PAWS - The Peers and Wellness Study


The Peers and Wellness Study

The Peers and Wellness Study (PAWS), was started in 2003 by Dr. Tom Boyce and Dr. Nancy Adler in order to look more closely at the effects of environmental and biological factors on health. The associations among various social and economic factors in a person’s life (such as living conditions, lifestyle, and access to quality healthcare) and an individual’s health are not well understood. The relation between a person’s position in society or their community and health is also poorly understood. By capturing a range of information on kindergarten children during an early developmental period when kids are perhaps first encountering new structured environments, social stress, and ordered social relations, the research team is able to look at these factors to better understand their effects on health.

Starting in 2003, our team worked together with schools and families to collect data on East Bay Area children during their kindergarten and 1st grade years. The PAWS study involved 6 preschools and nearly 350 families! Three waves of participants enrolled in our study during 2003-5. In 2008 we began a follow up component of the study so we could capture information on peer relationships and physical development in children, which has been completed. The PAWS research team has since been working on analyzing the data and writing and submitting articles for publication.

Dr. Nicki Bush joined the PAWS team in 2007 as a postdoctoral fellow, and currently Co-Directs the science of the study with Dr. Boyce. Dr. Bush is also the Principal Investigator of the supplemental genetics study on the PAWS project. 

For more information, the website for the Peers and Wellness Study can be found here

Key Investigators

Tom Boyce, MD

Principal Investigator, Co-Scientific Director


Nancy Adler, PhD

Principal Investigator


Nicki Bush, PhD

PAWS-Genetics Principal Investigator, Co-Scientific Director 



Shakiba, N., Ellis, B. J., Bush, N. R., & Boyce, W. T. (2019). Biological sensitivity to context: A test of the hypothesized U-shaped relation between early adversity and stress responsivity. Development and Psychopathology, 1–20.

Roubinov, D. S., Bush, N. R., Hagan, M. J., Thompson, J., & Boyce, W. T. (2019). Associations between classroom climate and children’s externalizing symptoms: The moderating effect of kindergarten children’s parasympathetic reactivity. Development and Psychopathology, 1–12.

Roubinov, D. S., Boyce, W. T., & Bush, N. R. (2018). Informant-specific reports of peer and teacher relationships buffer the effects of harsh parenting on children’s oppositional defiant disorder during kindergarten. Development and Psychopathology, 1–12.

Bush, N., Edgar, R.*, Adler, N., Kobor, M., & Boyce, W. T. (2018). The biological embedding of early life socioeconomic and family adversity in children’s genome-wide DNA methylation. Epigenomics,10(11):1445-1461. doi: 10.2217/epi-2018-0042

Roubinov, D.*, Bush, N., Adler, N., & Boyce, W.T. (2018). Differences in febrile and respiratory illnesses in minority children: The sociodemographic contexts of restrictive parenting. Academic Pediatrics. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2018.09.012.

Roubinov, D.*, Hagan, M.*, Boyce, W. T., Adler, N., & Bush, N. (2018). Family socioeconomic status, cortisol, and physical health in early childhood: Neighborhood matters. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80, 492-501. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000585.

Roubinov, D.*, Hagan, M., Boyce, W.T., Adler, N., & Bush, N. (2017). Child temperament and teacher relationship interactively predict cortisol expression:, The prism of classroom climate. Development and Psychopathology.

Hagan, M.*, Roubinov, D.*, Adler, N., Boyce, W. T., & Bush, N. (2016). Socioeconomic adversity and negativity in the parent child-relationship: The complex costs for young children’s physical health and examinations of biological mechanisms. Psychosomatic Medicine,78(9), 998-1007.

Bush, N., Allison*, A., Adler, N., Deardorff, J., & Boyce, W. T. (2017). Socioeconomic disparities in childhood obesity risk: Moderation by an oxytocin polymorphism. JAMA Pediatrics,171(1), 61-67. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2332

Portilla, X. A., Ballard, P. J., Adler, N. E., Boyce, W. T., & Obradovic, J. (2014). An Integrative View of School Functioning: Transactions Between Self-Regulation, School Engagement, and Teacher-Child Relationship Quality. Child Development, 85(5), 1915-1931. doi:10.1111/cdev.12259

Quas, J. A., Yim, I. S., Oberlander, T. F., Nordstokke, D., Essex, M. J., Armstrong, J. M., Bush, N.R., Obradovic, J.,Boyce, W. T. (2014). The symphonic structure of childhood stress reactivity: patterns of sympathetic, parasympathetic, and adrenocortical responses to psychological challenge. Dev Psychopathol, 26(4 Pt 1), 963-982. doi:10.1017/S0954579414000480

Boyce, W. T., Obradovic, J., Bush, N. R., Stamperdahl, J., Kim, Y. S., & Adler, N. (2012). Social stratification, classroom climate, and the behavioral adaptation of kindergarten children. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109 Suppl 2, 17168-17173. doi:10.1073/pnas.1201730109

Obradovic, J., Bush, N. R., & Boyce, W. T. (2011). The interactive effect of marital conflict and stress reactivity on externalizing and internalizing symptoms: the role of laboratory stressors. Dev Psychopathol, 23(1), 101-114. doi:10.1017/S0954579410000672

Bush, N. R., Alkon, A., Obradovic, J., Stamperdahl, J., & Boyce, W. T. (2011). Differentiating challenge reactivity from psychomotor activity in studies of children's psychophysiology: considerations for theory and measurement. J Exp Child Psychol, 110(1), 62-79. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2011.03.004

Kroenke, C. H., Epel, E., Adler, N., Bush, N. R., Obradovic, J., Lin, J., Blackburn, E., Stamperdahl, J.L., Boyce, W. T. (2011). Autonomic and adrenocortical reactivity and buccal cell telomere length in kindergarten children. Psychosom Med, 73(7), 533-540. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e318229acfc

Bush, N. R., Obradovic, J., Adler, N., & Boyce, W. T. (2011). Kindergarten stressors and cumulative adrenocortical activation: the "first straws" of allostatic load? Dev Psychopathol, 23(4), 1089-1106. doi:10.1017/S0954579411000514

Boyce, W. T., Den Besten, P. K., Stamperdahl, J., Zhan, L., Jiang, Y., Adler, N. E., & Featherstone, J. D. (2010). Social inequalities in childhood dental caries: the convergent roles of stress, bacteria and disadvantage. Soc Sci Med, 71(9), 1644-1652. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.045

Obradovic, J., Bush, N. R., Stamperdahl, J., Adler, N. E., & Boyce, W. T. (2010). Biological sensitivity to context: the interactive effects of stress reactivity and family adversity on socioemotional behavior and school readiness. Child Dev, 81(1), 270-289. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01394.x

Oveis, C., Gruber, J., Keltner, D., Stamper, J. L., & Boyce, W. T. (2009). Smile Intensity and Warm Touch as Thin Slices of Child and Family Affective Style. Emotion, 9(4), 544-548. doi:10.1037/a0016300