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Research Projects

From the JK Lifespan Development Lab director, Dr. Jungmeen Kim-Spoon

Within a developmental psychopathology perspective (Cicchetti, 1993), the development of psychopathology is viewed as unfolding along different developmental pathways among different individuals. Thus, it is expected that relevant causal processes vary among individuals who show the same pattern of disorders (i.e., equifinality), and that there is heterogeneity in the expression of disorders (i.e., multifinality). Therefore, it is important that different psychopathological outcomes are investigated simultaneously. 

From the developmental psychopathology framework, my research program focuses on developmental processes that mediate and/or moderate the long-term effects of stressful life experiences (such as child maltreatment) on the trajectories of psychopathology and resilient functioning. The research thereby makes important theoretical contributions to the understanding of the heterogeneity (e.g., multifinality) in the developmental outcomes resulting from earlier traumatic experiences and provides implications for prevention and intervention efforts. 

Methodologically, my research program incorporates multiple levels of analysis including behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and neurobiological aspects of developmental processes. Statistically, my approach has stressed applying structural equation modeling (SEM) to study developmental changes and stability. My work is based on the premise that studying interindividual differences (differences among different individuals) in intraindividual variability (within-individual changes over time) is critical to obtaining a fuller understanding of human development. Accordingly, most of my research has utilized advanced statistical techniques for longitudinal analysis including SEM, latent growth modeling, growth mixture modeling, latent interaction modeling, and latent difference score modeling.

Neurobehavioral determinants of adolescent risk decision making and health risk behaviors

Recent research in developmental neuroscience suggests that risk-taking in adolescence may be derived from differing developmental trajectories of two distinct neural systems that regulate risky decisions: (i) early maturation of a reward system that biases decisions toward high-reward options, combined with (ii) late maturation of a cognitive control system that biases decisions away from options with potential negative consequences. Yet, we know very little about how  reward and control neural systems develop and jointly contribute to differential vulnerability to poor decision-making that leads to adverse health outcomes. In collaboration with Dr. Brooks Kings-Casas's lab ( and funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), we are conducting a longitudinal study to examine how individual differences in developmental trajectories of reward/risk sensitivity and cognitive control are related to the development of adolescent health risk behaviors.


Youths' healthy development study: Longitudinal study of religiousness as a protective mechanism for adolescent health risk behaviors

This is a 3-wave longitudinal study of adolescents that was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the department of psychology. The goal of this study is to identify personality and social relationship factors that may prevent adolescents from developing psychopathology and unhealthy behaviors, thus eventually promoting adolescents' healthy physical and psychological development. In collaboration with Dr. Michael McCullough at University of Miami, we have studied how adolescent religiousness and spirituality influence self-regulation development, psychological maladjustment (such as depressive symptoms and anxiety), and health-risk behaviors (such as smoking, drinking, and other substance use).

Risk and protective processes in child maltreatment


This is a longitudinal study of maltreated school-age children that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) when Dr. Kim-Spoon was working with identifying emotional processes (e.g., reactivity and emotion regulation), personality processes (e.g., ego-control and ego-resilience), and self-system processes (e.g., self-efficacy, perceived competence, and self-esteem) that may ameliorate the negative effects of child maltreatment on the development of psychopathology. 

Personality development and psychopathology using the NICHD Study of Early Child care and Youth Development data


This project aims to understand the role of temperament and personality processes in the development of psychopathology, focusing on emotional reactivity (e.g. anger, hyperimpulsivity, and attentional control). We are also interested in possible moderating effects of home and school environment in the developmental associations between temperament/personality processes and psychopathology. This project was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and we are collaborating with Dr. Kirby Deater-Deckard (