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Rachel Dunifon

Professor; The Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean, College of Human Ecology

Rachel Dunifon is the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology and professor in the Department of Psychology and the Brooks School of Public Policy. She has served as dean since 2020, after a two-year role as interim dean.

A leading scholar in child and family policy, Dean Dunifon’s research examines the ways in which policies, programs and family settings influence the development of less-advantaged children.  

In her research exploring the development of vulnerable children, specific research topics include the relationship between maternal employment conditions and children’s health and development; the well-being of children in various family living arrangements, such as single-parenthood and cohabitation; and the role of grandparents in the lives of youth.

Her recent book, You’ve Always Been There for Me: Understanding the Lives of Grandchildren Raised by Grandparents (2018), draws upon unique multi-method data to understand dynamics in households in which grandparents are raising their grandchildren. 

Dean Dunifon also serves as co-director of Project 2GEN, which combines research, policy, and practice to address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together. She and her colleagues were awarded the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant for their project titled “Protecting Vulnerable Children and Families in the Crosshairs of the Opioid Epidemic: A Research-Practice Partnership“. The award seeks to encourage research institutions to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. 

Her work has been published in top journals in developmental psychology (Child Development, Developmental Psychology), public policy (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management), and family demography (Demography, Journal of Marriage and Family).

Dean Dunifon received an undergraduate degree from Davidson College and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.