Social Epidemiology, Harvard University
Cohort Eight Fellow
Scott Delaney is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studying social and psychiatric epidemiology with expertise in neuroscience. His dissertation research investigates how poverty and stress change neurodevelopment and behavior throughout childhood. It also assesses the role of positive exposures in buffering the effects of childhood poverty and related experiences. He plans to apply this research to develop more equitable juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Prior to joining his doctoral program, Mr. Delaney practiced law for several years in a variety of positions, including as a public defender where he represented both juvenile and adult defendants who were unable to afford an attorney. Mr. Delaney holds an MPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a JD from the University of Illinois College of Law, and a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Childhood Threatening Experiences, Brain Morphology, and Aggressive Behavior
Over 15 million American children—1 in every 5—are currently growing up in homes earning less than federally-defined poverty levels. These children are significantly more likely to suffer maltreatment and to develop aggressive behavior problems, which may further exacerbate maltreatment exposure. Moreover, aggressive behavior problems are linked to poor academic performance, smoking, substance use disorders, criminality, and suicide later in life.
This dissertation will investigate why children growing up poor are more likely to develop aggressive behavior problems, and how certain positive experiences may buffer poverty effects. To do so, it will assess the impact of specific exposures common to childhood poverty—namely, physically threatening experiences—on brain structural development and associated aggressive behavior, and it will also investigate the role of positive family functioning in healthy neurodevelopment. Research findings may inform policy and practice regarding early childhood interventions aimed at preventing maltreatment and promoting child wellbeing by mobilizing and directing resources toward specific risk and protective factors revealed by this research.