In May 2022, Dr. Laurel Raffington started an independent Max Planck Research Group named “Biosocial – Biology, Social Disparities, and Development”. Dr. Raffington is a German-American developmental psychologist. Her research examines how social inequality affects child and adolescent development at multiple biological and psychological levels. Laurel received her Ph.D. in psychology from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin whilst working at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Her dissertation was awarded the Otto-Hahn-Medal by the Max Planck Society and the Margret-and-Paul-Baltes Prize by the German Psychological Society. She then joined the labs of Prof. Kathryn Paige Harden and Prof. Elliot Tucker-Drob as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center. She also co-founded a video production company with her husband, Jermain Raffington, that explores Black German identities and racism in Germany.

Education and positions held

  • 2022-present:
    • Research Group Leader MPRG Biosocial, MPI for Human Development.
  • 2019–2022:
    • Postdoctoral researcher, University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center
  • 2018–2019:
    • Postdoctoral researcher, MPI for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology
  • 2013-2018:
    • Dr. rer. nat. (PhD) in Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, MPI for Human Development
  • 2011–2013:
    • MSc in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Freie Universität Berlin, Psychology
  • 2007-2010:
    • BSc in Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, School of Psychological Science

Research Summary

Dr. Laurel Raffington’s research spans the fields of developmental psychology, public health, and genomics. Her research seeks to understand how systems of social inequality and genetically-influenced differences between people combine to shape differential outcomes of education, health, and well-being across the lifespan and across generations.

The goal of Dr. Raffington‘s work is to reduce the effects of social inequality on child and adolescent well-being by identifying environmental factors that promote more equitable outcomes. Her current work follows three research streams:

  • Analysis of longitudinal cohort studies and randomized trials to examine molecular pathways to social disparities in child and adolescent physical and psychological health and performance on cognitive tasks.
  • Analysis of gene-environment interplay to identify environmental factors that can be modified to increase child well-being. -Integrating genetic research into developmental science in an anti-racist framework.

Key publications

  • Raffington, L., & Belsky, D.W. (2022). Integrating DNA-Methylation Measures of Biological Aging into Social Determinants of Health Research. Current Environmental Health Reports, 1-15.
  • Raffington, L., Malanchini, M., Grotzinger, A. D., Madole, J. W., Engelhardt, L., Sabhlok, A., Youn, C., Patterson, M. W., Harden, P. K., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2022). A novel stressful environment evokes unique genetic variation in child cortisol output. Developmental Psychology, in press.
  • Raffington, L., Belsky, D. W., Kothari, M., Malanchini, M., Tucker-Drob, E. M., & Harden, K. P. (2021). Socioeconomic disadvantage and the pace of biological aging in children. Pediatrics, 147(6).
  • Raffington, L., Mallard, T., & Harden, P. K. (2020). Polygenic scores in developmental psychology: Invite genetics in, leave biodeterminism behind. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 2(1), 389-411.
  • Raffington, L., Czamara, D., Mohn, J. J., Falck, J., Schmoll, V., Heim, C. H., Binder, E. B., & Shing, Y. L. (2019). Stable longitudinal associations of family income with children’s hippocampal volume and memory persist after controlling for polygenic scores of educational attainment. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 40, 100720.