. Jenkins, "Differences in endocrine status associated with urban-rural patterns of growth and maturation in Bundi (Gende-speaking) adolescents of Papua New Guinea." In: Urban Health and Ecology in the Third World, L.M. Schell, M.T. Smith, and A. Bilsborough, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Human Biology Monograph Series, number 32), pp. 38-60.
1993 C.M. Worthman, J.F. Stallings, & C.L. Jenkins, "Developmental effects of sex-differentiated parental care among Hagahai foragers." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 16:212.
1991 B. Zemel, C.M. Worthman, and C. Jenkins, "The developmental endocrinology of Bundi (Gende-speaking) adolescents of Papua New Guinea." American Journal of Physical Anthropology Anthropology Suppl. 12:188.
1990 J. Eiseman, B. Zemel, C. Jenkins, and C. Worthman, "Physical growth and endocrine correlates of blood pressure variation among Bundi (Gende-speaking) adolescents of Papua New Guinea." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 81:219.
1987 C.M. Worthman, "Interactions of physical maturation and cultural practice in ontogeny: Kikuyu adolescents." Cultural Anthropology 2:29-38.
1987 B. Zemel, C. Jenkins, and C.M. Worthman, "Androgens and their relationship to growth status in Bundi (Gende-speaking) adolescents of Papua New Guinea." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 72:271.
1986 C.M. Worthman, "Developmental dysynchrony as normative experience: Kikuyu adolescents." In: School-Age Pregnancy and Parenthood, J. B. Lancaster and B. Hamburg, eds. New York: Aldine, pp. 95-112.
1986 C.M. Worthman, "Later-maturing populations and control of the onset of puberty." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 69:282.



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