Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
prc masthead
Mark D. Hayward, Director 305 E. 23rd Street, Stop G1800 78712-1699 • 512-471-5514

Debra J. Umberson

Faculty Research Associate Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Professor of Sociology, Christine and Stanley E. Adams, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Liberal Arts
Debra J. Umberson



Debra Umberson is Centennial Professor in Liberal Arts and Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also affiliated with the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the Population Research Center. She received her PhD in sociology from Vanderbilt University in 1985 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research from 1985-88. Her research focuses on relationships and health across the life course with a particular emphasis on intimate relationships and family ties and the blending of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Recent articles have focused on marital transitions and body weight; stress and health behavior; gender and health habit processes in gay, lesbian, and straight couples; and health policy addressing the link between social ties and health. She has been the recipient of a National Research Service Award and a FIRST Award from the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Umberson is also an elected Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. Her current research, supported by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator in Health Policy Research Award and the National Institute on Aging, examines how marital relationships affect health-related behavior and health care, and how those processes vary across gay, lesbian, and heterosexual unions. She is the immediate past editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and incoming Chair of the American Sociological Association's Section on Sociology of the Family.


NIH Biosketch


Gender, Relationships, Same-Sex Couples, Mental Health, Health Behavior, Social Determinants of Health, Stress


Umberson, Debra, Kristi Williams and Mieke Thomeer (forthcoming). “Family status and mental health: Recent advances and future directions.” To appear in Carol S. Aneshensel and Jo C. Phelan (Eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health.

Carr, Deborah and Debra Umberson (forthcoming). “The social psychology of stress, health, and coping.” To appear John Delamater and Amanda Ward (Eds), Handbook of Social Psychology, 2nd edition, Springer Publishing.

Thomeer, Mieke, Debra Umberson and Kristi Williams (forthcoming). “Women, stress, and health.” To appear in Marlene B. Goldman, Rebecca Troisi, and Kathryn M. Rexrode (Editors), Women and Health (2nd Edition), Elsevier Inc.

Reczek, Corinne and Debra Umberson (2012). “Gender, health behavior, and intimate relationships: Lesbian, gay, and straight contexts.” Social Science and Medicine74:1783-1790.PMCID: PMC3337964

Lodge, Amy and Debra Umberson. (2012). “All Shook Up:  Sexuality of mid to later life married couples.” Journal of Marriage and Family 74:428-443.

Umberson, Debra, Hui Liu, John Mirowsky and Corinne Reczek (2011). “Parenthood and trajectories of change in body weight over the life course.” Social Science and Medicine 73:1323-1331.PMCID: PMC3391503

Umberson, Debra and Jennifer Karas Montez (2010). “Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for public policy.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51: S54-S66.

Reczek, Corinne, Hui Liu and Debra Umberson (2010). “Just the two of us? How parents influence adult children’s marital quality.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72:1205-1219.

Umberson, Debra, Tetyana Pudrovska and Corinne Reczek.  (2010).  "Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-being: A Life Course Perspective." Journal of Marriage and Family. 72(3): 612-629.

Tracie C. Harrison, Debra Umberson, Li-Chen Lin and Hsui-Rong Cheng. (2010). "Timing of Impairment and Health-Promoting Lifestyles in Women with Disabilities."  Qualitative Health Research. 20(6):816-829. 

Umberson, Debra, Robert Crosnoe and Corinne Reczek (2010). “Social ties and health behavior across the life course.”  Karen S. Cook and Douglas S. Massey (Editors),  Annual Review of Sociology 36:139-157.

Reczek, Corinne, Sinikka Elliott and Debra Umberson. (2009). “Commitment without Marriage: Union Formation of Long-term Gay and Lesbian Couples.”  Journal of Family Issues 30(6):738-756.

Umberson, Debra, Hui Liu and Daniel Powers. (2009). “Marital Status, Marital Transitions, and Body Weight.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 50(3): 327-43.

Liu, Hui, Sinikka Elliott and Debra Umberson. (2009) "Marriage in Young Adulthood." In J.E. Grant & M.N. Potenza (Eds.), Young Adult Mental Health. Oxford University Press.

Umberson, Debra, Hui Liu, and Corinne Reczek. (2008) "Stress and Health Behaviors." In H. Turner & S. Schiemann (Eds.), Advances in Life Course Research: Stress Processes Across the Life Course. Elsevier.

Umberson, Debra and Hui Liu. (2008). "The Times They Are a Changin': Marital Status and Health Differentials from 1972 to 2003." Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 49(3):239-253.

Umberson, Debra and Sinikka Elliott. (2008). "The Performance of Desire: Gender and Sexual Negotiation in Long-term Marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family. 70(2): 391-406.

Umberson, Debra and Corinne Reczek. (2007) "Interactive Stress and Coping around Parenting: Explaining Trajectories of Change in Intimate Relationships over the Life Course." Pp. 91-126 in T.J. Owens & J.J. Suitor (Eds.), Advances in Life Course Research: Interpersonal Relations Across the Life Course, Vol 12. Elsevier.

Umberson, Debra. Kristi Williams, Daniel Powers, Hui Liu, and Belinda Needham. (2006). "You Make Me Sick: Marital Quality and Health Over the Life Course." Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47(March): 1-16.

Umberson, Debra and Belinda Needham. (2006). "Parenthood, Parenting, and Marital Interaction." In V. Bengtson, A. Acock, K. Allen & P. Dilworth-Anderson (Eds.), Sourcebook of Family Theory and Research. NY: Sage Publications.

Umberson, Debra. (2006). "Parents, Adult Children, and Immortality." Contexts, 5(4), 48-53.

bottom border