Lee Gettler

Department Chair
Affiliated faculty at the Eck Institute for Global Health and the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families


B.A., University of Notre Dame (2005)
M.A., Northwestern University (2009)
Ph.D., Northwestern University (2012)

Research and Teaching Interests

Psychobiology & reproductive biology, stress-related physiology & epigenetics, fathering & families, child development & health, inequality & social determinants of health, developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD), evolutionary medicine


Dr. Gettler is the Director of the Hormones, Health, and Human Behavior Laboratory at Notre Dame and a faculty affiliate of the Eck Institute for Global Health. Much of his early research focused on how men’s hormone physiology responds to major life transitions, such as marriage and fatherhood, and how men’s hormones relate to their behaviors as parents and partners. Working with collaborators at multiple global sites, he has expanded his focus to family systems and well being, including the psychobiology of motherhood and fatherhood, parents’ physical and mental health, and child growth, development, and physiology. Presently, Dr. Gettler works on research projects related to these interests in the United States, the Philippines, and the Republic of Congo.

Dr. Gettler has helped lead recent biocultural research on child growth and health in communities in Republic of the Congo. This work has focused primarily on the different roles that fathers play within families in two neighboring societies and whether higher quality fathering, based on locally-valued roles, is linked to better child outcomes. His future work aims to study how a transition away from traditional subsistence practices into regional and global market-based economies will change psychosocial experiences related to inequality and social networks, particularly as it relates to children’s stress-related physiology, including epigenetic profiles.

Gettler and Dr. Rahul Oka (ND anthropology), alongside current/former ND graduate students, also collaborate using biocultural perspectives to explore questions related to refugee and host community social relationships, economic dynamics, and health outcomes. They have particularly focused on questions related to social support and networks, psychosocial stress and mental well-being, and stress-related physiology. These projects draw on Oka’s ongoing fieldwork in Kenya as well as collaborative research with Dr. Jelena Jankovic-Rankovic on forced migration and refugees in Serbia.

Throughout his career, Gettler has also worked closely with his former ND colleague, Dr. James McKenna, on research focusing on mother-infant sleep and breastfeeding. McKenna and Gettler proposed the concept of “breastsleeping” to refer to the evolved, integrated suite of behaviors and biology linking mother-infant shared sleep and breastfeeding. Although not the primary focus of his research program, he maintains an interest on the role of fathers in the cosleeping environment and has recently begun collaborating on new research on sleep patterns, social environments, and physiology among BaYaka communities in the Republic of the Congo.

Gettler uses both evolutionary and social theoretical approaches to help contextualize his findings, providing insights into the ways in which human biology has been shaped by our evolutionary past as well as how it is responsive to cultural norms, family systems, political economic forces, and developmental experiences. Dr. Gettler's research has appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hormones and Behavior, Developmental Psychobiology, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, American Journal of Human Biology, Social Science & Medicine, American Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, Acta Paediatrica, Current Pediatric Reviews, and multiple other scholarly journals.

Email: lgettler@nd.edu
Phone: 574-631-4479
Office: 244 Corbett Family Hall