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Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology is the scientific study of how and why human beings change over the course of their life. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to include adolescence, adult development, aging, and the entire lifespan.

Developmental Psychology research in the Department of Psychology offers opportunities to train scientists to address questions of both basic and applied research from a developmental perspective, with enough flexibility to allow for specialized research concentrations (in areas ranging from infant attention to health to vision science to neuroscience to family relationships to aging). Faculty and students often engage in interdisciplinary research. We are fortunate to have colleagues in other departments and research centers on campus who offer collaborative research opportunities that may intersect with our students’ interests and training goals. Many of our Developmental students have conducted research collaborations with faculty in the Departments of Educational Psychology, School Psychology, Kinesiology, Human Development and Family Science, Foods and Nutrition, or faculty affiliated with the Center for Family Research.


Drew Abney

  • Drew Abney focuses on how behaviors and social interactions early in development impact developmental trajectories throughout infancy and into toddlerhood. Studies conducted in the lab use various techniques: from conducting controlled laboratory experiments to free-flowing toy play sessions to collecting daylong multimodal (e.g., vocalizations, body movements, etc.) behavioral data. In the lab, we are motivated to apply existing techniques from applied computational social science and dynamical systems theory and also develop new computational and analytic methods to understand the dynamics of development during infancy and early childhood.    

Katie Ehrlich

  • Katie Ehrlich studies how children’s social experiences shape their mental and physical health. Her laboratory utilizes a variety of research methods to evaluate social and emotional functioning, including structured behavioral observations, clinical interviews, self-reports, and performance-based tasks. In addition, she incorporates clinical health measures and indices of cellular function and adaptive immunity. Current projects examine (a) the links between social experiences and children’s antibody production following vaccination, (b) intergenerational transmission of health disparities among African American families, and (c) skin deep resilience, depression risk, and cognitive development in adolescence.

Janet Frick

  • Janet Frick studies individual and developmental differences in infant visual attention, with a primary focus on the cognitive and social influences of early attention, learning, and memory. She utilizes both laboratory and community-based observational studies of infant and toddler behavior. Some of her recent collaborative work has included examination of nutritional influences on the early development and function of the visual system, with a focus on how such individual differences impact early learning and memory.

Anne Shaffer

  • Anne Shaffer studies social and emotional processes in families and close relationships. Her research primarily focuses on the emotional context of parenting, including emotion socialization and communication, and emotional maltreatment, as well as emotion regulation as a predictor of parenting behavior. This research extends to clinical applications in treatment and prevention settings.

Allison Skinner-Dorkenoo

  • Allison Skinner-Dorkenoo studies how stereotypes, attitudes, biases, and prejudices are established, maintained, and facilitated through subtle nonverbal signals and contextual cues present in everyday life—and how these factors contribute to and reinforce systemic inequalities. To better understand these issues, the GABBA Lab examines these issues across the lifespan, among both children and adults.
    • Program affiliation: Behavioral and Brain Sciences
    • GABBA Lab

Cindy Suveg

  • Cindy Suveg directs the Development and Psychopathology Lab, with the goal to conduct research that can help foster healthy development in children and families from diverse sociodemographic backgrounds. To that end, our research examines risk and protective processes in typically- and atypically-developing youth and their families using a multi-level, multi-method assessment strategy (behavioral observations, physiological assessment, ecological momentary assessment).

Lawrence Sweet

  • Lawrence Sweet integrates multimodal neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain-behavior relationships in clinical and at-risk populations (e.g., addictions, cardiovascular disease, early life adversity, aging). The Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory (CNS Lab) specializes in experimental design, and data acquisition, analyses, and interpretation for studies that employ functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural morphometry, and white matter lesion quantification. The CNS Lab is responsible for data analyses and consultation for several local and multi-site NIH-funded research studies. 
    • Program affiliation: Clinical Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience
    • Laboratory: Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

Affiliated Research Faculty

Assaf Oshri

  • Assaf Oshri is interested in youth positive well-being and resilience. In my program of research I focus on understanding the development of youth well-being and risk using multi-level research (e.g., parenting, neuroeconomics, behavioral and neurobiological processes). Specifically, my laboratory team and I aim to conduct research that elucidates the mechanisms that underlie the link between early life stress in childhood (e.g., child maltreatment, poverty, cultural stress) and adolescent behavioral risk (e.g. substance use and sexual risk behaviors) and resilience. I hope that knowledge generated by my research would inform intervention and prevention programs, as well as promote resilience among children and adolescents at risk.

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