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Diane L. Holditch-Davis, PhD, RN, FAAN

Marcus E. Hobbs Professor Emerita
Marcus E. Hobbs Distinguished Professor of Nursing

Dr. Holditch-Davis earned a BSN magna cum laude from Duke University and both an MS in parent-child nursing and a PhD in developmental psychobiology from the University of Connecticut. Before joining the Duke faculty in 2006, Dr. Holditch-Davis served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for more than 20 years and rose to the rank of Kenan Distinguished Professor of Nursing and director of the doctoral and postdoctoral programs at the School of Nursing.

Her research uses observation of parent-child interactions and infant sleep to determine long-term health and developmental outcomes of infants, particularly those who are premature, adopted, seropositive for HIV, medically fragile, and the children of low-income, depressed mothers. As part of her studies, Dr. Holditch-Davis has refined methods to study mother-infant behavioral interactions in the home and hospital environments. She is currently conducting a pilot study of the effects of late prematerm birth on maternal psychological well-being and parenting. She was principal investigator on an R01 comparing two mother-administered interventions for VLBW infants (massage, kangaroo care) on infant health and development and the maternal-child relationship and on another R01 that tested a nursing support intervention for African American mothers of preterm infants with the goal of reducing developmental delays by improving the mother’s psychological well-being and the mother-infant relationship.

A fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, Dr. Holditch-Davis has received numerous awards, including the 2006 Duke School of Nursing’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Nursing Science, the March of Dimes N.C. Maternal-Child Nurse of the Year Award, and the Award for Excellence in Research from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. The Southern Nursing Research Society also has honored her with its Distinguished Researcher and D. Jean Wood awards.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • PhD in Nursing Program
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program


  • Ph.D. - University of Connecticut
  • M.S.N. - University of Connecticut
  • B.S.N. - Duke University

Research Interests

Dr. Holditch-Davis has extensive experience using observational methods with infants, young children and their families to measure parent-child interactions and infant sleep. Her research focuses on parenting premature infants, predicting the risk for later developmental disabilities in high-risk infants, and the effects of complications of prematurity on infant sleep-wake states. She has been a principal investigator on 4 R01s and a co-investigator on several others. Her research interests include sleep, especially in preterm infants, older infants, and children; interactions between parents and young children, longitudinal design; observational methods; behavioral development of high-risk infants; neurodevelopmental assessment; premature infant behavior, development, and parenting; pain in infants and children; and infertility and adoption.

Awards and Honors

  • 2015 || Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International
  • 2012 || Best research paper published in Research in Nursing & Health in 2011, for: Holditch-Davis, D., Miles, M.S., Burchinal, M.R. & Goldman, B.D. (2011). Maternal role attainment with medically fragile infants: Part 2. Relationship to the quality of pa
  • 2012 || Best research paper published in Research in Nursing & Health in 2011, for: Holditch-Davis, D., Miles, M.S., Burchinal, M.R. & Goldman, B.D. (2011). Maternal role attainment with medically fragile infants: Part 2. Relationship to the quality of
  • 2007 || Marcus Hobbs Distinguished Professor of Nursing, Duke University
  • 2006 || Distinguished Contributions to Nursing Science Award, Duke University School of Nursing
  • 2005 || Kenan Distinguished Professorship, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • 2003 || The Marlene Kramer Outstanding Alumni Award for Research in Nursing, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
  • 2003 || Distinguished Researcher Award, Southern Nursing Research Society
  • 2001 || JOGNN's 2001 Reviewer of the Year
  • 2000 || D. Jean Wood Award, Southern Nursing Research Society
  • 1996 || Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing
  • 1995 || March of Dimes NC Maternal-Child Nurse of the Year
  • 1993 || AWHONN Award for Excellence in Research
  • 1985 || Dissertation Fellowship, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
  • 1984 || Dean's Fellowship, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
  • 1983 || Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
  • 1980 || Inducted, Sigma Theta Tau

Areas of Expertise

  • Health Disparities
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing

Areas of Interest

Observational Research
Longitudinal Research

Representative Publications

  • 2015 -- D Holditch-Davis, H Santos, J Levy, R White-Traut, TM O'Shea, V Geraldo and R David Patterns of psychological distress in mothers of preterm infants Infant Behavior and Development. 41 154-163
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26495909 Holditch-Davis, D. and Santos, H. and Levy, J. and White-Traut, R. and O'Shea, T. M. and Geraldo, V. and David, R. Patterns of psychological distress in mothers of preterm infants. Infant Behav Dev. October, 2015 Epub ahead of print 41 154-163
  • 2015 -- J Cho, X Su, V Phillips and D Holditch-Davis Association of Maternal and Infant Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol and Infant Gender With Mother-Infant Interaction in Very-Low-Birthweight Infants Research in Nursing & Health. 38(5); 357-368
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25626714 Tully, K. P. and Holditch-Davis, D. and Brandon, D. The Relationship Between Planned and Reported Home Infant Sleep Locations Among Mothers of Late Preterm and Term Infants Matern Child Health J. July, 2015 19(7); 1616-1623
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26152823 Cho, J. and Su, X. and Phillips, V. and Holditch-Davis, D. Association of Maternal and Infant Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol and Infant Gender With Mother-Infant Interaction in Very-Low-Birthweight Infants. Res Nurs Health. July, 2015
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25954021 Cho, J. and Su, X. and Phillips, V. and Holditch-Davis, D. Associations of Maternal and Infant Testosterone and Cortisol Levels With Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Infant Socioemotional Problems. Biol Res Nurs. May, 2015, Epub ahead of print
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25626981 Zhang, J. and Holditch-Davis, D. L. and Darcy-Mahoney, A. Perinatal, neonatal, and family social factors predicting poor school outcome of low-birth-weight survivors: an integrative review. Adv Neonatal Care. February, 2015 15(1); 38-47
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25626986 Garfield, L. and Holditch-Davis, D. and Carter, C. S. and McFarlin, B. L. and Schwertz, D. and Seng, J. S. and Giurgescu, C. and White-Traut, R. Risk factors for postpartum depressive symptoms in low-income women with very low-birth-weight infants. Adv Neonatal Care. February, 2015 15(1); E3-8
  • 2015 -- L Garfield, C Giurgescu, CS Carter, D Holditch-Davis, BL McFarlin, D Schwertz, JS Seng and R White-Traut Depressive symptoms in the second trimester relate to low oxytocin levels in African-American women: a pilot study Archives of Women's Mental Health. 18(1); 123-129
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25721716 Brooks, J. L. and Holditch-Davis, D. and Docherty, S. L. and Theodorou, C. S. Birthing and Parenting a Premature Infant in a Cultural Context. Qual Health Res. February, 2015 Epub ahead of print


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Development of Cerebral Oxygenation in Premature Infants

    National Institutes of Health
    05/2009 to 03/2012
    Role: Sponsor

    The purpose of this exploratory study is to measure cerebral oxygenation longitudinally in premature infants and evaluate how environmental variables controlled by nursing, positioning, and noise, affect cerebral oxygenation. A technology new to intensive care nurseries (ICN) called near-infrared spectroscopy, used in cerebral oximetry monitors to measure cerebral oxygenation, is beginning to enter the clinical setting. In order to effectively use cerebral oximetry, more must be known about cerebral oxygenation in premature infants and the effect of these nursing and environmental factors. Results from this study will provide intensive care nurseries with developmental trajectories of cerebral oxygenation to serve as a guide for clinicians to determine if premature infants are at risk.

  • Development of Cerebral Oxygenation in Premature Infants

    American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
    01/2011 to 12/2011
  • Mother Sibling Interactions

    09/2009 to 09/2011
    Role: Co-I

    The proposed 2-year study will use a longitudinal, comparative, mixed method design to explore the impact of a VLBW infant on the mother-sibling interactions and sibling adjustment. A comparison group of full term infants will be included to elucidate sibling adustment problems that are typical to having a new baby in the home and sibling adjustment problems that are associated with the unique stress of having to care for a VLBW infant.

  • Human Development: Interdisciplinary research training

    05/2010 to 04/2016
    Role: Mentor Faculty

    The purpose of this project is to prepare researchers who understand the social/biological bases of human behavior across the life course and across generations and who conduct research relevant to the enhancement of competencies and the prevention of behavioral disorders.

  • Parental Decision-Making for Infants with HIE

    04/2010 to 04/2013
    Role: Co-Sponsor

    The purpose of this exploratory study is to conduct a multiple case study of decision-making for infants with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Studying how parents and providers of these infants make decisions will provide critical information regarding the process for infants born with an unanticipated birth injury who have a healthy appearance.

  • Temperature & Vasomotor Tone During the First 5 Days in Preterms Less than 1000g

    National Institutes of Health
    03/2010 to 09/2013
    Role: Co Investigator

    This study will examine maturation of vasomotor tone by measuring central and peripheral body temperatuve in relationship to peripheral perfusion during the first 5 days of life in 30 ELBW infants. The study will provide data for sample size determination for a larger, multi-center study to determine time of vasomotor tone maturity to decrease associated brain injury in ELBW infants.

  • SNRS Dissertation Award

    Southern Nursing Research Society
    2009 -CANS/SNRS Dissertation
    01/2010 to 12/2010
    Role: Co-PI

    Dissertation Support for Jada L. Brooks

  • Body Temperature & Vasomotor Tone in ELBW Preterm Infants During the First 5 Days of Life

    AWHONN / March of Dimes “Saving Babies, Together® Award”
    07/2009 to 06/2010
    Role: Co-I

    This study will evaluate central and peripheral body temperature and perfusion to examine vasomotor tone maturation in 30 ELBW infants over their first 5 days of life. The study will use infrared imaging to verify body temperature and perfusion in relationship to temperature measured by thermistors and perfusion measured by perfusion index.

  • Effect of Perinatal Nicotine Exposure on the Development of Autonomic Responses

    National Institutes of Health
    08/2008 to 07/2011
    Role: Advisor

    Further training in developmental neurobiology to allow the candidate to continue her long-term goals of elucidating factors that affect the health and well being of infants, and to develop age-appropriate, non-invasive tests that will identify infants who are at greatest risk for Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Interactions between Mothers and their Premature American Indian Infants

    National Institutes of Health
    07/2008 to 06/2011
    Role: Sponsor

    Mother-infant interactions among American Indians are poorly understood because most studies of mothers and premature infants have focused on Whites and African Americans. This study will also explore factors affecting Lumbee mother’s interactions and their experiences in parenting their premature infants.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Deb Brandon, Susan Silva and Diane Holditch-Davis were recently notified that their paper entitled "Timing for the Introduction of Cycled Light for Extremely Preterm Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial" was selected for the Research In Nursing and Health (RINAH) Best Paper Award for 2017. Their paper was one of 10 papers nominated and their paper was identified in a rigorous rating process by a subcommittee of the Editorial Board. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

PhD student Kaboni Gondwe recently published an article entitled "The role of sociodemographic factors in maternal psychological distress and mother-preterm infant interactions" in the September issue of Research in Nursing & Health. Co-authors include Rosemary White-Traut, Debra Brandon, Wei Pan and Diane Holditch-Davis.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

PhD student Kaboni Gondwe, Qing Yang and Diane Holditch-Davis recently published an article entitled "Maternal Psychological Distress and Mother-Infant Relationship: Multiple-Birth Versus Singleton Preterm Infants" in the Neonatal Network. Other co-authors included Rosemary White-Traut.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Robin Dail publishes article entitled "Perfusion Index in Very Low Birth Weight Premature Infants During Their First 2 Weeks of Life" in the Biological Research for Nursing. The article was co-authored with Drs. Diane Holditch-Davis, David Tanaka with Duke School of Medicine and John White with SAS Institute, Inc.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Her advice to nurse researchers is simple: “Do what you are passionate about, and it will sustain you through the rejections and setbacks until you achieve your goals and the success that you desire.”

Throughout her more than 40-year career, Diane Holditch-Davis has followed that advice. On August 31, she steps down from the role of Associate Dean, Research Affairs for the Duke University School of Nursing and begins her transition toward retirement at the end of December.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Diane Holditch-Davis published six pediatric-focused articles in five journals this year. In the January issue of the International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences, she co-authored an article with PhD student Kaboni Gondwe entitled "Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Mothers of Preterm Infants."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

PhD students along with faculty and instructors recently presented at the 26th International Nursing Research Conference in Puerto Rico.

PhD students Forgive Avorgbedor and Hannah Hughes along with Diane Holditch-Davis presented a poster entitled "Parents' Knowledge and Experiences with Pre-Term and Full-term Infant Care After Hospital Discharge."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ruth Anderson, PhD, MSN, MA, RN, FAAN, Virginia Stone Professor of Nursing and co-director of the ADAPT Center, and Diane Holditch-Davis, PhD, RN, FAAN, Marcus E. Hobbs Distinguished Professor of Nursing and associate dean for Research Affairs, are two of 19 honorees who will be inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) 2015 Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jada Brooks, a graduate of the ABSN and PhD in Nursing programs at Duke, published an article with Diane Holditch-Davis entitled "Interactive behaviors between American Indian mothers and their premature infants" in Research in Nursing and Health. The article is part of Brooks' dissertation.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Diane Holditch-Davis and Kirsten Corazzini coauthored an article with Heba Kamhawy, an international visiting scholar at DUSON, entitled "Non-nutritive sucking for preterm infants in Egypt" that has been published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.