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Anthropology | Courtney Meehan

Ph.D., Washington State University
Interim Dean
Evolutionary and Cultural Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences


Research Interests

My research focuses on maternal-child health, human milk composition, and the evolution of human childhood. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how evolution, culture, behavior, and biology interact and influence maternal-child health. My current research is focused on understanding relationships between 1) cannabis use during lactation, human milk composition, and child development; 2) social and environmental factors associated with human microbiomes and health; and 3) social and environmental factors associated with parental caregiving patterns. Additional projects explore SARS-CoV-2 and human milk, human milk immune factors, human cooperative childcare, and child growth and development. My research is transdisciplinary and has occurred at longitudinal research sites in sub-Saharan Africa (Central African Republic and Ethiopia), locally (WA and Idaho), nationally, and via multi-site international projects, spanning North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

Selected Publications

[For a full list of publications and publication links, please visit]

Holdsworth EA, Williams JE, Pace RM, Lane AA, Gartstein M, McGuire MA, McGuire MK, Meehan CL. (2023) Breastfeeding patterns are associated with human milk microbiome composition: The Mother-Infant Microbiomes, Behavior, and Ecology Study (MIMBES). PloS one, 18(8), e0287839.

Caffé B, Blackwell A, Fehrenkamp BD, Williams JE, Pace RM, Lackey KA, Ruiz L, Rodríguez JM, McGuire MA, Foster JA, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Prentice AM, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, Pareja RG, Bode L, Gebeyehu D, Gindola DK, Boothman S, Flores K, McGuire MK, Meehan CL. (2023) Human milk immune factors, maternal nutritional status, and infant sex: The INSPIRE study. American Journal of Human Biology, e23943.

Helfrecht C, Wang H, Dira SJ, DeAvila D, Meehan CL. (2023) DHEAS and nutritional status among Sidama, Ngandu, and Aka children: Effects of cortisol and implications for adrenarche. American Journal of Human Biology, e23881.

Pace, R.M., Williams, J.E., Järvinen, K.M., Meehan, C.L., Martin, M.A., Ley, S.H., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Andres, A., Yeruva, L., Belfort, M.B. and Caffé, B.,Navarrete AD, Lackey KA, Pace CDW, Gogel AC, Fehrenkamp BD, Klein M, Young BE, Rosen-Carole C, Diaz N, Gaw SL, Flaherman V, McGuire MA, McGuire MK, Seppo AE. 2021. Milk from women diagnosed with COVID-19 does not contain SARS-CoV-2 RNA but has persistent levels of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA antibodies. Frontiers in immunology, 12: 801797.

Pace RM, Williams JE, Järvinen KM, Belfort MB, Pace CDW, Lackey KA, Gogel AC, Nguyen-Contant P, Kanagaiah P, Fitzgerald T, Ferri R, Young B, Rosen-Carole C, Diaz N, Meehan CL, Caffé B, Sangster MY, Topham D, McGuire MA, Seppo A, McGuire MK. 2021. Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, antibodies, and neutralizing capacity in milk produced by women with COVID-19. mBio 12:e03192-20.

Ruiz L, Rubio CA, García Carral C, Jimenez Quintana E, Lackey KA, McGuire MK, Meehan CL, Foster JA, Sellen DW, Kamau KW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua, S, Moore SE, Prentice AM, Gindola D, Otoo GE, Pareja RG, Bode L, McGuire MA, Williams J, Rodríguez JM.  (2021) Comparison of two approaches for the metataxonomic analysis of the human milk microbiome. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 11, 228.

McGuire MK, Randall AZ, Seppo AE, Järvinen KM, Meehan CL, Gindola D, Williams JE, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Prentice AM, Foster JA, Otoo GE, Rodríguez JM, Pareja RG, Bode L, McGuire MA and Campo JJ (2021) Multipathogen Analysis of IgA and IgG Antigen Specificity for Selected Pathogens in Milk Produced by Women From Diverse Geographical Regions: The INSPIRE Study. Front. Immunol. 11:614372.

Helfrecht C, Roulette JW, Lane A, Sintayehu B, Meehan CL (2020). Life history and socioecology of infancy. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32955732.

Lackey KA, Pace RM, Williams JE, Bode L, Donovan SM, Järvinen KM, Seppo AE, Raiten DJ, Meehan CL, McGuire MA, McGuire MK. SARS‐CoV‐2 and human milk: What is the evidence?. (2020) Maternal & Child Nutrition..

Lane AA, Mcguire MK, McGuire MA, Williams JE, Lackey KA, Hagen EH, Kaul A, Gindola D, Gebeyehu D, Flores KE, Foster JA, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Prentice AM, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, Rodríguez JM, Ruiz L, Pareja RG, Bode L, Price WJ, & Meehan CL. (2019). Household composition and the infant fecal microbiome: The INSPIRE study. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 

Lackey KA, Williams JE, Meehan CL, Zachek JA, Benda ED, Price WJ, Foster JA, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Prentice AM, K DB, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, García-Carral C, Jiménez E, Ruiz L, Rodríguez JM, Pareja RG, Bode L, McGuire MA, McGuire MK. (2019) What’s Normal? Microbiomes In Human Milk And Infant Feces Are Related To Each Other But Vary Geographically: The INSPIRE Study. Front Nutr, 6:45.

Meehan CL, Lackey KA, Hagen EH, Williams JE, Roulette J, Helfrecht C, McGuire MA, McGuire MK. (2018). Social networks, cooperative breeding, and the human milk microbiome. Am J Hum Biol. 2018; e23131.

Helfrecht C, Hagen, EH, DeAvila D, Bernstein, RM, Dira SJ, Meehan, CL (2017). DHEAS production across childhood in three Sub-Saharan populations: A case study using hair hormone analysis. American Journal of Human Biology.

Ruiz L, Espinosa-Martos I, García-Carral C, Manzano S, McGuire MK, Meehan CL, McGuire MA, Williams JE, Foster J, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, Lackey KA, Flores K, Pareja RG, Bode L and Rodríguez JM (2017). What’s normal? Immune profiling of human milk from healthy women living in different geographical and socioeconomic settings. Frontiers in Immunology

McGuire MK, Meehan CL, McGuire MA, Williams JE, Foster J, Sellen DW, Kamau-Mbutia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore SE, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, Brooker SL, Price WJ, Shafii B, Placek C, Lackey KA, Robertson B, Manzano S, Ruiz L, Prentice, A, Rodriguez JM, Pareja R, Bode L.  (2017). What’s normal? Oligosaccharide concentrations and profiles in milk produced by healthy women vary geographically. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105(5):1086-1100.

Meehan, CL, Hagen, EH, Hewlett, BS. (2017). Persistence in infant care patterns among Aka foragers. In Victoria Reyes Garcia & Pyhälä, Aili A (eds.) Hunter-gatherers in a changing world, Pp. 213-232. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Meehan, CL, Crittenden, AN (eds.) (2016). Childhood: Origin, Evolution, and Implications. Albuquerque: NM: University of New Mexico Press & Santa Fe, NM: School of Advanced Research Press.

Gartstein M, Wolayte Bogale Gessamo, Meehan, CL. (2016). Adaptation of the infant behavior questionnaire-revised for use in Ethiopia: Expanding cross-cultural investigation of temperament development. Infant Behavior and Development, 45:51-63.

Meehan, CL, Helfrecht, C, Malcom, C. (2016). Implications of lengthy development and maternal life history: Allomaternal investment, peer relationships, and social networks. In Courtney L. Meehan and Alyssa Crittenden (eds.) Childhood: Origin, Evolution, and Implications. Albuquerque: NM: University of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM: School of Advanced Research Press.

Helfrecht, C, Meehan, CL. (2016). Sibling effects on nutritional status: intersections of cooperation and competition across development. American Journal of Human Biology, 28:159–170.

Meehan, CL, Helfrecht, C, Quinlan, R. (2014). Allomaternal networks and children’s nutritional status: Is flexibility key to cooperative breeding? American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 153:513-525.

Meehan, CL, Hawks, S. (2014). Maternal and allomaternal responsiveness: The significance of cooperative caregiving in attachment theory. In Hiltrud Otto and Heidi Keller (eds.) Different Faces of Attachment: Cultural Variations of a Universal Human Need. Cambridge University Press.

Meehan, CL, Hawks, S. (2013).  Cooperative child rearing and multiple attachments. In N Quinn & J Mageo (Eds.), Attachment Reconsidered: Cultural Perspectives on a Western Theory. New York, NY: Palgrave.

Meehan, CL & Roulette, JW. (2013). Early supplementary feeding among central african foragers and farmers: A biocultural approach. Social Science and Medicine, 96:112-120.

Meehan, CL, Quinlan, R, Malcom, C. (2013). Cooperative breeding and maternal energy expenditure among Aka foragers. American Journal of Human Biology, 25(1):42-57.

Meehan, CL. (2009). Maternal time allocation in two cooperative childrearing societies. Human Nature, 20(4): 375-393.

Meehan, CL. (2008). Allomaternal investment and relational uncertainty among the Ngandu farmers of the Central African Republic. Human Nature, 19:211-226.

Meehan, CL. (2005). The effects of residential locality on parental and alloparental care among the Aka foragers of the Central African Republic, Human Nature, 16 (1) 58-80.


Contact Information

College Hall 342

For more information on my research visit my Website