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Ron Simons

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Regents' Distinguished Professor
Co-Director of the Center for Biological Embedding of Social Events and Relationships

Ron Simons is Regents' Professor of Sociology, Fellow in the Center for Family Research, and Co-Director of the Center on the Biological Embedding of Social Events and Relationships. He received a PhD in Sociology from Florida State University and completed postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin. His teaching and research interests include medical sociology, family and the life course, criminology, race, inequality, and social psychology. 

Ron's research uses longitudinal data to examine: a) economic hardship, discrimination, institutional racism, and neighborhood disadvantage as explanations for racial and class disparities in physical and mental health, b) changes in romantic relationships/marriage, self-concept, and psychological well-being across the life course, c) the impact of incarceration on physical health and psychological well-being, and d) avenues whereby social conditions, social relationships, and lifestyle become biologically embedded and influence speed of biological aging, onset of chronic illness, blood-based biomarkers of dementia and neurodegeneration, and mortality. His work has been published in the top sociology journals, including the American Sociological Review, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine, CriminologyJournal of Marriage and Family, and Social Problems. In the past few years he has received best article awards from three different professional organizations, the Outstanding Mentoring Award from the Division of Convict Criminology, was inducted as a Fellow into the American Society of Criminology, received UGA's SEC Academic Achievement Award, and was selected as a Fellow by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. 

Ron has been continuously funded for the past 30 years by NIH and has created multiple longitudinal data sets comprised of interview, observational, and biomarker data. These data sets include over 20 years of information on topics such as family interaction, deviant behavior and mental health, neighborhood conditions, school involvement, peer affiliations, romantic relationships, and physical health. Ron is happy to work with students interested in using this data to write papers for presentation at professional meetings and articles for submission to refereed journals. Indeed, most of his publications are co-authored with graduate students. 

  • NIA postdoctoral fellow, Midwest Council for Social Research on Aging
  • NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology and Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin
  • Ph.D. Sociology, Florida State University
  • M.S.S.W. Social Work (minor in Psychology), University of Wisconsin
  • B.A. Sociology/Psychology, University of Northern Iowa
Selected Publications:

Selected publications (see CV for full list)

  • Ronald L. Simons, Mei Ling Ong, Man-Kit Lei, Eric Klopack, Mark Berg, Yue Zhang, Robert Philibert, Frederick Gibbons, and Steven S.R. Beach (2022). Shifts in lifestyle and socioeconomic circumstances predict change, for better or worse, in speed of epigenetic aging: A study of middle age Black women. Social Science and Medicine, In Press. 115175.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Eric Klopack, Steven Beach, F.X. Gibbons, and Robert Pilibert (2021). The effects of social adversity, discrimination, and health risk behaviors on the accelerated aging of African Americans: Further support for the weathering hypothesis. Social Science and Medicine. 282, article 113169.
  •  Mark T. Berg, Ethan Rogers, Man-Kit Lei, and Ronald L. Simons (2021). Losing years doing time: Incarceration exposure and accelerated biological aging. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 62(4), 460-476.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Eric Klopac, Mark Berg, Yue Zhang, and Steven Beach (2021). (Re)Setting Epigenetic clocks: An important avenue whereby social conditions become biologically embedded across the life course. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 62(3), 436-453. 
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Eric Kolpack, Yue Zhang, F.X. Gibbons, and Steven Beach (2021). Racial discrimination, inflammation, and chronic illness among African American women at midlife. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Disparities. 8, 339-349.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Steven Beach, Leslie G. Simons, Ashley Barr, Frederick Gibbons, and Robert Philbert (2019). Testing life course models whereby juvenile and adult adversity combine to influence speed of biological aging. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 60, 291-308.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Leslie Gordon Simons, David Woodring*, Tara Sutton*, Man-Kit Lei, Steven Beach, Ashley Barr, and Frederick X. Gibbons (2019). Childhood adversities amplify the association between adult stressors and inflammation in a domain specific manner: Nuancing the early life sensitivity model. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47, 1007-1021.
  • Ashley B. Barr, Leslie Gordon Simons, Ronald L. Simons, Steven Beach, and Robert Philiber (2018). Sharing the burden of the transition to adulthood: African American young adults' transition challenges and their mothers' health risk. American Sociological Review, 83, 143-172.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Steven R.H. Beach, Ashley B. Barr, Leslie G. Simons, Frederick Gibbons, and Robert Philibert (2018). Discrimination, segregation, and chronic inflammation: Testing the weathering explanation for the poor health of  Black Americans. Developmental Psychology, 54, 1993-2006.
  • Callie H. Burt, Man-Kit Lei, and Ronald L. Simons (2017). Racial discrimination, racial socialization, and crime over time: A social schematic model. Criminology, 55, 938-979.
  • Tara E. Sutton, Leslie Gordon Simons, Ronald L. Simons, and Carolyn Cutrona (2017). Psychological distress, couple interactions, and parenting: A dyadic analysis of African American couples. Journal of Marriage and Family 79, 850-864.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Steven R.H. Beach, Carolyn E. Cutrona, and Robert A. Philibert. (2017). Methylation of the oxytocin receptor gene mediates the effect of adversity on negative schemas and depression. Development and Psychopathology 29, 725-736.
  • Daniel Mears, Eric A. Stewart, Patricia Y. Warren, and Ronald L. Simons (2017). Culture and formal social control: The effect of the code of the street on police and court decision-making. Justice Quarterly 34, 217-247.
  • Ronald L. Simons, M-K. Lei, S.R.H. Beach, F.X. Gibbons, C. Cutrona, A. Barr, and R. Philibert (2016). Economic hardship and biological weathering: The epigentics of aging in a U.S. sample of black women. Social Science and Medicine. 150, 192-200.
  • Mark T. Berg, Callie H. Burt, Man-Kit Lei, Eric Stewart, Leslie Gordon Simons, and Ronald L. Simons (2016).Neighborhood social processes and adolescent sexual partnering: A multilevel appraisal of Anderson’s player hypothesis. Social Forces, 94, 1823-1846.
  • Ashley B. Barr and Ronald L. Simons (2015). Different Dimensions, Different Mechanisms? Distinguishing Relationship Status and Quality Effects on Desistance. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 360-237.
  • Mark T. Berg, Eric A. Stewart, John Intravia,*  Patricia Warren, and Ronald L. Simons (2016). Cynical streets: Neighborhood social processes and perceptions of criminal justice.Criminology, 54, 520-547.
  • Ashley B. Barr* and Ronald L. Simons (2014). A dyadic analysis of relationships and health: Does couple-level context condition partner effects? Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 448-459.
  • Callie H. Burt and Ronald L. Simons (2014). Pulling back the curtain on heritability studies: Biosocial criminology in the post-genomic era. Criminology, 52, 223-262.
  • Ronald L. Simons and Ashley Barr (2014). Shifting perspectives: Cognitive changes mediate the impact of romantic relationships on desistance from crime. Justice Quarterly, 31, 793-821.
  • Callie Burt, Ronald L. Simons, and Frederick X. Gibbons (2012). Racial discrimination and crime: Racial socialization matters. American Sociological Review. 77, 648-677.
  • Ronald L. Simons, Man-Kit Lei, Steven Beach, Gene Brody, Robert Philibert, and Frederick Gibbons (2011).  Social Environmental Variation, Plasticity Genes, and Aggression: Evidence for the Differential Susceptibility Hypothesis.  American Sociological Review. 76, 883-912.
  • Ronald L. Simons and Callie H. Burt. (2011). "Learning to be bad: Adverse conditions, social schemas, and crime." Criminology 49, 553-598.
Of Note:
  • 2023 Elected as Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2022-2015. Principal Investigator, "Stress, Weathering, and Blood-Based Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease: A Longitudinal Study of Low Income, Aging African Americans." National Institute of Aging. $2,898,043. 
  • 2020 Outstanding Mentor Award, Division of Convict Criminology, American Association of Criminology
  • 2020 Appointed Regents' Professor, University of Georgia
  • 2019 SEC Academic Achievement Award
  • 2017-2022. Principal Investigator, "Psychosocial Context and the Biological Clock: Changes in Weathering during Middle Age," National Institute on Aging, $3,240,000
  • 2015. Elected as a Fellow. American Society of Criminology. 
  • 2015-2020. Co-Principal Investigator. "Romantic Partner Effects on Biomarkers of Health among African Americans." National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. $3,650,000.
  • 2014-2018, Principal Investigator, “Social Determinants of Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome among Young Adult African Americans.” National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute. $2,891,000.
  • 2013, Best Article Award from from the American Society of Criminology,
  • 2007-2012. Principal Investigator, "Risk, Resilience, and Disorder: African Americans Transitioning to Adulthood." National Institute of mental Health, $3,275,160.
  • 2008-2012, Principal Investigator, "Community context and violence: African American youth transitioning to adulthood." Center for Disease Control, $1,050,000.
  • 2009-2012. Principal Investigator, "Factors Influencing the Health Behavior of Young African American Adults." National Institute of Drug Abuse, $525,402.
  • 2006-2011. Principal Investigator, "Vulnerability and Resilience among African American Parents." National Institute of Mental Health, $711,180.
  • 2007. MacNamara Award from the American Criminal Justice Society for best article (with Eric Stewart).
  • 2005. Appointed Distinguished Research Professor, University of Georgia.
  • 2003. Ruben Hill Research and Theory Award, National Council on Family Relations
  • 2002, Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research, Iowa State University
Articles Featuring Ron Simons

Ron Simons is being honored for distinguished contributions to sociology, criminology, and health, particularly for life-course explanations for racial…

Ron Simons is the PI on a newly-funded project titled “Economic, Social, and Health Consequences of COVID-19 Pandemic for Aging African Americans.”  It’s being funded by…

Professor Ronald L. Simons, Distinguished Research Professor in the department of sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences has been…

Ronald Simons received the SEC Faculty Achievement Award.

Events featuring Ron Simons
MLC 213

Presenter: Ron Simons, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Georgia


Unprecedented growth in the proportion of older adults in the U.S. has placed inequalities in healthy aging at the forefront of the public health agenda. Individuals often differ dramatically in their…