In this issue:
Focus on the Developmental ProgramBy Mark Sabbagh, Professor
THE DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAM IN THE QUEEN'S PSYCHOLOGYDepartment includes an active group of researchers focused on understanding the biological, cognitive and experiential factors that affect young children’s social development and learning from infancy through adolescence.
Valerie Kuhlmeier is our lead researcher studying infant cognitive development. Her research with infants focuses on young children’s social cognitive developments, including their emerging understanding of others’ intentions and goals and how these understandings affect their pro-social behaviours (e.g., helping, sharing, and comforting). Dr. Kuhlmeier holds a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Development and her lab was recently featured on the CBC program, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki (weblink: tinyurl.com/borntobegood).
Work in Stanka Fitneva’s Language and Cognition lab focuses on the social cognitive development of young children, with specific focus on how children learn from others. Her work examines how children become active learners, seeking trustworthy sources of information from knowledgeable others. Dr. Fitneva was recently on sabbatical in Palo Alto where she was an associate of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science.
Mark Sabbagh’s work in the Early Experience Lab focuses on the biological, cognitive and experiential factors that shape preschoolers’ language and social understandings. His main interest is in preschoolers’ “theory of mind” – their understanding that peoples’ behavior is caused by internal mental states like beliefs, desires, and intentions. In addition to his research, Dr. Sabbagh just completed a term as Associate Editor at the academic journal, Developmental Psychology, where he also edited a special issue of the journal focusing on children’s social learning skills. He is the current chair of the Developmental Graduate Program.
Beth Kelley’s work focuses on the development of social cognitive skills and language in individuals with autism. Autism is a serious developmental disorder that seems to most significantly affect children’s ability to take part in social interactions. Of particular interest are the ways in which children with autism show developmental patterns that are both similar to and different from those we see in typically developing children, and to this end, Dr. Kelley examines early language learning, pro-social behaviour, and attention. She is an active member of a Canada-wide consortium of researchers who study brain development (NeuroDevNet) and is currently on sabbatical here in Kingston.
Tom Hollenstein’s work in the Adolescent Dynamics Lab focuses on understanding how the interactions between adolescents and their peers and parents unfold over time. His particular interest is in understanding how some kinds of patterns of interaction might be more adaptive than others in helping adolescents to regulate their emotional states. Dr. Hollenstein regularly travels to lead workshops on new and innovative ways of coding and analyzing videotapes of interactions. Tom just completed writing a book about these methods that will be coming out by the end of the year.
Wendy Craig is continuing her study of bullying and victimization. Dr. Craig and her colleagues are involved in PREVNet, an exciting network of researchers, non-governmental organizations, and governments working together to promote safe and healthy relationships for Canadian children and youth (www.prevnet.ca). Through these partnerships, Dr. Craig aims to promote healthy relationships and school engagement, with the ultimate goal of decreasing bullying in Canada.Wendy appears regularly on national TV and in the national newspapers (e.g., The Globe and Mail) to inform the public about her developmental research, and was recently awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her work on preventing bullying.
At the heart of our labs are a core of tremendously talented graduate and undergraduate students who contribute their time and intellect to our various research projects. At any given time during the school year, there are over 100 undergraduate and 20 graduate students working in our combined labs! The undergraduates who work in our labs are gaining the kinds of experiences that will prepare them either for graduate school in Developmental Psychology or for work in some related field that can offer opportunities to apply their strengths and skills.
Our graduate students getting advanced degrees are often preparing to apply their specific expertise in a professional setting, either by becoming professors themselves or by working in private or government agencies that are important for shaping policy and practice regarding children’s learning and development. We are proud of all of the students who leave our labs and our program – so many go on to do great things.
Across all the labs, none of the research we do would be possible without the participation of children and their families from the Kingston community. As an area, we greatly appreciate the important contributions they have all made to advancing the science of Developmental Psychology. We try to honor those contributions by taking opportunities to engage in science outreach, talking within the broader community about the most recent findings from developmental science and how they might relate to particular parenting or school-related practices. Wendy Craig is particularly active in this regard as she talks about programs that she and her team at PREVNet have implemented in schools to mitigate bullying behavior.
As a group, we regularly participate in educational outreach geared toward school-aged students, such as “Brain Awareness Day” and “Science Rendezvous”, where students from grades 7 and 8 visit the university and learn about the ways we study cognitive and social development in children. We also have recently embraced social media: our Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/childandadolescentdevelopment) and Twitter (@QueensChildDev) discussions of developmental science are followed by parents, teachers, students, and the academic community.
Over the past 10 years, Queen’s has become one of the strongest Developmental Psychology programs in Canada. As a program, we have been building on our great strengths in research and teaching towards new initiatives that we hope will bring more resources and visibility to the Developmental Program.