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Emma Adam

Emma Adam

  • Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
  • Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research

Annenberg Hall, 2120 Campus Dr, Room 110, Evanston, IL 60208-0001
Curriculum Vitae

Organization or Lab


Affiliated Center(s)

Institute for Policy Research

Research Interests

Using diary studies to examine how adolescents’ everyday experiences influence their moods, their stress biology, and their sleep; the implications of adolescent stress for adolescent and adult mental and physical health and academic outcomes; ethnic/racial and socioeconomic disparities in stress exposure; the implications of “stress disparities” for disparities in health and academic outcomes; secular/historical changes in adolescent stress and mental health, including the impacts of economic decline and the COVID-19 pandemic; interventions to reduce adolescent stress exposure and increase coping with stress, including sleep, meditation, mindfulness, mentoring, and ethnic-identity promotion interventions.


Emma Adam is a developmental psychologist with an interest in applying theory and research on human development to informing policies and programs aimed at improving the wellbeing of children, adolescents, and young adults. She is an expert in the developmental psychobiology of stress and sleep. Adam studies how everyday experiences in the lives of children, adolescents and young adults impact their stress biology, with implications for emotional health, physical health and academic outcomes. She also examines social influences on sleep in children and adolescents, and the implications of variations in sleep timing and quality for health and performance. Her research projects have examined the role of stress, stress hormones and sleep in the development of mood and anxiety disorders in adolescents and young adults; racial/ethnic disparities in stress and the impact of perceived discrimination on stress hormones, sleep and health; the impact of early adverse relationship experiences on biological stress and health in young adults; and how variations in stress and sleep affect executive functioning and academic performance.  Adam and her collaborators are currently implementing a series of randomized control trial intervention projects designed to reduce stress and or promote positive outcomes in youth, including a meditation intervention, an app-based mindfulness intervention, a mentoring intervention, and an intervention designed to promote positive ethnic identity development in youth.

In addition to her Northwestern University affiliations, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Society for Research on Adolescence, and the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology. She is the recipient of a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship (2003–04), a William T. Grant Scholars Award (2004–09), and the Curt Richter Award from the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology (2013).  She is President-Elect of the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology (2020-2023).


  • PhD, Child Psychology, University of Minnesota, 1998
  • MA, Public Policy, University of Chicago, 1998
  • MA, Applied Developmental Psychology, University of Toronto, 1992
  • BS, Psychology, University of Toronto, 1990

Awards and Honors

  • 2020 – President-Elect, International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology
  • 2017 – Lyle Spencer Research Award
  • 2013 – Outstanding Professor Award, School of Education and Social Policy
  • 2013 – Curt Richter Award, International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology
  • 2009 – William T. Grant Scholars Award

Selected Publications

Adam, Emma K. “Natural Disasters as Natural Experiments: Lessons for Human Stress Science.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America., vol. 120, no. 44, 2023,

Collier Villaume, S., Chen, S., & Adam, E. K. (2023). Age Disparities in Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression Among US Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 6(11), e2345073-e2345073.

McMahon, T. P., Collier-Villaume, S. C., Adam, E. K. (2023). Daily Experiences and Adolescent Affective Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The CHESS Model. Current Opinion in Psychology, 101654.

Collier Villaume, S., Stephens, J. E., Craske, M. G., Zinbarg, R. E., & Adam, E. K. (In press). Sleep and daily affect and risk for major depression: Day-to-day and prospective associations in late adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health.

Adam, E. K., Collier Villaume, S., Thomas, S., Doane, L. D., & Grant, K. E. (2023). Stress and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity in adolescence and early adulthood. In L. J. Crockett, G. Carlo, & J. E. Schulenberg (Eds.), APA handbook of adolescent and young adult development (pp. 55–72). American Psychological Association.

Heissel, J. A., Adam, E. K., Doleac, J. L., Figlio, D. N., & Meer, J. (2021).
Testing, stress, and performance: How students respond physiologically to high-stakes testing. Education Finance and Policy, 16(2), 183-208.

Adam, E. K., Hittner, E. F., Thomas, S. E., Collier Villaume, S., & Nwafor, E. E. (2020). Racial discrimination and ethnic racial identity in adolescence as modulators of HPA axis activity. Development and Psychopathology. 32(5). 1669-1684.

Hittner, E. F., & Adam, E. K. (2020). Emotional pathways to the biological embodiment of racial discrimination experiences. Psychosomatic Medicine, 82(4), 420-431. doi:10.1097/psy.0000000000000792

Adam, E. K., Collier Villaume, S., & Hittner, E. (2020). Reducing stress disparities: Shining new light on pathways to equity through the study of stress biology. In L. Tach, R. Dunifon, & D. L. Miller (Eds.), Confronting Inequality: How Policies and Practices Shape Children’s Opportunities. Washington: APA Books, 11-47.

Adam, E. K., Quinn, M. E., Tavernier, R., McQuillan, M.T., Dahlke, K.A., & Gilbert, K. E. (2017). Diurnal cortisol slopes and mental and physical health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 83, 25-41.