Social Development Laboratory


Welcome to the University of Vermont
Social Development Lab


Our Purpose

The UVM Social Development Lab is committed to understanding the development of social behavior in childhood and adolescence. We study the emergence of aggressive behaviors that are common among girls (i.e., relational aggression such as gossip and social exclusion) in addition to forms of aggression more typical among boys (e.g., physical aggression). We also explore the emergence of positive behaviors at school, including helping others and the formation of friendships. We hope that this research will inform interventions aimed at promoting positive peer interactions and school experiences for children and adolescents.

We are currently working on designing an intervention program aimed at reducing children's involvement in both physical and relational aggression.

Our research has documented that:

  1. The frequency of relational aggression increases during the late elementary school years, especially for girls
  2. Like physical aggression, relational aggression is related to a number of negative outcomes, such as peer rejection, depressive symptoms, and academic problems
  3. Physical reactions to stress, such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure, are associated with involvement in relational aggression
  4. Relational aggression is associated with the desire to be "popular" whereas prosocial behavior (e.g., helping) is associated with the desire to be "liked."

The results of these studies suggest that parents, educators, and mental health professionals should intervene when children engage in relationally aggressive behaviors. In addition, through altering children's social goals and reactions to stress, it may be possible to reduce their involvement in relationally aggressive conduct.

Dr. Murray-Close has recently been awarded the 2018 Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award, which is awarded to a UVM faculty member who displays excellence in teaching. To view the announcement, click here.

To hear a recent Vermont Public Radio interview with Dr. Murray-Close, click here.

To see a recent lecture describing current work in the Social Development Lab, click here.

To see a recent Seven Days article featuring our research, click here.

To hear more about our current research studies, click here.

To hear the Social Development Lab song, written and performed by undergraduate research assistant Bianca Rizzio, click here.