Current Research Studies


As youths simultaneously undergo biological and social change, they also begin to develop the sense of who they are as a person - what they value, who they want to be, and what meaning they want to make in their lives. Whereas certain aspects of who we are remain relatively stable, values and virtues - aspirational, motivational states - may be much more open to contextual influence. In the present study, we will implement a modified Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in partnership with a community organization, the Fellowship of African American Men (FAAM). FAAM is an organization that serves diverse and under-represented adolescents by providing a youth basketball league that has evolved into a much broader suite of community support.

Game Changers

Traits and behaviors characteristic of good leaders are well understood in adults, but their development in adolescence is not. Which traits do successful adolescent leaders possess? How do other adolescents recognize who is a leader? How can we expand our definition of leadership to fit adolescents’ unique social and academic contexts? The Game Changers study is an ongoing project aimed at answering these questions about teen leadership in a sample of community adolescence. We have had many teens come into our lab at Northwestern to participate in Game Changers, and we’re always looking for more! The study involves teens (ages 13-17) answering questionnaires, watching videos in an eye tracker, providing saliva samples, and more. Click here if you or someone you know might be interested in participating!

Illinois Twin Project (ITP)

In collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the PADlab is working to create a database of parents of twins (both identical and fraternal) in Illinois who might be willing to have their children participate in future research studies. Studying twins allows us to better learn about the causes of children’s life outcomes by figuring out how children might be affected by genetics and their environments. We have learned a lot from previous twin studies in the PADlab, such as our recent study on teenage risky decision-making (see below). We are excited about the opportunity to learn more from twins in Illinois!
Please check back soon for a link to the ITP survey.

Childhood Personality and Behavioral Outcomes Study (CPBS)

The goal of the Childhood Personality and Behavioral Outcomes Study is to examine individual differences in personality traits and their associations with behavior in early adolescence. We are currently collecting online follow-up questionnaires from any of the 350 families who previously participated in the in-person study at the University of Houston. We are collecting information from children and their parents about things like personality, relationships, values, and behaviors. If you are one of the original 350 families and you are interested in completing follow-up questionnaires online or by mail, please contact us by email.


Past Research Studies

Personality Development and Academic Outcomes Study (PDAO)

The Personality Development and Academic Outcomes Study investigated how different aspects of children’s lives were related to academic achievement. Parents and children were asked to complete surveys about the child’s personality, motivation, and other interests and behaviors. Combined with information about children’s educational achievement, the survey information will help further our understanding of personality characteristics that promote learning and school success. We are currently analyzing data from this project and hope to have it published soon. Funding for this project came from ACT.

Project FAD

Project Friends and Adolescent Decision Making (FAD) used a social networking study design to help us understand how peer groups work in teens. We collected surveys about adolescents’ personalities, relationships, and behaviors. The goal of this study was to explore how adolescents’ personality traits and peer groups relate to motivations for engaging in risky behaviors, and how peer groups might influence those behaviors. Funding from this project came from the National Center for Responsible Gambling.

Risky Business

A collaboration with Dr. Paige Harden and Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob at the University of Texas at Austin, the Risky Business study is an ongoing study of high school twins in Texas. The PADlab was involved with data collection at the University of Houston. The purpose of the study is to further our understanding of how teenagers make decisions about doing things that might be risky, dangerous, or harmful, like trying alcohol or driving very fast. The goal of Risky Business is to determine how genes may influence decision-making, which is why the study focuses on twins. Data collection for this study is ongoing in Austin, Texas. Funding for this project comes from the National Institutes of Health.