Laboratory for Social-Emotional Development and Intervention


Why do some children harm others while others show kindness from early ages? How does experiencing adversities, such as poverty and violence, impact children’s development and mental health?


Our research strives to understand how we can best help children and adolescents become kinder, less aggressive and overcome traumatic stress. Given the high number of children and youth facing mental health challenges and environmental adversities, it is urgent to develop better approaches to identify and address children’s needs and positive development.


To achieve these goals, we investigate the emotional, biological, and environmental factors associated with children’s aggressive and kind behaviors. Ultimately, we aim to understand how these mechanisms influence typical and atypical developmental trajectories in children. 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.


Through collaborative partnerships with practitioners and policy makers, we use this knowledge to design and test age-appropriate assessment tools and scalable interventions that counteract aggression and nurture kindness in children and adolescents experiencing varying levels of adversity.



Girl with toy airplane, Illustration by Erinn Acland



University of Toronto Mississauga