Identifying New Leverage Points for Intervention

Research on the developing brain suggests -- indirectly -- that the transition from childhood to adolescence may offer a unique window of opportunity to intervene with at-risk youth. During this period, juveniles are particularly adept at specific kinds of social and emotional learning. They are also actively forming their identities. This raises an exciting possibility that this period provides a natural inflection point for promoting prosocial values, attitudes, motivation and goals.

We have convened an interdisciplinary group of experts to create a road map for science to inform the timing and targets of intervention for juveniles at risk for violence. We are especially interested in neurodevelopmental processes that may create powerful opportunities to nudge juvenile’s trajectories toward healthy adulthoods.

We are also testing whether pubertal status moderates the effect of brief socio-emotional interventions for at-risk children. For example, one intervention shifts children’s perception of ambiguous facial expressions from 'angry' to 'happy' and reduces short-term violence. Does the power of this intervention depend on a child’s developmental stage?