Promoting Character Development Among Diverse Children and Adolescents: The Role of Families, Schools and Out-of-School-Time Youth Development Programs


A 2018 SRCD Special Topic Meeting

Event Details


Parents, schools, and out-of-school programs are united in an interest in identifying the contexts of youth that are associated with positive development. With increasing frequency, this interest is focused on a key indicator of such development: Character. Embodied by the vision of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” the growing interest in character development is predicated on the aspirations of parents and of youth-development practitioners that enhancing children’s character will benefit both individuals and civil society.

Following on a 2016 meeting at the National Academies of Science Measuring Character Development, the 2018 Special Topics Character Development Meeting seeks to bring together developmental scientists, philosophers, educators, and practitioners to advance theory, research, and program practices pertinent to understanding character development as it occurs within and across the key settings of youth development. The program is expected to feature, among other topics, findings from longitudinal studies of character, work by biologists and epigenetic researchers who study social genomics and the mutually influential relations between individual and context, and practitioners within family, school, and out-of-school settings whose programs seek to promote character development. Other topics will include sessions that focus on the development of measures of character development that reflect both change-sensitive and context-specific aspects of character, including its cultural variation, and evaluation strategies for assessing programs designed to promote character virtue development.

Thank you to our sponsor, the John Templeton Foundation.

Questions? Email

Registration and Hotel Information

This meeting has a cap of approx. 250 attendees determined by the space constraints at the hotel. Registration will be on a first-come first-served basis. 

Conference Fees (includes Thursday and Saturday lunch and receptions):

SRCD Regular Member  $440.00
SRCD Early Career Member $330.00
SRCD Student Member  $230.00
SRCD Emerging Nations Member $75.00
Regular Non-member
(more than 5 years since receiving a doctoral degree)
Early Career Non-member
(within 5 years of a doctoral degree)
Student Non-member
(have not received a doctoral or undergraduate degree)

NOTE: All cancellation requests will be subject to a $30 cancellation fee and must be submitted in writing by September 27, 2018.  We regret we cannot process any refunds after this date. There is a $30 fee for returned checks.

Conference Hotel

Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
1800 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Getting There
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is 8 miles from the Sonesta Rittenhouse. There are many transportation options for getting to the hotel.

Invited Program

Invited Keynote Addresses

Positive Parenting and Positive Development in Children: A Business Plan
Speaker: Marc H. Bornstein, President, Society for Research in Child Development
Thursday, October 18; 9:00am - 10:00am; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. The Positive Youth Development movement has identified and taken strides toward measuring a host of positive characteristics and values.  How do children develop those positive characteristics and values?  In the “business plan” I propose to develop, it is critical to have a clear idea of the goals to which we are headed, followed by an analysis of how best to achieve those goals. What are the positive characteristics and values we like to see and promote in children, and just how can parents and family, community and environment, foster their development?  In the first part of my talk, I look briefly to the literature to define desirable positive characteristics and values in children.  In second part, I address the important goal of how we can best help children achieve those desirable positive characteristics and values.  

Biography. Marc H. Bornstein is President of the Society for Research in Child Development.  He holds a B.A. from Columbia College, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University, and honorary doctorates from the University of Padua and University of Trento. Bornstein has held faculty positions at Princeton University and New York University as well as visiting academic appointments in Munich, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Bamenda (Cameroon), Seoul, Trento, Santiago (Chile), Bristol, Oxford, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, London. Bornstein is Editor Emeritus of Child Development and founding Editor of Parenting: Science and Practice. He has administered both Federal and Foundation grants, sits on the editorial boards of several professional journals, is a member of scholarly societies in a variety of disciplines, and consults for governments, foundations, universities, publishers, the media, and UNICEF.  Bornstein has published widely in experimental, methodological, comparative, developmental, and cultural science as well as neuroscience, pediatrics, and aesthetics.

Evolution, the Moral Philosopher?
Speaker: Steve Cole, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine
Thursday, October 18; 3:15pm - 4:15pm; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. What is the best way for humans to live?  This talk considers the possibility that our bodies may form an opinion on that matter, and perhaps arrive at different conclusions than would our conscious minds.  If we think of the human genome as recording millions of years of experience regarding how best to survive and thrive in this world, what do our genomes have to teach us now, and how might we go about listening?

Biography. Steve Cole is a Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences in the UCLA School of Medicine. His research maps the molecular pathways by which social environments influence gene expression by viral, cancer, and immune cell genomes.  He pioneered the field of human social genomics and collaborates with a wide range of medical, social, and behavioral scientists through his role as Director of the UCLA Social Genomics Core Laboratory.  His research has been supported by the NIH, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, among others, and he is best known for studies on the molecular impact of loneliness and the surprising power of purpose.

The Cultural Revolution We Need
Speaker: David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Thursday, October 18; 4:30pm - 6:00pm; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. In an era of diagnosing problems, it’s become clear that social fragmentation is the issue that most often underlies our other societal ails. Public morality has grown excessively individualistic, our relationships too transactional and our leadership obsessively meritocratic. Fragmentation is a problem that too often takes root in childhood; early exposure to and integration with deep communities change the courses of our lives.  Any plan to design a new civic architecture must therefore focus on creating a communitarian ethos, with a particular focus on how it relates to children, and how they can help enable that spirit to thrive for generations to come.

Biography. David Brooks is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, a position he began in September 2003, as well as an Executive Director of the Aspen Institute. He is a commentator on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Brooks is the author of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There and The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. In April 2015, he came out with his fourth book, The Road to Character, which was a No. 1 New York Times best-seller. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Twitter: @nytdavidbrooks

Evidence-based Fundamentals of Parenting and Educating for Character Development
Speaker: Marvin W. Berkowitz, Sanford N. McDonnell Professor of Character Education, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Friday, October 19; 9:00am - 10:00am; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. Supporting the development of human goodness is a project toward which many different influences are frequently brought to bear.  Families and schools are two of the most common.  Unfortunately, the practices within each that are often used tend to be relatively ineffective.  We have reviewed the literature on parental effects and school-based effects on character, and identified a small set of separate core strategies or principles that have been empirically shown to be effective for each.  These sets tend to overlap.  Parents who model character, love children, set (and scaffold) high expectations, share authority with children, and use discursive behavior management strategies, have children with more highly developed character.  Schools that make character a priority, strategically build relationships, foster intrinsic motivation, model character, empower all stakeholders, and take a developmental perspective likewise are successful in nurturing character development.

Biography. Dr. Marvin W. Berkowitz is McDonnell Professor of Character Education and Co-Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at UMSL.  He directs the Leadership Academy in Character Education. Born in Queens NY, he earned his BA in psychology from the SU NY Buffalo, and his Ph.D. in Life-span Developmental Psychology at Wayne State University. His scholarly focus is in character education and development.  He is author of You Can’t Teach Through a Rat: And Other Epiphanies for Educators (2012), Parenting for Good (2005) and more than 100 book chapters, monographs, and journal articles.  He is founding co-editor of the Journal of Character Education. Dr. Berkowitz has received numerous honors, including the Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Character Education Partnership (2006), the Good Works Award (2010) and the Kuhmerker Career Award (2013) from the Association for Moral Education, and the University of Missouri System’s Thomas Jefferson Professorship (2011).
Twitter: @CCC_UMSL
Facebook: Center for Character & Citizenship

The Science and Practice of Social, Emotional, and Character Development in Schools
Speaker: Stephanie M. Jones, Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
Saturday, October 20; 8:30am - 9:30am; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. There is a growing body of evidence describing the critical role that social, emotional, and character skills and related interventions play in children’s mental health, behavioral, and academic success. However, those working with children in schools and other contexts are confronted with a large, sometimes confusing array of terms, definitions, and approaches. In this presentation Jones will review research on the nature, content, and efficacy of social and emotional learning as well as character-focused strategies and programs designed for early and middle childhood. She will describe new translational work designed to build connections between the major conceptual and practice-focused frameworks for the field, summarize a number of tensions in this area, and discuss the opportunities they present for future research and practice.  

Biography. Dr. Stephanie Jones is a Professor of Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  Dr. Jones' research, anchored in prevention science, focuses on the effects of poverty and exposure to violence on children and youth's social, emotional, and behavioral development. Over the last ten years her work has focused on both evaluation research addressing the impact of preschool and elementary focused social-emotional learning interventions on behavioral and academic outcomes and classroom practices; as well as new curriculum development, implementation, and testing. Jones is a recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Education for her work with Zigler and Walter Gilliam on A Vision for Universal Preschool Education and a recipient of the Joseph E. Zins Early-Career Distinguished Contribution Award for Action Research in Social and Emotional Learning.

Overcoming Socioecopolitical Challenges through a Family Strength-Based Intervention: Implications for Character and Identity Development among African American Youth
Speaker: Velma McBride Murry, Vanderbilt University
Saturday, October 20; 1:15pm - 2:15pm; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC

Abstract. African American youth grow up in a society in which their development is greatly influenced by socioecopolitical challenges, often experienced through structural policies, explicit and implicit racial bias, social and economic inequities. Studies examining character development among African American youth should consider ways in which Socioecopolitical challenges  impact the everyday life experiences of African American families,  to in turn affect youth development.  In addition, such studies should identify key protective factors and processes in African American families that  buffer youth from succumbing to the potential long-lasting consequences of growing up in an oppressive, toxic environment   -- to instead become competent, caring, confident, compassionate individuals, with sense of morality and integrity. This presentation will illustrate ways in which exposure to the Pathways for African American Success (PAAS ©) program, a 3-arm RCT involving 414 middle schoolers and their primary caregivers, enhanced intervention targeted processes in African American families to successfully navigate macro-level socioecopolitical risks and in turn foster positive youth developmental outcomes through the promotion of positive racial identity and character strengths.

Biography. Velma McBride Murry, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized expert examining ways in which racism affects family processes, behavior, and health outcomes of families. At Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, she holds the Endowed Lois Autrey Betts Chair, Education and Human Development, Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director of Vanderbilt Medical Center, CTSA, Community Engagement Research Core, Professor, Human and Organizational Development and Co-Director of the Community Engagement Research Core.  In addition to her renowned service at Vanderbilt, she is a Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the George Brown School of Social Work at Washington University of St. Louis. She serves on several national boards, including Foundation of Child Development Board of Directors, National Academy of Medicine, Culture of Health Advisory Committee, and Blueprints Advisory Board, to name a few. Murry has published over 125 papers, presented her work in national and international conferences, and has received more than 25 external grants as principal investigator or co-principal investigator to fund her research activities. Her work is regularly published in premier journals such as Society for Research on Adolescence, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology; Prevention Science; Journal of Clinical Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology; and Journal of Marriage and Family. Murry is co-editor of the National Academy of Medicine’s Perspectives on Health Equity & Social Determinants of Health (2017).

Invited Views by Two

Definitional and Measurement Issues in the Study of Character Development
Friday, October 19; 1:15pm - 2:45pm; Room: Wyeth Gallery BC
Moderator: Anthony Burrow, Cornell University
Panelist: Angela L. Duckworth, Founder & CEO, Character Lab; Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
Panelist: David S. Yeager, Associate Professor of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin

Description. The Invited Views by Two event features a conversation between Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. David Yeager (University of Texas at Austin) addressing definitional and measurement issues in the study of character development. Drawing on their expertise, these scholars will discuss strengths and limitations of existing approaches in character development research, and offer both complimentary and divergent perspectives about the directions the future of this field may take.  The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Anthony Burrow (Cornell University) and will include opportunities for audience questions.

Dr. Anthony Burrow is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University. He directs the Purpose and Identity Processes Laboratory and PRYDE (the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement). His primary area of research examines how having a sense of purpose in life serves as a psychological resource for youth. A second research interest examines the role of racial identification in shaping reactions to everyday encounters of discrimination. Dr. Burrow received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Florida International University, and completed his postdoctoral training within the Multicultural Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame.

Angela Duckworth is the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change For Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Previously, Angela founded a summer school for low-income children that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study and, in 2018, celebrated its twenty-fifth. She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and a math and science teacher. Angela completed her undergraduate degree in Advanced Studies Neurobiology at Harvard, an MSc in Neuroscience from Oxford University, and a PhD in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is a #1 New York Times best seller.
Twitter: @thecharacterlab

Dr. Yeager is interested in understanding the processes shaping adolescent development, especially how social cognitive factors interact with structural and physiological factors to create positive or negative trajectories for youth.  He is also interested in learning how to influence these psychological processes, so as to improve developmental and educational outcomes for youth.  He primarily conducts randomized experiments in school settings because he believes, as Bronfenbrenner and Lewin did, that a good way to understand the system of forces affecting behavior and development is to try to change it.  In addition, in the process of designing experiments, we may create interventions that, with some adaptation, may be useful for addressing important problems facing society.

Invited Data Blitz

Organized After-School Activities and Character Development: A Conversation with Experts on the Field and Future Directions
Thursday, October 18; 10:15am - 11:45 am; Room: Whistler Ballroom
Moderator: Sandi Simpkins, Professor, University of California, Irvine

  • Reed Larson, Professor, Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Illinois
  • Emilie Smith, Janette McGarity Barber Professor, Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia
  • Richard M. Lerner, Ph.D., Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science, Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University

Description. Organized after-school activities and programs are championed as contexts for positive youth development, one aspect of which is youth’s character development. Organized after-school activities have many of the qualities theorized to support youth’s character development including youth empowerment, intrinsic motivation, positive relationships with adults, opportunities to matter, and developmental pedagogy. Several after-school organizations cite the development of character virtues in their mission statements and define their programming around character (e.g., 4-H, scouts). This data blitz brings together three leading experts in the field of activities and youth’s character development across the globe. The panelists will discuss recent advances in this burgeoning area of research. Topics will include, among others: (a) empirical support for theoretically-driven mechanisms explaining how activities influence character development, (b) implications of methodological and analytic choices, and (c) critical future directions for research. For each topic, panelists will share insights from their work and the field in a short flash talk format. In addition to discussion among the panelists, the audience will be invited to discuss their questions and thoughts on this area of research.

Sandra Simpkins, Ph.D. in psychology, is a professor in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Through her research, Sandra Simpkins examines how youth development unfolds over time and how the contexts in which youth are embedded influence their development. Generally, her work has focused on how families, friendships, and social position factors (such as, ethnicity and culture) shape adolescents’ organized after-school activities and motivation. She received The William T. Grant Young Scholars Award and National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study these issues for Latinx adolescents and families. Her work strives to understand the unique role of SES, immigration, ethnicity, and culture in family functioning and youth development.

Reed W. Larson is a professor in the Departments of Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology, and Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has conducted 20 years of intensive grounded-theory research aimed at understanding the developmental experiences of young people in youth development programs and the staff practices that facilitate these experiences. The work of Larson’s team served at a foundation for the Susan Crown Exchange’s “Social-Emotional Learning Challenge” and its report: Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social & Emotional Learning. Dr. Larson has also served as the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence and as co-Editor-in-Chief (with Lene Jensen) of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. In 2016 he received the John P. Hill Career Achievement Award from the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Dr. Emilie Smith is the Janette McGarity Barber Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia.  She has directed and been involved in research funded for over 50 million dollars evaluating evidence-based practices for supporting families and communities in the prevention of problem behavior and promoting positive youth development.  She has co-authored a book volume entitled, Preventing Youth Violence in a Multicultural Society and numerous papers on youth and family development, with particular attention to diverse racial-ethnic and social backgrounds.  She is Editor of a Special Section of Child Development, on Positive Youth Development in Diverse and Global Contexts. She is Associate Editor of the American Journal of Community Psychology, and a reviewer for numerous others.  She is a Fellow of Division 27 of APA and has served on the Executive Board of SPR and the Governing Council of SRCD.
Twitter: @DrEmilieSpeaks

Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He went from kindergarten through Ph.D. within the New York City public schools, completing his doctorate at the City University of New York in 1971 in developmental psychology. Lerner has more than 700 scholarly publications, including more than 80 authored or edited books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science, which he continues to edit. Lerner is known for his theory of relations between life-span human development and social change, and for his research about the relations between adolescents and their peers, families, schools, and communities. His work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society.

Invited Symposia

How Media Can Best Support Character Development
Chair: Yalda T. Uhls, University of California, Los Angeles and Common Sense Media
Friday, October 19; 10:15am - 11:45am; Room: Whistler Ballroom

Integrative Statement. A long history of research documenting the significance of character strengths and social and emotional skills underscores their importance to academic and life success. Just as educators and families have turned to media as resources for imparting literacy skills and historical knowledge, so too can they draw upon media's potential to support the positive development of youth. This interdisciplinary panel will examine how media can best support character development. Each panelist will share their distinct perspective and expertise. First, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek will discuss how the science of learning can inform app development and maximize learning goals. Sara DeWitt from PBS will highlight how her organization integrates research findings on social and emotional learning into content development. Dr. Katz will discuss how lower income and immigrant families develop character through learning experiences with technology. Finally, Dr. Uhls will discuss Common Sense’s character-tagging system that identifies movies and TV programs, which promote core character strengths and life skills. In addition, she will introduce a newly developed feature, discussion prompts for families to inspire developmentally appropriate critical thinking around lessons about character that are embedded within storytelling.

  • Presentation 1: Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University
  • Presentation 2: Sara DeWitt, PBS KIDS Digital
  • Presentation 3: Vikki Katz, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey
  • Presentation 4: Yalda T. Uhls, University of California, Los Angeles and Common Sense Media

Vikki Katz is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. She is author of three books, including Kids in the middle: How children of immigrants negotiate community interactions for their families and Understanding ethnic media: Producers, consumers, and societies. Her research addresses parent-child dynamics in immigrant, low-income, and minority families, and specifically, how families interact with U.S. institutions (including schools, healthcare facilities, and courts) and with new communication technologies. Her most recent work on technology adoption and engagement among low-income families, titled Opportunity for all?: Technology and learning in lower-income families, was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Katz holds a B.A. from UCLA and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where she was an Annenberg Fellow.
Twitter: @vikki_katz

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek is the Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her research examines the development of early language and literacy, the role of play in learning and learning and technology. She is the author of 14 books and hundreds of publications, has won numerous awards in her field. Vested in translating the science of learning for lay and professional audiences, her recent book, Becoming Brilliant: What the science tells us about raising successful children, released in 2016 was on the NYTimes Best Seller List in Education and Parenting.

Over the last 18 years, Sara DeWitt has worked at the forefront of new digital platforms, in an effort to be everywhere kids are: from websites and mobiles apps to streaming video, augmented reality, 3D-rendered experiences, and wearable technologies. As VP of PBS KIDS Digital, she oversees the Kidscreen- and Webby-award winning website, PBS KIDS streaming video services, the PBS KIDS portfolio of educational apps for children, and the PBS KIDS for Parents digital experiences.  Most recently, Sara led her team through the development of the PBS KIDS 24/7 digital live stream, an integral part of the new PBS KIDS 24/7 services launched in January of 2017. In 2014, she was named one of the top 42 Women Leading in Education by the USC Rossier School of Education, and was selected as one of the Top Women in Digital by Cynopsis Media in 2016 and 2017.  Most recently, Sara gave a TED Talk about the potential media has to positively affect learning. She holds a BA and an MA in English from Stanford University, and holds a certificate from the University’s Children, Society, and Public Policy curriculum.

Yalda T. Uhls, a former exec at MGM and Sony, left the movie world to study child development, earning a PhD in Psychology at UCLA. Uhls expertise in how media content is created and the science of how media affect children informs her unique perspective. As a big believer in bridging research and practice, along with many years of translational work for lay audiences, Uhls recently founded The Center for Scholars & Storytellers, affiliated with UCLA. Uhls is also an adjunct professor at UCLA where she does research on how media affect the social behavior of tweens and teens and teaches a class on Digital Media and Human Development; she is a senior advisor for national non-profit Common Sense Media; and is the author of the parenting book Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age. She was honored with a SRCD award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation and UCLA’s Dena Chertoff Service Award for her work with Psychology in Action, an organization that communicates psychological research beyond academia.

Studies of Character Development Internationally
Saturday, October 20; 9:45am - 11:15am; Room: Whistler Ballroom
Chair: Frosso Motti-Stefanidi, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece
Discussant: Jacqueline Lerner, Professor, Applied Developmental & Educational Psychology, Boston College

Integrative Statement. The concept of character is not widely used by developmental scientists in Europe. Nonetheless, fundamental features of character are widely studied as separate entities by developmental scientists, and other researchers. For example, values and virtues, linked to moral functioning, civic engagement, reflecting the individual’s contributions to civil society, or personal qualities such as grit, have been approached from different research traditions. However, character is a developmental phenomenon (Lerner & Callina, 2014). Developing positive attributes reflecting character has a significant impact on young people and on their social world. Understanding individual differences in character development requires a developmental approach. Notwithstanding, at least in Europe, these concepts have rarely been examined together through the lens of a unifying developmental science framework.

The papers in this invited symposium focus on different aspects of character development. All three studies are based on short-term longitudinal data. Participants in the first two studies are early adolescents whereas in the last study late adolescents. Knafo-Noam and colleagues examined the longitudinal interplay between values and character-related behaviors in Israeli twins. Genetic analyses focused on the contribution of genetics and environment to this link. Salmela-Aro and colleagues tested whether grit, a characteristic feature of character, mediates the link between a growth mindset and academic achievement/well-being. Motti-Stefanidi and colleagues, present results from a multinational European Horizon 2020 project on youth’s civic engagement and political participation in national and EU issues. Jacqueline Lerner will discuss these findings through the lens of the Relational Developmental Systems Model, highlighting how they contribute to our understanding of character development.

  • Paper 1: The Value System as Organizing Adolescents' Character Development: A Longitudinal, Genetically-informed Study of Values and Behavior
    Ariel Knafo-Noam*, 
    Lior Abramson*, Noam Markovitch*, Liat Hasenfratz**, Louise Twito*; * The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, ** Princeton University
    Abstract. Character involves positive behaviors, such as helping and task perseverance, performed for self-motivated reasons. We study the co-development of values, abstract goals serving as guides to behavior, with character building blocks such as prosociality and peer conformity. Israeli twins (N=540 pairs) rated their values at ages 11 and 13. Behaviors were assessed with parent and self-reports, and computerized tests. Values related systematically to behaviors: Prosociality correlated positively with benevolence and universalism values, focusing on others’ welfare, and negatively with the motivationally-opposed values, power and achievement. Adolescents’ aggression and popularity concern showed the opposite association pattern. The other value dimension, contrasting openness with conservation, related systematically to other character aspects such as peer conformity and risk taking. Longitudinal genetic analyses investigated whether values or behaviors predicted change in each other, and the contribution of genetics and the environment to their association. Results demonstrate values as an organizing motivational system for character development.
  • Paper 2: Growth Mindset Improves Achievement Via Grit: A Three-wave Longitudinal Study
    Katariina Salmela-Aro*Xin Tang*, Jiesi Guo**; * Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland, ** American Catholic University, Australia
    Abstract. We examined whether having a growth mindset contributes to grit, and whether grit acts as a mediator between a growth mindset and academic achievement and academic wellbeing (school engagement and burnout; Salmela-Aro, 2017). Grit was examined as Consistency of Interest (CI) and Perseverance of Effort (PE). 177 students were measured for growth mindset (6th grade), grit (8th grade) and academic achievement and academic wellbeing (9th grade). The higher the students’ growth mindset in the 6th grade, the higher their PE two years later, and the higher their PE, the higher their GPA and school engagement and the lower their school burnout in the 9th grade. These effects continued to hold after controlling for the students’ conscientiousness and SES. Grit can be enhanced by having a growth mindset and the beneficial effects of grit on academic achievement and academic wellbeing are mainly explained by perseverance of effort.
  • Paper 3: Active Citizenship of Late Adolescents in European Context: A Longitudinal Study in Eight European Countries
    Frosso Motti-Stefanidi*Jan Serek**, Peter Noack***, & Elvira Cicognani****; *National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, **Masaryk University, Czech Republic, *** Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena, Germany, ****University of Bologna, Italy
    In collaboration with: Erik Amna, Orebro University, Sweden; Shakuntala Banaji, London School of Economics, UK; Philipp Jugert, University of Leipzig, Germany; Veronika Kalmus, University of Tartu, Estonia; Peter Macek, Masaryk University, Czech Republic; Isabel Menezes, University of Porto, Portugal; Vassilis Pavlopoulos, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece
    Abstract. The purpose of this short-term longitudinal study was to examine (a) whether and how European youth actively engage in national and EU issues, and (b) whether and how characteristics of their immediate context promote or hinder their active citizenship. The study is based on results from the European Horizon 2020 CATCH-EyoU project (Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions). The sample consisted of 4,482 (15-18 years old) participants, from eight European countries. Three research questions were tested: (a) whether level and change in political participation and civic engagement differ in these countries, (b) whether and how different characteristics of youth’s immediate environment predict individual differences in level and change in political participation and civic engagement, and (c) whether country moderates this link. One key finding was that the level of participation at the national level was the best predictor of youth’s active engagement in EU issues.


Frosso Motti-Stefanidi is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). She received her PhD from the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota.  She is recipient of the Distinguished International Alumni Award from the College of Education and Human Development of the University of Minnesota. She is Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. She is a member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). She has served as President of the European Association of Developmental Psychology and as President of the European Association of Personality Psychology. Her studies focus on immigrant youth adaptation which she examines from a resilience perspective. Together with her research team, she is taking part as partner at the European Horizon 2020 Program: "Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions (CATCH-EyoU). (PI: Elvira Cicognani, University of Bologna, Italy).

Jackie Lerner has investigated positive youth development throughout her illustrious career—including social, emotional, and character development. Her work has taken her across the globe to examine relational development systems, life-span theory, and more in children and adolescents. Her research includes the first national longitudinal study of youth development, “Doing the Right Thing: Character Development in Adolescence.” Lerner joined the Lynch School in 1996. She is currently the co-coordinator for the Human Development program and previously served as chair of the CDEP department. She earned her doctorate from Pennsylvania State University and has authored dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters. Lerner serves on the Military Child Education Coalition scientific advisory board and in editorial roles for several prominent journals. Lerner is a member of numerous professional societies, including the Society for Research in Child Development and the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development. She is currently collaborating on a multi-year, international research study on the positive development of the world's poorest youth.

Ariel Knafo-Noam is professor of developmental psychology and director of the Laboratory of Social Development at the Psychology Department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received a PhD in psychology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studying parenting and intergenerational value continuity in adolescence. Before returning to The Hebrew University, he had postdoctoral training in educational psychology (Ben Gurion University, Israel), and behavior genetics (Institute of Psychiatry, London). He studies the development of individual differences in temperament, empathy, prosocial behavior, and values. For that matter, he investigates genetic influences as well as the role of environmental factors such as culture and parenting. Recently he has co-edited with his colleagues three special sections, on prosocial development (Child Development), on value development (Social Development), and on children’s influence (Development and Psychopathology).

Katariina Salmela-Aro, Professor, Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. Visiting Professor, Institute of Education, UCL, Australian Catholic University and School of Education, Michigan State University. Past-President, European Association for Developmental Psychology, and previous Secretary General ISSBD and expert in OECD Education2030.  Director of longitudinal studies among young people: FinEdu, PIRE, LEAD, Gaps. Her key themes are school engagement, burnout, optimal learning moments, experience sampling, life-span model of motivation and related interventions. Founding member Pathways International Interdisciplinary Post-doctoral fellowship program,  Member of Academy of Finland Strategic Funding Council. Consulting Editor Developmental Psychology and Associate Editor, European Psychologist. Published over 250 papers and received several large-scale grants from Academy of Finland and National Science Foundation and EU Coordinator Marie Curie post-doc grant, Horizon2020 EuroCohort aiming to development of a Europe wide longitudinal survey of child and youth well-being.

Invited Conversation Roundtables

Confessions from Practitioners involved in Researcher Practitioner Partnerships
Thursday, October 18; 1:30pm - 3:00pm; Room: Whistler Ballroom
Moderator: Deborah Moroney, PhD, Managing Researcher, American Institutes for Research

  • Bela Mote, CEO, Carole Robertson Center for Learning
  • Katie Newsom, Chief Advancement Officer, Outward Bound USA
  • Brenda McLaughlin, Chief Strategy Officer, BELL | Building Educated Leaders for Life

Description. Researcher-practitioner partnerships are key to answering questions that help programs tell their story, improve their programs, or prove their value. The goal of researcher-practitioner partnerships are to make research relevant to practice and create practice driven research. Out-of-school time practitioners and researchers often work together achieve these goals by building authentic researcher-practitioner partnerships. A key strategy in developing these relationships is developing trust and working as partners to achieve shared goals. For this panel, we bring together three practitioner leaders who have successfully cultivated researcher-practitioner partnerships to share lessons learned. The panel includes Bela Mote from the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, Katie Pastuszek from the Philadelphia Outward Bound School, and Brenda McLaughlin from Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL). The purpose of this panel is for practitioners to drive the conversation and offer best practices in developing researcher-practitioner partnerships.


Deborah Moroney is the managing director of the Youth Development and Supportive Learning Environments area at American Institutes for Research. Dr. Moroney’s experience is in SEL and youth development. She has worked with national programs including YMCA of the USA, Boy Scouts of America, and Every Hour Counts. Additionally, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator of city and statewide evaluations including the Partnership for Children and Youth, and School's Out New York City. She is also a member of the Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative for the C.S. Mott Foundation. Dr. Moroney’s work demonstrates a value in bridging research and practice. She serves on multiple editorial boards and publication committees for peer reviewed journals, and she has authored practitioner and organizational guides using both research findings and practitioner input. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Moroney was a faculty member in educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Bela Moté was named chief executive officer of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning in June 2018. Prior to becoming the fourth executive officer in the center’s 42-year history, Moté served as vice president, Evidence-Based Youth Development, for the YMCA of the USA. Previously, she held leadership positions with YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Teaching Strategies, Inc., and the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation. Moté began her career working directly with young children as a master teacher in an early childhood classroom, then served as a center director. Moté holds a Master of Education from the Erikson Institute, and is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and a Chicago Foundation for Women’s Breaking Barriers 2011 honoree. 

In June 2018, Katie Newsom was named chief advancement officer for Outward Bound USA (OB USA), leaving behind a strong Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) with tangible evidence of impact that annually serves more than 6,000 students. Her 20 years of service to POBS, in collaboration with other OB USA schools, inspired growth and expansion of community-based courses and programs nationwide. In addition, Newsom serves as OB USA’s appointed representative on the Outward Bound International Board of Directors’ Operations Committee. In this role, Newsom represents OB USA and its 11 schools within a global network of Outward Bound schools in 36 countries. Newsom received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in organizational development and leadership from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Brenda McLaughlin serves as chief strategy officer for BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a national nonprofit that empowers educators to design and deliver summer and afterschool experiences that accelerate academic achievement and social-emotional learning. McLaughlin is responsible for evaluating and innovating the BELL experience. Prior to joining BELL, she founded and led The Learning Agenda, a consultancy dedicated to helping nonprofits, philanthropies, and educators expand their knowledge and capacity as well as amplify their impact. McLaughlin also served as vice president at the National Summer Learning Association, where she guided the organization and implemented research and evaluation projects. McLaughlin has a master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Latin American studies from the University of Pittsburgh.

Funding Priorities at Private Foundations
Friday, October 19; 3:00pm -4:30pm; Room: Whistler Ballroom
Moderator: Sarah M. Clement, Director, Character Virtue Development; John Templeton Foundation

  • Sarah M. Clement, Director, Character Virtue Development; John Templeton Foundation
  • Alex Hooker, Program Officer, S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation
  • Jessica Tsang, Manager, Learning Research, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)

Description. Have you ever wondered which private foundations support research on child development? Please join us for a panel presentation of funding priorities at four leading foundations, including the John Templeton Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Overdeck Family Foundation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Representatives from each of these organizations will provide background information on the organization, highlight current funding priorities, and note any unique features of their grantmaking process. Our goals for this panel are to provide scholars with an opportunity to (1) learn more about the funding priorities of leading private foundations and (2) discuss those funding priorities with grant officers.


Sarah Clement is the Director of Character Virtue Development programs at the John Templeton Foundation. She is responsible for the development of new funding initiatives and the management of the full life-cycle of the grant process for projects that seek to advance the science and practice of good character. She also oversees grants in the Voluntary Family Planning portfolio, which includes research and programs intended to help families achieve their ideal family size.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Clement was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers University Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research. She received her B.A. in child development from Tufts University and her doctorate in developmental psychology from Cornell University. She has published articles on the topics of positive youth development and character development.

Alex Hooker joined the Foundation in 2012, and he is a program officer in the Education Program. He works closely with the Character team to develop and manage grants relating to environmental literacy, and he acts as a liaison to grantees and other partners. Before joining the Foundation, Alex was a program manager at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, where he led community-based volunteer programs to improve San Francisco park sites and partnered with local schools to provide academic and professional learning opportunities for high school and college interns. He previously worked to conserve marine wildlife at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and as a naturalist in the San Juan Islands. Alex holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota, where he conducted research on plant diversity and water resources issues.

As a manager, learning research at CZI, Jessica Tsang supports efforts to close the gap between educational practice and the research on how people learn. Prior to CZI, Jessica was a researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where she studied elementary mathematics cognition and learning in classroom, laboratory, and neuroimaging settings. Jessica has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Stanford University and is a co-author of the book The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them.

Upcoming Events

Feature Image
Skyline of Minneapolis MN

SRCD 2025 Biennial Meeting

Event Date & Time

May 1-3, 2025 | Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA