My research focuses on brain and behavioral development during adolescence. In the past, I have studied parent-adolescent relations, psychosocial maturity, school performance, after-school employment, developmental psychopathology, and juvenile justice.
My work on adolescent decision-making examines the ways in which core psychological processes that affect judgment, decision-making, and risk-taking develop between the years of 10 and 30. I am especially interested in the implications of this research for legal and social policies affecting teenagers and young adults, particularly in the context of criminal law.
Age Differences in Decision-Making Across Cultures. In collaboration with Jennifer Lansford and Ken Dodge, at Duke University, and an international team of investigators, I am studying whether the pattern of development observed in the core components of decision-making identified in our studies of Americans are seen in other countries as well. We are currently in the field collecting data from samples of 10- to 30-year-olds in China, Colombia, Cyprus, India, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States (400 persons in each locale). Data collection is complete and data analysis is underway. The project is funded by the Jacobs Foundation.
Parenting Across Cultures. In many of the same countries in which we are studying age differences in decision-making, the same team of researchers is continuing a longitudinal study of children and their parents, begun when the children were 8 years old, to examine how various disciplinary practices affect children’s development, risky behavior, aggression, and decision-making. We have completed the collection of data up through age 12 and are currently in the field collecting the next wave. We have funding from NICHD to continue this research through the end of adolescence.
Peer Influences on Adolescent Risk-Taking. At our lab at Temple University, Jason Chein and I are studying the neural and behavioral factors that account for the peer effect. In an study for which data collection is complete, we have been imaging adolescents’ and adults’ brain activity while they are performing various types of decision-making tasks either with or without being observed by their peers. This research has been funded by NIDA, NIAAA, and the US Army.
Crossroads: Formal vs. Informal Processing in the Juvenile Justice System. In a collaboration with Elizabeth Cauffman, at the University of California, Irvine and Paul Frick, at the University of New Orleans, we are studying how diversion from formal processing by the justice system affects the subsequent behavior and development of first-time juvenile offenders. We are following samples of offenders for three years in Philadelphia, Santa Ana, and New Orleans (Jefferson Parish) who have committed similar offenses, but who have either been formally processed in court or diverted into a more informal arrangement, to study whether diversion leads to fewer disruptions in development and less recidivism. This project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.