Area Director: Kristin Valentino


Doctoral candidates in the developmental area study development of individuals and families and how the two interrelate. The concentration emphasizes a lifespan perspective and examines typical as well as atypical development, normative transitions and the impact of nonnormative events.

Our faculty stress the methodology of developmental research make an effort to generate knowledge and theory, which have potential for application to social issues related to the development of individuals across the life span. Students in the concentration will develop substantive knowledge bases necessary for careers in research and scholarship, in teaching, and in intervention.

Areas in developmental psychology vary according to the specific interests of students and fit into three categories: cognitive development, socio-emotional development, and developmental psychopathology.


Cognitive Development

This area stresses research in various specialty areas in cognition, including memory and cognitive changes during childhood, cognitive styles, and metacognition. Also included in this area is an opportunity to interface with our developing emphasis in educational psychology and our cognitive program.

Developmental research emanating from the cognitive program focuses on the effects of age on the neural architecture supporting executive control and prospective memory, as well as the representation and processing of information in situational models.

Socio-Emotional Development

Research in this area of developmental psychology focuses on social and emotional development in infancy, early childhood, adolescence, and later life.

Particular areas of emphasis are attachment, parenting behaviors, friendships, and social support.

The interface between personal characteristics (such as personality, gender or temperament) and contextual factors (e.g., family environment, marital conflict, or parental adjustment to the teen's transition into adolescence) is highlighted. Faculty research, using behavioral genetic methodologies, also assess genetic and environmental influences on individual differences for many of these attributes.

Developmental Psychopathology

Researchers in this area focus on dysfunctional development in families and individuals across the life span, including evaluating children for behavioral and emotional disorders, mental retardation and learning disabilities.

Research on topics such as the impact of marital conflict on children's emotions, child neglect, important transitions during the teen years, and the causes of developmental delays in the children of adolescent mothers is underway.

Results are sometimes used to formulate and evaluate intervention programs for remediating dysfunctional behavior. Of related interest is the identification not only of the risks and vulnerabilities associated with development, but the protective mechanisms that promote more optimal outcomes as well.

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