Faculty

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
The UNC Brain and Early Experience Lab

Photo of Roger Mills-Koonce

Mills-Koonce, Roger

Associate Professor

T: 919.962.6605
F: 919.962.1533
mills-koonce@unc.edu
301K Peabody Hall
CB 3500

Overview

Roger Mills-Koonce is an Associate Professor in the division of Human Development and Family Studies and the division of Applied Developmental Science. Prior to joining the School of Education at UNC Chapel Hill in 2018, he was an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at UNC Greensboro and before that a Research Scientist at the Center for Developmental Science at UNC Chapel Hill.

Dr. Mills-Koonce's areas of expertise include three complimentary areas of research, each involving the integration of experience and psychobiological functioning in individual development and functioning. His primary research interest focuses on biopsychosocial models of parenting, parent-child attachment relationships, and the emergence of self-regulation in early childhood. His second research interest focuses on the biopsychosocial correlates of social, emotional, and behavioral functioning in early childhood and middle childhood with an emphasis on early onset conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors in young children. His third research interest focuses on the health and well-being of LGBTQ parents and children.

Across each domain of research, Dr. Mills-Koonce has a specific interest in the central role of the parent-child relationship in the development of the individual. He has expertise in the assessment of parenting behaviors and child attachment quality and has overseen observational parenting assessments across numerous studies. Most recently Dr. Mills-Koonce oversaw the assessment of parenting interventions effects for the Administration for Children and Families multi-site intervention designed to ameliorate the adverse of effects of early toxic stress exposure in young children.

Dr. Mills-Koonce currently is an Investigator on multiple ongoing developmental studies. These include the Family Life Project (funded by the NICHD), one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of children living in poor, rural American communities; The Brain and Early Experience Study (funded by the NICHD), which examines the experiential mechanisms through which prenatal and postnatal exposures to poverty affect neurological development and emergent executive functioning in young children; the Mood, Mother and Child Study (funded by the NICHD), which examines psychobiological resilience in mother-child dyads that have clinical and subclinical levels of maternal depression; and the New American Family Study (funded by the NICHD), which is a nationwide study of the factors affecting the health and well-being of LGBTQ couples and their decisions regarding the transition to parenthood.

For each of these research endeavors the role of parenting and parent-child relationships is a critical outcome and/or predictor of individual development. Over the course of his graduate training and professional development, Dr. Mills-Koonce has been trained in assessing parenting behaviors in rodent species by Dr. Jean-Louis Gariepy; assessing parental sensitivity and harsh intrusiveness in humans by Dr. Martha Cox; assessing atypical caregiving and disrupted communication in humans by Drs. Karlen Lyons-Ruth and Elisa Bronfman, and assessing child attachment quality by Drs. Alan Sroufe and Elizabeth Carlson. Dr. Mills-Koonce is committed to the training of undergraduate and graduate students in these observational methodologies to continue this line of research and expertise into future generations of researchers.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. 2005 - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Developmental Psychology
  • B.A. 1999 - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Psychology

Research Interests

  • Psychobiology of parent-child relationships
  • Development of self-regulation
  • Early childhood conduct problems
  • Health and well-being of LGBTQ parents and children

Teaching Areas

  • Early Childhood Development
  • Parenting and Attachment
  • Developmental Psychobiology
  • Quantitative Research Methods

Courses

  • EDUC 408: Research Methods in Human Development and Family Studies
  • EDUC 806: Proseminar in Applied Developmental Science and Special Education

Honors & Awards

  • 2015, Junior Excellence in Research Award, School of Health and Human Science, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • International Society for Developmental Psychobiology
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy

Funded Research

  • 2018-2023, A Mechanistic Study of the Association Between Poverty and Executive Functions in Early Childhood: Contributions of Early Brain Development and the Early Caregiving Environment, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2015-2020, The Family Life Project: Stress, Self-Regulation, and Psychopathology in Middle Childhood, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2013-2019, Integrating Demography and Biosocial Stress Models of LGBTI Family Formation, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2013-2019, The Family Life Project: Stress Exposure and Immune Outcomes in Children, NIMH, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2012-2018, Mood, Mother and The Infant: The Psychobiology of Impaired Dyadic Development, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2011-2014,Parent & Relational Predictors of Conduct Problems and Callous/Unemotional Traits, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2010-2013, Measuring Attachment Representations in Rural and Poor African American Children, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2002-2013, The Family Life Project: Phases I & II, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2008-2010, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Effects on Trajectories of Infants’ Vagal Functioning, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health
  • 2006-2008, Transgenerational Effects of Poverty and Geographic Isolation on the HPA System, NICHD, The National Institutes of Health

Selected Publications

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Rehder, P. D., & McCurdy, A. L. (in press). The significance of parenting and parent-child relationships for sexual and gender minority youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence.

Wagner, N., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Willoughby, Cox, M. J., & The Family Life Project Key Investigators (in press). Parenting and cortisol in infancy interactively predict conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors in childhood. Child Development.

Brown, G., Gustafsson, H., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Cox, M. J., & The Family Life Project Key Investigators (2017). Associations between early caregiving and rural, low-SES, African American children’s representations of attachment relationships. Attachment and Human Development, 19(4), 340-363.

Cao, H., Zhou, N., Fine, M., Liang, Y., Li, J., & Mills-Koonce, W. R. (2017). Sexual minority stress and same-sex relationship well-being: A meta-analysis of research prior to the U.S. nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 79(5), 1258-1277. PMCID: PMC5627620

Holochwost, S. J., Gariepy, J.-L., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Propper, C. B., Kolacz, J., & Granger, D. (2017). Individual differences in the activity of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis: Relations to age and cumulative risk in early childhood. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 81, 36-45.

Rehder, P., Mills-Koonce, Willoughby, M. W., Garrett-Peters, P., and the Family Life Projec7t Key Investigators (2017). High and low levels of conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors predict emotion recognition accuracy in White but not African American children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 41, 174-183.

Wagner, N., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Propper. C. B., & Willoughby, M. T. (2017). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and heart period in infancy as correlates of later oppositional defiant behaviors and callous-unemotional behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(1), 127-135.

Zvara, B., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Carmody, K. A., Cox, M. J. & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2017). Maternal childhood sexual trauma and child conduct problems in offspring: Multiple pathways of influence. Journal of Family Violence, 32(2), 231-242.

Cao, H., & Mills-Koonce, W. R., Wood, C., Fine, M. (2016). Identity transformation during the transition to parenthood for same-sex couples: An ecological, stress-strategy-adaptation perspective. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 8(1), 30-59.

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Willoughby, M. W., Garrett-Peters, P., Wagner, N., Vernon-Feagans, L., & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2016). The interplay among socioeconomic status, household chaos, and parenting in the prediction of child conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors. Development and Psychopathology, 28(3), 757-771.

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Wagner, N. Willoughby, M. T., Stifter, C., Blair, C., Granger, D. A., & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2015). Greater fear reactivity and psychophysiological hyperactivity among infants with later conduct problems and callous unemotional traits. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(2), 147-154. PMCID: PMC4282840

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Willoughby, M. T., Zvara, B., Barnett, M., Gustafsson, H., Cox, M. J., & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2015). Direct and indirect effects of mothers’ and fathers’ positive engagement on children’s early cognitive development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 38, 1-10. PMCID: PMC4418032

Willoughby, M. T., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Gottfredson, N. C., Waschbusch, D., & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2015). An Examination of Parent Report Version of the Inventory of Callous Unemotional Traits in a Community Sample of 1st Grade Children. Assessment, 22(1), 76-85.

Blair, C., Berry, D., Mills-Koonce, W. R., & Granger, D. (2013). Cumulative effects of early poverty on cortisol in young children: Moderation by autonomic nervous system activity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(11), 2666-2675.

Calkins, S. D., Propper, C.B., & Mills-Koonce, W. R. (2013). A biopsychosocial perspective on parenting and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 25(4, pt 2), 1399-1414.

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Garrett-Peters, P., Barnett, M., Granger, D. A., Blair, C, Cox, M. J., & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (2011). Father contributions to cortisol responses in infancy and toddlerhood. Developmental Psychology, 47(2), 388-395. PMCID: PMC4428321

Mills-Koonce, W. R., Propper, C. B., Barnett, M., Gariépy, J.-L., Moore, G., Calkins, S., Cox, M. (2009). Psychophysiological Correlates of Parenting Behavior in Mothers of Young Children. Developmental Psychobiology, 51, 650-661.

Propper, C., Moore, G.A., Mills-Koonce, W.R., Halpern, C.T., Hill-Soderlund, A.L., Calkins, S.D., Carbone, M., & Cox, M. (2008). Gene-environment contributions to the development of infant vagal reactivity: The interaction of dopamine and maternal sensitivity. Child Development, 79, 1378-1395.

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