Developmental Psychology


Research areas represented within the Developmental Psychology program generally share a common emphasis on social and emotional development from early childhood through adolescence. Specific topics of interest among the faculty include parenting practices, parent-child (especially adolescence) relationship dynamics, family-peer linkages, emotion regulation, moral development, peer relationship dynamics, and the effects of marital conflict on children’s coping and adjustment, the impact of parent psychopathology and maltreatment on child development, and child adaptation in the context of broader family processes. Thus, understanding the role of family dynamics and peer relationships in forging developmental pathways of adjustment and health across childhood, adolescence, and into early adulthood is a central mission of the program. The research specifically seeks to identify the factors and processes in individual development and peer and family relationships that promote or compromise psychosocial development with a focus on adaptive and maladaptive patterns of adjustment.

These topics also serve as building blocks for new, exciting collaboration directions established by our core tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the Developmental Psychopathology area: Drs. Loisa Bennetto, Patrick Davies, Rafael Klorman, Judi Smetana, and Sheree Toth. Thus, specific areas of expertise covered by the faculty in this area include (a) delineating the neurocognitive bases of autism and other developmental disabilities and examining the role these processes play in the development of social-emotional and communicative deficits, (b) exploring the interplay among psychophysiological, neuropsychological, and psychopharmacological  processes underlying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and related disturbances, (c) elucidating processes and mechanisms that contribute to the adaptation of children who are confronted by significant psychosocial adversity (e.g., maltreatment, parental depression), (d) developing and refining evidence-based treatment programs for children experiencing or at risk for psychopathology, (e) identifying the trajectories of coping and adaptation of children exposed to destructive family conflict and domestic violence, and (f) explicating the nature of relations among parent-adolescent relationship dynamics and adolescent adjustment and maladjustment across diverse ethnic and racial contexts. The productivity in these areas is evidenced by the generation of a large number of publications, procurement of a number of large federally funded grants (e.g., National Institute of Mental Health, National Science Foundation), and the sponsorship of four federal training fellowships in recent years.

The common overarching interest in understanding the processes underlying diverse developmental pathways within a multidisciplinary framework has also led to productive academic collaborations among faculty within and across departments (e.g., Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Linguistics) at the University. Many of these collaborations over the past five years were developed within the context of existing or newly developed interdisciplinary centers of excellence in developmental psychopathology, including Mt. Hope Family Center and the Autism Center of Excellence. Other structured forums of scholarly exchange, including the series of Developmental Psychopathology Presentation Series, provide additional contexts the developmental of collaborations.