Nicki Bush


Nicki Bush is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley-San Francisco joint program. She received her Ph.D. in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington, Department of Psychology in June 2007, after completing a clinical internship in Chicago at the University of Illinois’ Institute for Juvenile Research. Her dissertation examined the ways in which individual differences in children’s temperaments can either protect or exacerbate risk from the harmful effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods on youth development. In addition to her passion for research, Nicki is also a clinical psychologist who specializes in therapeutic intervention with high-risk families and children with mental illness, and her work includes national-level policy efforts to improve the treatment of youth in mental health intervention settings. Nicki’s latest research is integrating insights from social epidemiology, sociology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychobiology to clarify the etiology of children’s mental and physical health outcomes and subsequent adult health. By integrating these fields and employing longitudinal and multilevel methods, her work investigates the relations among socioeconomic status and health and the biological mediators and moderators of those effects. Her existing work is an initial step towards elucidating the interplay of biology and context in youth development, as physiological systems mature and social environments change.

WCPC Funded Project:

Identifying Factors that Protect Poor Children from Neighborhood Risk
Faculty Supervisor: Liliana J. Lengua, Department of Psychology

Children who live in poor, high-crime and socially disconnected neighborhoods have substantially worse outcomes, in comparison to children who live in more advantaged neighborhoods, on key indicators of adolescent adjustment such as maladaptive behaviors and substance abuse. These outcomes also vary substantially among children exposed to similar neighborhood characteristics. Dr. Bush’s study examined the role of temperament in moderating the effect of neighborhood risk factors on adolescent adjustment. In a sample of youth growing up in urban high-risk neighborhoods of Seattle (8th to 10th grade, N=509), temperament moderated the relation between neighborhood characteristics and problem behaviors. Specifically, youth higher in sensation-seeking had exacerbated risk for initial level and growth in level of problem behaviors in neighborhoods high in disorder or low in attachment; and youth temperamental inhibition both exacerbated and protected from the effects of neighborhood, depending on the behavioral outcome. These findings explain variability in the etiology of problem behavior and provide evidence that, for some youth, the effects of neighborhood characteristics depend on their temperamental characteristics. The findings also identified “risk” and “protective” factors that contribute to outcomes for children residing in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Current Employment:

Postdoctoral Fellow, Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar, Center for Health and Community, University of California, San Francisco

Contact Info:


Curriculum Vitae [ PDF ]