Human Development Faculty Research

To learn more about the research, teaching, and other career information of the area faculty, visit the Faculty directory page.

Amy Bellmore, Assistant Professor

My primary research interest is how school-based peer relationships influence development during adolescence.  My research program focuses on two main topics in particular:

  • The processes and mechanisms through which social risk factors, such as being the victim or perpetrator of peer-directed aggression, impact academic and psychosocial adjustment.
  • The significance of ethnicity and ethnic contexts for students’ intra- and inter-group relations.

My interest in these phenomena stems from my larger goal of obtaining knowledge about adolescent development within the context of school settings that can be translated into practice by stakeholders in the communities in which I conduct my research and with professionals and policy-makers in the broader education community.

Visit Dr. Bellmore’s research lab, the Peer Relationships in Schools Lab.

B. Bradford Brown, Professor

In working with teenagers in the community, I have been constantly struck by the contrast between adults’ wariness of adolescent peer relations and the value that young people themselves accord to peers. My research reflects this contrast in its focus on some of the more controversial features of adolescents’ social worlds. I am interested in both the structure and process of peer relations. Thus, I examine the organization of peer groups, processes of peer influence, family-peer linkages that contribute to adolescent autonomy development, and transformations in peer relationships precipitated by new communication technologies.

In our research lab we examine a variety of topics related to these issues. Current work involves ethnic and cultural influences on parental oversight of adolescent peer relations, peer influences on teen driving behavior, college students’ use of electronic communication technology (from FaceBook to Skype) to manage peer affiliations, and efforts to build positive peer environments for youth in after-school settings. This work illustrates the many ways in which peers contribute to teenagers’ academic and social adjustment.

Visit Dr. Brown’s research lab, the Peer Relations Study Group.

Robert Enright, Professor

My research interests center on moral development, particularly the development of forgiveness. There are three primary research projects concerning forgiveness on which students and I are working. One is a process model that postulates a series of steps involved in one person forgiving another. My students and I are currently developing a series of interventions on forgiveness aimed at youth and adults who have suffered from various kinds of interpersonal injustice. The second project is the development of a scale to measure forgiveness. We have examined the validity of this scale in six different cultures to date. The scale is published by Mind Garden. The third area of research centers on the development of forgiveness education materials for children in violent and impoverished environments. We have tested the effectiveness of the forgiveness education approach in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for example.

Haley Vlach, Associate Professor

My research examines the mechanisms underlying children’s learning in order to (1) understand cognition and how cognition develops, and (2) build an empirical base for the design of successful educational and health interventions. My work spans the following cognitive and developmental processes: memory, memory development, word and category learning, concept learning, conceptual development, inductive learning, and generalization/transfer of learning. A central focus is connecting more traditional psychological research to applied settings, such as the design of cognitive interventions and concept learning in the classroom. For more information, please see my lab website: Learning, Cognition, & Development Lab

Sarah Short, Assistant Professor

The overarching mission of my research is to relieve suffering and promote resilience in typically developing and at-risk children. Inspired by a long-standing interest in the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders and psychiatric illness, I have conducted multidisciplinary research that unites the fields of psychology, biology, human development, and neuroscience. The ultimate goal of this effort is to create targeted cognitive and behavioral interventions that leverage the inherent plasticity of the developing brain to promote resilience and well-being.

My current research focuses on the impact of poverty on early child brain development. I have been awarded a $2.5 million National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) grant to study the link between poverty, brain development, and cognitive processes that facilitate learning, self-monitoring and decision-making in children. Other recent research projects have included an investigation of neural plasticity associated with cognitive training in young children and the development of a Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training program.

Visit Dr. Short’s research lab: Brain and Early Experience Lab