Welcome to the Security and Social Development Laboratory

At the Security and Social Development Laboratory, we combine ethological and developmental psychopathology principles to understand how children cope with social adversity. At the core of this research is the knowledge that feeling a sense of safety and security is a fundamental human need. When children don’t feel safe, the immediate importance of coping with that insecurity can interfere with their ability to learn and grow. Therefore, our research revolves around several guiding questions:

  • What characteristics of the social environment tend to undermine children’s feelings of safety and security?
  • How do children cope when their security is threatened?
    • We try to understand coping behavior in terms of the functional strategies individuals adopt to limit their exposure to threatening interpersonal situations and restore their sense of security.
  • What mechanisms (e.g., biological, emotional, cognitive) explain how or why insecurity can develop into psychopathology and/or impairments in school functioning over time?
  • What characteristics, within the child (e.g., psychological strengths) or within their environment (e.g., a close friendship) help children to feel safe or buffer them against the consequences of insecurity?

Because the types of interpersonal relationships that are most salient in our lives can change across development, our research into these questions spans different developmental periods and contexts, including exposure to conflict between parents, parent-child relationships, close friendships, and broader peer relationships (e.g., rejection, victimization). Ultimately, this research stands to inform practices to create safe and supportive environments so that all children and adolescents can thrive.

Want to learn more? Check out additional information about our theoretical framework, our current research projects, and ways to get involved by clicking on the links on this page.