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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology


Erika Manczak

Dr. Manczak is interested in taking a new graduate student for Fall 2021. She will review applications from students applying to either Affective/Social/Cognitive, Clinical, or Developmental Psychology programs.

Areas of expertise/research interests

  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Biological embedding of social experiences
  • Depression in parents, children, and adolescents
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Psychoimmunology
  • Mental and physical health comorbidity

Professional Biography

My program of research examines the biological and psychological mechanisms through which important social relationships during childhood and adolescence confer risk for mental and physical health disorders. Motivated by research documenting disproportionately high rates of psychopathology and chronic disease in offspring raised in risky family environments, I seek to delineate mechanistic models of how early environments "get under the skin" to influence psychological and physiological functioning. Conceptually, I situate my work within a psychoneuroimmunological framework, considering multiple levels of analysis ranging from molecular processes to neighborhood and community-level environments. Within this, much of my research focuses on cellular inflammatory processes as key theorized mediators of risk and on adolescence as a critical period of development; however, I am increasingly interested in additional biological pathways (e.g., epigenetic processes) and in additional developmental periods (e.g., pregnancy) in relation to mental and physical health outcomes.

Some questions driving my research include:

  1. How are dimensions of family and social relationships related to the biological and psychological processes that are implicated in depression in youths?
  2. What are the biologically plausible mechanisms through which the psychological features of important social relationships might confer risk for youth physical health outcomes?
  3. Under what circumstances are characteristics of (social/physical) environments adaptive versus maladaptive?

Beginning in Fall 2018, I will be directing the Biology, Environments, and Mood Studies (BEAMS) Lab at the University of Denver.


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University, Stanford CA, 2018
  • Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston IL, 2017
  • M.A., Clinical Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston IL, 2013
  • B.A., College Scholar Program, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, 2007

Selected Publications

  • Manczak, E., Dougherty, B., & Chen, E. (in press). Parental depressive symptoms potentiate the effect of youth negative mood symptoms on gene expression in children with asthma. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
  • Manczak, E., Emerson, E, & Donenberg, G. (in press). Can mother-daughter communication buffer adolescent risk for mental health problems associated with maternal depressive symptoms? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
  • Manczak, E., Leigh, A., Chin, C-P., & Chen, E. (in press). Consistency matters: Parental consistency in timing and quality of daily interactions with children predicts adolescent production of proinflammatory cytokines. Development and Psychopathology.
  • Manczak, E., Levine, C., Ehrlich, K., Basu, D., McAdams, D., & Chen, E. (2017). Associations between spontaneous parental perspective-taking and stimulated cytokine responses in children with asthma. Health Psychology, 36(7), 652-661.
  • Manczak, E., Williams, D., & Chen, E. (2017). The role of family routines in the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms between parents and their adolescent children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 45, 643-656.
  • Manczak, E. Basu, D., & Chen, E. (2016). The price of perspective taking: Child depressive symptoms interact with parental empathy to predict immune functioning in parents, Clinical Psychological Science, 4(3), 485-492.
  • Manczak, E. DeLongis, A., & Chen, E. (2016). Does empathy have a cost? Diverging psychological and physiological effects within families. Health Psychology, 35, 211-218.
  • Manczak, E., McLean, K., McAdams, D., & Chen, E. (2015). Physiological reactivity during parent-adolescent conversations about challenging events: Associations with parental scaffolding and relationship quality. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 522-531.