Laboratory for Social-Emotional Development and Intervention


Why do some children show concern from early ages, while others engage in behaviors that are harmful to others or self? Our research strives to answer these and similar questions to understand the roots, pathways, and consequences of aggression and kindness in children, with an emphasis on the role of environmental adversity in harmful and benevolent orientations. We utilize this research to inform how caregivers, practitioners, and communities can be caring in ways that nurture and heal children’s development and healthy concern for self and others. Given the high numbers of children and youth facing mental health challenges and exposure to adversity, it is urgent to transform approaches that help children overcome traumatic stress and reach their full potential.


To achieve these goals, we create, test, and disseminate interventions that nurture healthy child development and eliminate the negative effects of exposure to violence, war, and trauma. We utilize various research designs — ranging from randomized controlled trials to large-scale longitudinal studies — populations — ranging from low-risk urban communities in Canada and Europe to high risk, marginalized communities in rural Africa — and methods — including physiological instruments, eye tracking, behavioral measures, child interviews, and parent questionnaires — to inform our research.


We work closely with local and international research, practice, and policy partners in over 20 countries on 5 continents to implement our intervention efforts that capitalize on inclusive principles to reach every child. Based on our multidisciplinary work and our humanistic approach to child development, we ultimately aim to support all children’s social-emotional development, mental health, and capacity to flourish.



Girl with toy airplane, Illustration by Erinn Acland



University of Toronto Mississauga