University of Wisconsin–Madison

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.

Charles Kalish, Professor

My research focuses on inductive inference and causal reasoning: How do we predict the future and learn from experience? One line of research explores how children acquire the set of commonsense beliefs that characterize adult thinking. I am particularly interested in children’s developing appreciation of physical and intentional causality. My current research explores the role of norms in social cognition. How does children’s understanding of rules and obligations develop, and what role does such understanding play in their predictions and explanations of people’s behavior?

A second line of research addresses more general processes of categorization and inference. We explore how people use evidence to draw conclusions, and how information about sampling affects these conclusions. Ongoing studies focus on conditional probability judgments. These judgments are central to categorization and inference, and are especially interesting in stereotypes and social judgments. For example, that most basketball players are tall does not imply that most tall people are basketball players.

The ability to generalize past experience to new situations, to make inductive inferences, is central to what we think of as learning. We want children not just to be able to solve familiar problems, but also to know how to apply their knowledge in new circumstances. I hope that studying the process of generalization will tell us more about how children learn.