Social-Emotional Development and Intervention
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The primary goal of our research is to understand why children and adolescents engage in behaviours that are harmful to others and translate this knowledge into better methods for assessing and treating aggression. Our research focuses on emotions, such as empathy, anger, and guilt, as well as their regulation and biological correlates, such as autonomic nervous system functioning. Despite substantial theorizing, the causal role of these psychological and biological processes in the development and maintenance of aggression has been relatively understudied. Our guiding research questions are twofold. First, why do some children become aggressive while others show high levels of concern for others from a very young age? Second, how can childhood aggression be prevented and treated?
In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, we found that children's commonly reported emotions in response transgressions were associated with spontaneous emotional reactions. This speaks to the role of automatic and controlled processes in children's everyday experiences of transgression and conflict.
We work with multiple disciplines and use a range of research designs and methods. Our research is steeped in developmental psychology and developmental psychopathology to better understand how emotions and aggressive behaviour develop and interact on micro and macro-time scales, how to predict their occurrence from psychological, biological, and social processes, and ultimately how to reduce aggression and promote prosocial behaviour.
By using a developmental approach to the study of aggression and mental health along with new models of effective treatment planning, implementation, and dissemination, the overt contribution of this program of research is to generate an innovative account of the study, early identification and diagnostic classification, and treatment of aggression.