We offer two areas of research focus in our program for doctoral students: Early Development and Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development. These two concentrations stem from faculty strengths in overlapping lifespan research areas. Doctoral students are encouraged to assemble their own research interests within these two concentration based on areas of overlap in faculty expertise.

Early Development: Perceptual, Cognitive, & Social

Faculty research interests cluster in early perceptual, cognitive, social, and language development. We offer a strong emphasis in basic research from a developmental systems perpective, integrating developmental psychology, psychobiology, and neuroscience to focus on behavioral, as well as neural and physiological levels of analysis of typical as well as atypical development. Our focus is on building theory in developmental science, articulating underlying mechanisms of change and discovering general principles of development using both group level analyses and individual difference approaches. Faculty focus on understanding the development of early language skills (Pruden, Bahrick, Dick, Nelson), spatial knowledge and numerosity (Pruden), intersensory processing (Bahrick, Lickliter, Dick), attention/executive function (Bahrick, Lickliter, Reeb-Sutherland, Dick), motor development (Nelson), and how individual differences in basic skills (motor, attention, perception, learning) cascade to more complex later developing skills and to optimal cognitive and social outcomes (Bahrick, Nelson, Reeb-Sutherland). The majority of our research focuses on typically developing infants and children, but we also have strong comparative programs (Lickliter, bobwhite quail; Nelson, primates) and an emphasis on atypical populations such as autism (Bahrick, Reeb-Sutherland), anxiety (Reeb-Sutherland), and speech and reading disorders (Bahrick , Dick).

Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development: Social & Emotional Development

The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration in the Developmental Psychology Program examines the psychology of social and emotional development during early adolescence through emerging adulthood. Our Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development foci includes intrapersonal processes, like self-concept and identity formation, and interpersonal processes, like social learning and modeling. The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration emphasizes the bidirectional and interactive relationship between these two processes. Further, through the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches our research integrates work on individual change with work on socio-cultural influences over time.

The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration’s curriculum has been designed to train students to research and analyze the complex relationships between individual, family, and community well-being and the broader socioeconomic, physical, cultural, and global environment. Through this framework students have the opportunity to study both intraindividual change and interindividual differences, strengths and assets in social development, such as healthy coping strategies across the lifespan, as well as challenges and concerns. Faculty members in the Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration are conducting research on cultural identity factors informing minority populations’ health disparity outcomes (Stephens), the influence of health on the developmental trajectories of identity in emerging adulthood and later life (Frazier), and gender and power dynamics in intimate partner relationships (Eaton).