Gillings School Directory
Bharathi J. Zvara, PhD

Bharathi J. Zvara, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • 421C Rosenau Hall
  • CB# 7445
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599
  • USA

Dr. Bharathi Zvara is an assistant professor with extensive experience as an early childhood developmental scientist whose work informs programs and policies focused on children born into families experiencing risk and challenge from conditions associated with trauma, maternal depression, poverty, and violence. In studying the role of the family as the central context for young children’s health and development, she focuses on parenting behavior and parent-child relationships across childhood. Employing diverse methods such as behavioral observation of parent-child interactions and biomarkers, her research centers on identifying the specific effects of childhood adversity across multiple levels of adaptation and influence (e.g., community, family, individual), as well as the processes that underlie the emergence and patterning of these effects impacting health and wellbeing. Her current applied research examines (1) how adversity broadly, and childhood trauma in particular, influence developmental pathways toward psychopathology and competence across multiple generations, and, (2) how the quality of interactions between parents and young children impacts risk for poor self-regulation and childhood obesity.

Honors and Awards

Grand Rounds- Pediatrics

2018, UNC-CH

Best Article on Men in Families_finalist

2017, National Council on Family Relations

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Expert Panel

2016, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Expert Panel

2016, CDC

Best Research Article by a New Professional

2014, National Council on Family Relations

Individual Predoctoral Training Award (NRSA)

2012, National Institutes of Health

Graduate Tuition Incentive Scholarship (GTIS)

2012, UNC-CH

Representative Courses

PSYC 250 Child Development

Teaching Interests

Dr. Zvara teaches courses that explore theories and models for understanding how family relationships and family experiences are associated with child development and well-being. The courses examine the dynamic relations between the individual and his or her social environment that are necessarily interdependent, exerting a continuous and reciprocal influence on one another. Students consider how a researcher goes from complex theories to actually doing research to test some of the questions that arise from theory; they also discuss different methods that can be used in developmental research, and the strengths and weaknesses of different methods.

Research Activities

Co-Investigator, Characterizing trajectories of parent-child mealtime interactions across the toddler to preschool period to identify parent-child relationship qualities that increase risk for obesity and identify aspects self-regulation that predict healthy weight in preschool aged children.

Principal Investigator, This secondary data analysis addresses specific questions regarding the pathways by which childhood sexual trauma experienced by the mother may place her and her children on life course trajectories for maladaptive developmental outcomes.

Service Activities

2017- present  Adjunct Professor Appointment Committee

2016- present  Summer Research Fellowships Selection

Practice Activities

The Development of Self-Regulation: The Role of Parenting and Implications for Pediatric Practice. 2018.

Webinar with Clinical Scholars Fellows on the use of technology to reach vulnerable populations. 2018.

Age of Abuse and Parenting Outcomes: Is there a dose effect? 2018.

Maternal and paternal attachment style and chaos as risk factors for parenting behavior. Accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting for the National Council on Family Relations, Orlando, FL. November 15-17, 2017.

Childhood trauma history, breastfeeding and postpartum depression. Poster presented at the 22nd Annual International Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine meeting, Atlanta, GA. 2017.

Key Publications

Bidirectional effects between parenting sensitivity and child behavior: A cross-lagged analysis across middle childhood and adolescence. Zvara BJ, Sheppard KW, Cox M. (2018). Journal of Family Psychology, 32(4), 484-95..

Association of childhood abuse and prescription opioid use in early adulthood. Austin Anna, Shanahan M, Zvara BJ (2018). Addictive Behaviors, 76.


PhD, Developmental Psychology (Quantitative Psychology Concentration), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014

MS, Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University

BS, Biochemistry, Ohio State University

Recent News