The influence of TV advertising on young children’s requests for particular treats was the basis of Gene Brody’s first grant-funded project. His latest interest is exploring whether families and communities can “turn on and off” genes that are connected to depression and other mental disorders.
In between, Brody-a Distinguished Research Professor in the child and family development department of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences-has built a body of research establishing how parents, other caregivers, siblings and peers influence children’s developmental growth despite a variety of chronic stressors, such as poverty, illness and racism. Perhaps more importantly, he has translated those research findings into family-centered preventive intervention programs for rural African-American families, programs that are currently undergoing rigorous testing.
“I look at that first grant as the most important one I ever received, because it helped me believe that I could do this,” says Brody, whose accomplishments have earned him the title of Regents Professor.
Regents Professorships are bestowed by the University System Board of Regents on truly distinguished faculty of the University of Georgia whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace setting. The professorships are granted for an initial period of three years and are renewable for a second three-year period based on recommendations. Awardees receive a $10,000 permanent increase in salary. They also receive a yearly fund of $5,000 in support of their scholarship.
“Dr. Brody has always been ahead of the times in asking cutting-edge research questions,” according to FACS Dean Sharon Y. Nickols. “He has succeeded in securing substantial external funding to carry out these projects, and his dissemination of the findings has earned the respect of his colleagues.”
Brody joined the child and family development faculty in 1976. In 1995, he was named director of the Center for Family Research of the Institute for Behavioral Research. The center is the site of $20 million of externally funded research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Georgia Children’s Trust Fund.
Most recently, Brody was awarded a Developing Center Grant from NIMH to expand the center’s development, implementation and dissemination of familyoriented preventive interventions to rural African-American families, thus advancing the theory and methodology of prevention science.
“Gene Brody has been a leader among child developmentalists for a long time in not just arguing for the need to study multiple features of the family system, but in successfully doing so,” according to Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck University of London, who wrote a letter in support of Brody’s nomination. “Beyond simply ‘talking the ecological/contextual/family talk,’ Gene Brody and his research team have ‘walked the ecological/contextual/family walk’ when it comes to turning theoretical rhetoric into empirical reality.”
Although he’s honored to be named a Regents Professor, Brody says he primarily views the award as an opportunity to explain to the university community and the general public the broad range of dynamic research that’s occurring in the behavioral sciences.
“I want people to know that science can be used to answer important questions about children and families,” he says. “And those answers can be used to develop prevention and intervention programs to assist families.”