Risky Adolescent Behavior

Understanding the evolutionary functions of adolescence is critical to explaining why adolescents engage in risky behavior.


Patricia Hawley: Dr. Hawley is an Associate Professor in the Developmental and Social Psychology program at the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on the psychological underpinnings of human social power and social success. Dr. Hawley’s underlying evolutionary model (i.e., Resource Control Theory; Hawley, 1999) integrates work from various disciplines (e.g., developmental psychology, social psychology, peer relationships, and theoretical biology). As such, it challenges prevalent thought on aggression and social adaptation, as well as common assumptions about gender and social status. Current projects include investigations of morality, aggression, and the development of self-regulation.

Anthony Volk: Dr. Volk is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University. He is the founder of the Volk Parenting Laboratory, which studies parent-child relationships from infants to adolescents. Dr. Volk’s overall interest is to gain an evolutionary, neurological, medical, cultural, social, and historical understanding of why parents do what they do. His research falls into two main categories: child facial cues and adolescent-parent relationships. This research also includes parental influence on adolescent’s health, antisocial, scholastic and/or bullying experiences.

Carol Worthman: Dr. Worthman is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology at Emory University. Her work is unified by a focus on the biocultural interface. Her study topics have included causes and consequences of variation in maturation schedules, applications of life history theory, determinants of infant feeding and birth spacing, and variation in male life history and reproduction. Other areas, such as behavioral biology, arousal and attention regulation, developmental epidemiology (including of risk for psychiatric disorders), and comparative ecology of human sleep, are emerging areas of intensifying research and theorization.

Tony Biglan: Dr. Biglan is a Senior Scientist at Oregon Research Institute, Director of the Center on Early Adolescence, and past President of the Society for Prevention Research. He has been doing research for the last 25 years on the prevention of adolescent problem behaviors, including numerous experimental evaluations of interventions to prevent tobacco, other drug use, high-risk sexual behavior, reading failure, and aggressive social behavior. He is author of Helping Adolescents at Risk (with P.A. Brennan, S.L. Foster, and H.D. Holder, Guildford 2003) and Changing Cultural Practices: A Contextualist Framework for Intervention Research (Context, 1995).

Bruce Ellis: Bruce J. Ellis, Ph.D., is Professor of Family Studies and Human Development and the John & Doris Norton Endowed Chair in Fathers, Parenting, and Families at the University of Arizona. Dr. Ellis was originally trained as a canonical evolutionary psychologist in David Buss’ laboratory at the University of Michigan, where he studied adult sexual and romantic relationships. Developmental processes were largely taken for granted in this context. Dr. Ellis became dissatisfied with this approach, undertook three years of postdoctoral training in developmental psychopathology at Vanderbilt University, and shifted from studying adult behavior to developmental processes and mechanisms. His theoretical writings and empirical work seek to integrate evolutionary and developmental perspectives on the role of family environments in regulating child stress reactivity, pubertal development, and adolescent sexual behavior. He is particularly interested in mapping key dimensions of the environment that children’s brains detect and respond to, how these dimensions become embedded in the physiological parameters—set points and reactivity patterns—of stress response systems, and the role of different stress response profiles in mediating and moderating the development of life history strategies (e.g., timing sexual maturation, intrasexual competitive behaviors and risk-taking, patterns of mating and parenting). Dr. Ellis’ work has been recognized by major awards from the American Psychological Association, the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, and the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. Dr. Ellis leads the Frances McClelland Institute initiative on Fathers, Parenting, and Families at the University of Arizona.

Dennis Embry: Dr. Embry is a scientist-entrepreneur who is president of PAXIS Institute in Tucson, AZ. He has developed large, population-level behavior-change projects and studies for injury control in New Zealand, violence prevention in America, military deployments during the Gulf War, and tobacco control in multiple states with experimental designs. He is presently developing statewide initiatives for child abuse and multi-problem behavior prevention for the state of Florida, Alaska and other states. He was the first author of a $50 million plan for Wyoming funded by its legislature. His scholarly writing focuses on social change applied to large population-level change— integrating brain, behavioral, and evolutionary factors. He is a former National Research Advisory Council Senior Fellow in the Commonwealth, recipient of the science to practice award in 2006 by the Society for Prevention Research, and author of multiple manuals and training efforts for social change. He is currently preparing a new popular book and TV program for PBS entitled, “Youthanasia: How modern culture is slowly killing our youth and what can be done.”

Jay Belsky: Dr. Belsky is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck College in London. He is an internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies. His areas of special expertise include the effects of day care, parent-child relations during the infancy and early childhood years, the transition to parenthood, the etiology of child maltreatment, and the evolutionary basis of parent and child functioning. He is a founding and collaborating investigator on the NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development (US) and the National Evaluation of Sure Start (UK).

Ronald Dahl: Dr. Dahl is the Staunton Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and the Medical Director of the Child and Adolescent Neurobehavioral Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a pediatrician with considerable research interests in the areas of sleep/arousal and affect regulation and its relevance to development of behavioral and emotional disorders in children and adolescents. His work focuses on early adolescence and pubertal maturation as a developmental period with unique opportunities for early intervention in relation to a wide range of behavioral and emotional health problems. He has published extensively on adolescent development, sleep disorders, and behavioral/emotional health in children.

Jacquelynne Eccles: Dr. Eccles is the Wilbert McKeachie Collegiate Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies and Education, as well as a research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the last 30 years, she has conducted research on a wide variety of topics including gender-role socialization, teacher expectancies, classroom influences on student motivation and social development in the family and school context. Her research interests include: family and school influences on development; development in high risk settings; development of self-esteem, activity preferences, and task choice; adolescent development; identity formation; transition into adulthood; biosocial influences and development; gender role development; and role of ethnicity in development and socialization. She is editor of the Journal of Research in Adolescence.

A. J. Figueredo: Dr. Figueredo is Professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona. He serves as Director of the graduate program in Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology (EEP), and is affiliated with the graduate programs in Program Evaluation and Research Methodology (PERM) and Psychology, Policy, and Law (PPL). Professor Figueredo’s major area of research interest is the evolutionary psychology and behavioral development of life history strategy, sex, and violence in human and nonhuman animals. He also studies the quantitative ethology and social development of insects, birds, and primates.

Mark Flinn: Dr. Flinn is a Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Missouri, Colombia. His research interests are in evolutionary human biology, behavior, and culture. Dr. Flinn’s current research efforts involve an ongoing 20-year study of childhood stress, family relationships, and health in a rural Caribbean community by longitudinal monitoring of hormone and immune function from saliva and urine samples, ethnographic observation of child activities and social environment, and medical histories, growth measures, and parasite exams. The purpose is to identify specific psychosocial causes and consequences of childhood stress. The project is the first to longitudinally investigate stress in a naturalistic setting using hormonal assays and quantitative behavioral observation techniques in addition to standard human biological, ethnographic, medical, and psychological methods