Education

  • 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

Areas of Expertise

  • Psychobiology of parenting, parent-child relationships, and self-regulation in early childhood
  • The developmental origins of conduct problems and prosocial behaviors
  • Health and well-being of LGBTQ parents and children

Background

Prior to joining the School of Education at UNC Chapel Hill in 2018, Dr. Mills-Koonce 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.

Research

Dr. Mills-Koonce’s areas of expertise include three complimentary areas of research, each involving the integration of experience and psychobiological functioning across development. 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. 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.

Dr. Mills-Koonce currently is a Principal Investigator on multiple 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.