(Conferences to be held in 2011 & 2012)

Coming of Age in the Recession

Organizers: Robert Crosnoe, Jacquelynne Eccles, Chandra Muller, and Ingrid Schoon


In Children of the Great Depression, Elder documented the developmental effects of a global economic crisis, highlighting the particular vulnerability of adolescents transitioning into adulthood during a time in which the steps for getting ahead in life had changed dramatically.  Today, a new cohort is making its way to adulthood amidst uncertainty brought on by an economic catastrophe that is being experienced and responded to in different ways depending upon the national and regional context.  What will happen to these youth is still unclear, and development scientists have the opportunity and challenge to make sense of what is happening and then use the resulting knowledge to inform policy.  The purpose of this meeting was to convene an international, interdisciplinary panel in May 2011 at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan.  It involved researchers from multiple disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, economics, education) and from several countries (e.g., U.S., U.K., Germany) to present current research on the psychosocial and socioeconomic functioning of young people transitioning to adulthood during these tough economic times, discuss gaps in the literature that need to be addressed, and plan future collaborative efforts to address these gaps.

Overview of Meeting

The meeting was held at the University of Michigan on May 3rd and 4th and included just under 30 participants.  The meeting was organized into a number of interactive components:

  1. An overview of newly emerging collaborations among researchers in Europe.
  2. Presentation and discussion of possible data sources for a U.S. Consortium and how such data might align with the data sources being used in the European collaborative.
  3. Small group meetings around general collaborative themes (family economic stress, socioeconomic influences on education and work, and comparative cohort studies).
  4. Discussion of organizing conceptual models for collaboration.
  5. Strategy sessions for future action.

By the close of the meeting, plans for several short- and long-term collaborations had emerged that linked researchers from different countries.  These plans are currently underway in various stages of progress.

  1. An effort to secure funding from European and U.S. sources for a project on young adult transitions that would include data integration and analyses for the main panel studies across three countries: the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) in the U.S., the British Household Panel Study (BHPS)/Understanding Society Study (USS) in the U.K., and the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) in Germany.  This effort is being led by Groh-Samberg in Europe and Pfeffer in the U.S.
  2. A proposal to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on the process linking macro to micro experiences in the transition to adulthood during the Great Recession, led by Ingrid Schoon.
  3. An effort to secure funding for a U.S.-based inter-cohort comparison using Monitoring the Future, led by John Schulenberg.
  4. An effort to secure funding for a U.S.-based project on economic stress and aspirations/occupations, led by Eccles and Schneider.
  5. An effort to secure funding for a project with researchers in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and Canada collaborating on a “four countries of the Americas” comparative study, led by Crosnoe.
  6. Three symposia to be presented at the Society for Life Course and Longitudinal Studies meeting in Bielefeld in September 2011 on the life course effects of economic hardship, recession effects on health, and education, partnership, and parenting in the recession (see attached schedule, abstracts, and participants).
  7. Three symposia submitted for review for the Society for Research on Adolescence in Vancouver in March 2012: one on drinking, college education, and the transition to adulthood, one on cross-country comparisons of recession effects, and one on parental assistance of youth during the recession.

Establishing a Baseline of Knowledge on the Development of Haitian Children

Principal Organizer: Fabienne Doucet

This conference will bring together an interdisciplinary group of Haiti-based child development (CD) experts with international counterparts in order to (1) identify gaps in knowledge about Haitian children’s development; and (2) design research studies to address those knowledge gaps. Prior to the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 in Haiti, and much more since, thousands of interventions have been proposed and/or implemented with the goal of helping Haitian children. However, the majority of these interventions are not evidence-based. There is a dire need for a solid base of evidence to develop policies and practices for supporting the healthy development of Haitian children. In May 2011, a two-day invitational interdisciplinary conference will be held at New York University. Key participants will include about twenty Haiti-based and international experts. The purpose of the conference will be to identify gaps in knowledge on the development of Haitian children. Next, collaborative teams will develop a series of review articles in key areas identified during the conference for a special section of Child Development Perspectives. The articles also will form the basis for generating a series of policy briefs that will be translated into French and disseminated to the Haitian government and other francophone stakeholders. In fall 2011, the NYU conference participants will attend a two-day workshop in Haiti to design research studies that will help to answer key questions about children’s development in fragile contexts, such as Haiti. Funding will then be sought to carry out these studies. This initiative will make an important contribution to CD scholarship by focusing on an underrepresented population, adding to the literature on CD in fragile contexts worldwide, and building research capacity in Haiti.

Infants’ Learning of Multiple Languages: Development in Cultural Context

Organizers: Catherine Tamis-LeMonda and Lulu Song, New York University

The population of children born to immigrant parents in North America continues to grow. Many of these children confront the challenge of navigating two cultural worlds, which typically includes learning two languages. Prior studies on children from diverse cultural and language backgrounds have largely focused on developments during the preschool years and later. Yet language development undergoes rapid growth and remarkable change during the first two years, rendering a need for research on infants. The SRCD Strategic Plan grant will fund a small-scale 2-day conference at New York University on October 14-15th 2011, at which we will bring together scholars who apply cutting-edge methodologies to researching foundational processes in infants’ learning of multiple languages. Emphasis will be on language development in different Latino populations (e.g., Mexicans, Dominicans) as well as other multilingual groups (e.g., Chinese). This conference exemplifies SRCD’s strategic plan by highlighting multiple methods and perspectives in early language development in the context of cultural diversity.

Sleep and Its Effects on Development

Organizers: Mona El-Sheikh and Joseph Buckhalt

At Auburn University, we will bring together a diverse group of national/international key researchers and promising junior scholars with expertise in disparate areas of inquiry whose work illustrates linkages between sleep, child development across multiple domains, family processes, and the socio-cultural context. Research paradigms have begun to emerge that explicate the connection between sleep and familial and the socio-cultural milieu with child development, and exciting new discoveries are being made that document important relations among these parameters. These novel and recent discoveries are the focus of this conference. Conceptual and empirical integration in these areas is likely to enhance understanding of child development in relation to a primary biological regulation process and in a familial and socio-cultural context, and assist in establishing a critical guiding foundation for research in this emerging field. The objective of this small conference is to highlight critical areas in the study of children’s sleep by facilitating the dialogue among researchers in family processes, pediatric sleep, and child development, and provide some of the methodological tools that will help accelerate the pace and quality of this young interdisciplinary field. Structured dialogues will highlight current collective knowledge with the goal of laying pathways toward enhancement and integration of views from different disciplines. The study will run through July, 2012.

2012 Symposium on Human Evolution and Human Development

Organizers: Darcia Narvaez and Agustin Fuentes, University of Notre Dame

The symposium addresses core human patterns rooted in our mammalian and primate heritage and the presumed evolutionary trajectories of our distant ancestors. The symposium brings together scholarship from different fields that bear on early life experience and human life histories. We use the framework of evolution as well as epigenetics. Anthropologists summarize basal evolutionarily relevant characteristics for infants and young children (e.g., Hewlett & Lamb, 2005) as including natural childbirth, frequent, on-demand breastfeeding for 2-5 years, frequent positive touch, multiple adult responsive caregivers, and free play with multi-aged playmates. Scholars from different disciplines (neuroscientists, clinicians, anthropologists, primatologists) will discuss their research in these and related areas. One of the synergistic goals of the symposium is to address the decrease in child well-being in the USA and elsewhere over the last 50 years (Heckman, 2008). In recent years a host of public, personal and social health problems have been skyrocketing in the USA, and increasingly around the world, for which science does not have consistent or reliable answers (e.g., psychological problems such as ADHD, autism, anxiety and depression; psychosomatic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune disorders, e.g., Sanchez et al., 2001). Science can offer some guidance on remedies but it requires understanding the mammalian brain and the conditions for optimal development. The symposium will contribute to a widespread understanding of human evolved capacities and the types of brain systems that are a human evolutionary birthright, bringing developmental science forward as a leader in helping reverse current negative trends in wellbeing (e.g., Cicchetti & Thomas, 2008; Panksepp, 2001). Non-academics will be invited, including policy makers, practitioners who work with children and families in a variety of fields (e.g., health, childcare) and child advocates.