Christopher W. Kuzawa

Northwestern University

Primary Section: 51, Anthropology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2018)


Christopher Kuzawa is a biological anthropologist and human biologist who studies human growth, reproduction and health from the perspectives of developmental and evolutionary biology. He is particularly known for empirical and theoretical work on the role of developmental plasticity as an influence on adult health. This developmental lens provides new perspectives on diverse dimensions of human biology, from the biology of fatherhood to the evolution of the human brain. Kuzawa was born near Cleveland, Ohio (Garfield Heights) and grew up in Boulder, Colorado. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1993 with a BA in anthropology, and from Emory University in 2001 with a PhD in anthropology and a MSPH in epidemiology. After conducting post-doctoral research in cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, Kuzawa joined the faculty of anthropology at Northwestern University in 2003, where he is also a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Research. He has long-standing interests in how social inequality affects biology and health, and he co-directs the Health Inequality Network of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

Research Interests

Christopher Kuzawa’s research integrates principles from biological anthropology, evolutionary life history theory, behavioral ecology, and epidemiology to illuminate the origins of human biological variation and health and the evolution of unique features of the human life cycle. He is best known for work in collaboration with a study in Cebu, the Philippines, that enrolled more than 3,000 pregnant mothers in 1983 and has since tracked diverse aspects of their health and biology along with that of their children and grandchildren. The exceptional multi-generational data from Cebu have allowed Kuzawa and his US and Filipino collaborators to demonstrate how early life environments influence growth, adult health, endocrinology, immunity, and reproduction. The group’s studies of fatherhood at Cebu have shown how reproductive hormone levels change with the transition to marriage and fatherhood, supporting the hypothesis that male caregiving is a strategy with deep evolutionary roots in the human lineage. Kuzawa’s work elsewhere examines similarly diverse aspects of human biology and evolution. One prominent area of recent inquiry examines the energetic costs and evolution of human brain development. This work demonstrates that energetic trade-offs help explain why we grow more slowly than other mammals during childhood.

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