Developmental Psychology

About the Developmental Psychology Program

The field of Developmental Psychology is devoted to understanding basic processes of change, in particular, how biological and experiential factors cause children's social, emotional, and cognitive functioning to change as they grow older. The field grew out of an interest in understanding how childhood experiences can shape subsequent development. The area of child and adolescent psychology is rapidly growing. The demand for developmental and child clinical psychologists to fill clinical, teaching, and research positions is growing, as is the amount of research funding. This is an opportune time to gain expertise in this field.

Faculty in the Developmental and Child Clinical areas work together to train students who are in either the Developmental or Child Clinical programs.  Graduate students can obtain a PhD in Experimental Psychology (Developmental students) or Clinical Psychology (Child Clinical students).  Regardless of training area, the research focus is interdisciplinary and students are expected to gain a thorough understanding in both normative and atypical development.

Faculty research in the child and adolescent psychology area has four central foci:

  • Cognitive Development
  • Developmental Psychopathology
  • Development in the Context of Close Relationships
  • Pediatric Psychology

PhD Training 

  • Research Training.  Research training is designed to develop the student into a highly skilled developmental scientist.
    • Students in the Developmental training program can work with either a Developmental or Child Clinical faculty member.
    • During the first two years the student takes graduate courses that cover developmental (cognitive development, social development) and/or child clinical research (child psychopathology, pediatric psychology). In addition, the student gains expertise in ethnic minority and cultural issues in development and adaptation as well as in both statistics and research methods. Those who want to further develop their quantitative skills have the opportunity to participate in the quantitative psychology minor.
    • During regularly scheduled meetings of the “child brown-bag,” graduate students and faculty present research findings or discuss state of the art research in developmental psychology. Many students and faculty also participate in other departmental brown-bags such as the cognitive or quantitative brown-bag.
    • There are several ongoing research collaborations among faculty in the Child and Adolescent psychology program. Many faculty and students also have active research collaborations with other faculty at the local (e.g. Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron Public Schools, Upward Bound, Community Youth Organizations, MetroHealth Medical Center) and national (e.g. University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech University) level. These collaborations provide opportunities for students to get involved in research and develop a network of professional relationships.
    • Graduate students are actively involved in faculty research and generally involved in publications and conference presentations. Students are actively encouraged to develop their own research program, and attend the research conferences that are sponsored by these organizations (e.g. American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, Midwestern Psychological Association, National Council on Family Relations, Psychonomics, National Latino Psychological Association, National Multicultural Conference and Summit, Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Society for Pediatric Psychology, Society for Research in Child Development, Society for Research on Adolescence), and Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood.
  • Teaching. Students are encouraged to become involved in undergraduate teaching. During the beginning of the third year, the student has the opportunity to take a teaching seminar and, with the supervision of a faculty member, teach one or several undergraduate courses (e.g. child psychology, social and personality development, cognitive development, adolescent psychology).

Note:  Students who are interested in clinical training must apply to the Clinical Program, which has a different set of requirements - please click here for information about Child Clinical training.

Core Faculty

Developmental Faculty

Dr. Kathryn Kerns - Children's attachments to parents and the implications of attachment for children's peer relationships and emotional development.

Dr. William Merriman - Language acquisition and metacognition in young children.

Dr. Manfred van Dulmen - Adolescent and young adult romantic relationships, aggression, suicide, developmental methodology.

Dr. Clarissa Thompson - Mathematics education interventions, representational change, development of learning and memory.

Child Clinical Faculty

Dr. Jeffrey A. Ciesla - Etiology of depression; particularly the maternal to child transmission of risk and maladaptive peer communication.

Dr. Christopher A. Flessner - Risk factors relevant to the development, maintenance, and treatment of child anxiety and related disorders.

Dr. Josefina Grau - Parent-child relationships and children's social and emotional development, with an emphasis on cultural and contextual factors.

Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett - Racial identity, peer relationships, and mental health in African American adolescents.

Dr. Amy Sato - The role of stress and family influences in the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of pediatric health conditions (e.g., obesity).

Dr. Beth Wildman - Identification and management of child mental health problems within primary care settings.

Faculty with Related Interests
  • Dr. Douglas Delahanty (Health): Psychobiological predictors and correlates of PTSD in child trauma victims.
  • Dr. John Dunlosky (Cognitive): Memory, metamemory, self-regulated learning, comprehension, and cognitive aging.
  • Dr. Katherine Rawson (Cognitive): Promoting elementary and middle-school students’ memory and comprehension of classroom materials and their ability to assess their own memory and comprehension for those materials.
  • Dr. Maria Zaragoza (Cognitive): Factors that affect young children's eyewitness memory.
  • Faculty and students have access to recently renovated lab space in the department.
  • The research labs at KSU include state of the art equipment (e.g., observational, Podcasting), software (e.g., Direct RT, Mplus), and technology for delivering interventions.
  • Faculty and graduate students actively collaborate with professionals at Akron Children's Hospital and other local hospitals.  Several faculty members also have access to lab space at local hospitals.
  • Several faculty work with large-scale existing data sets including the NICHD Child Care Study and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
Recent Developmental Ph.D.’s
  • Michelle Abraham, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Miami University
  • Jessica Demmings, Ph.D. - Adjunct Professor, St. Clair Community College
  • Amy Getzler, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, West Virginia University
  • Amanda Lipko, Ph.D. - Associate Professor SUNY Brockport
  • Zachariah Moore, Ph.D. - Associate Professor Kent State University - Geauga Campus
  • Ashley Seibert, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor Shippensburg University
  • Patricia Tomich, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Kent State University-Trumbull Campus

Interested in Developmental Psychology at Kent State University?
If you are considering applying to our graduate program in Developmental Psychology and would like to learn more about these programs, feel free to contact  Dr. Bill Merriman. If you are interested in the Child Clinical program please contact Dr. Beth Wildman