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Axis - Formation & Maintenance of Relationships
Axis - Entrainment of Basic Processes Underlying Health

Axis - Development & Continuity of Fundemental Skills

Core Dimension - Internationalization and Global Perspectives

Core Dimension - Developmental Methods

Core Dimension - Knowledge Transfer and Public Scholarship




Although each Axis covers a different part of the lifespan they are not meant to be discrete units but are instead intended to be somewhat overlapping.


Formation & Maintenance of Relationships

 Issues related to the development of successful relationships across the lifespan that promote optimal outcomes form the foundation of the axis' activities. A variety of relationships are included under this umbrella including parent-child, sibling, marital, peer and friendships, parent-teacher, teacher-child, and romantic relationships. Theory and empirical work on different relationship systems (e.g., family, peer, teacher) indicates that the bi-directional nature of interactions is critical in understanding the dynamics and quality of relationships across the lifespan; it is also crucial to consider how different relationships, as well as interconnections between relationship systems, make distinct and complementary contributions to human development. Three main themes define the research activities in this axis. First, how are the basic social, cognitive, moral, and emotional processes of children's development related to issues of diversity in environment contexts (e.g., low SES, abuse), family structure (e.g., at-risk families), primary relationship subsystems (parent-child, peer), and the processes and strategies (e.g., conflict resolution) that promote positive socio-emotional development and healthy relationships. Second, pathways to successful development are examined, namely the identification of individual, family, educational micro-contextual (e.g., school, teacher-child, neighbourhood), and macro-contextual (e.g., policy, demographic) factors associated with the development and maintenance of successful and positive relationships across time (e.g., intergenerational transfer of risk and resilience; transition to school). In addition, we study the interactions between these microsystems, that is, the mesosystemic influences. For example, we examine the interrelationships between settings (e.g., home experiences related to school experiences and vice versa). Third, our work seeks to elucidate the antecedents and dimensions of relationships (e.g., early attachment, autonomy, communication, emotional availability, quality of the relationship over time), which are critical for prospective wellbeing across the lifespan. The main issues are addressed in a multitude of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies employing a wide range of systematic methodological approaches and tools.


(Axis Leaders: Annie Bernier, Melanie Dirks, Nina Howe)



Entrainment of Basic Processes Underlying Health

 The study of health outcomes and health promotion, from a lifespan developmental perspective, is a cornerstone of research at the Centre for Research in Human Development. The Health Axis seeks to identify the socio-cultural and biopsychosocial factors associated with physical and mental health, and their relevance for public policy and intervention strategies. We are interested in understand how changes in health are linked to variations of normative processes (e.g. fulfilling social relations, having adaptive goals), as well as extreme or atypical experiences (e.g. parenting an autistic child, maltreatment). Research themes in the Health Axis are encompassed through a variety of cross-sectional and longitudinal projects involving different investigators. For example, ongoing studies examine health risk and resiliency in the offspring of the original Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project (CLRP) participants, a group of several hundred children and adolescents from inner-city backgrounds who have been followed intensively since early childhood. Other studies focus on the effects of poverty, environmental stress, and social relations on children's health over time, predictors of successful trajectories in children who are at risk for school failure, and understanding the environmental, neuroendocrine and parenting factors in the development of internalizing (i.e. anxiety and depression) problems in children. Heath Axis research includes innovative work across the lifespan, particularly issues pertaining to healthy aging and transitions across development. This area of research highlights key interactions between psychological traits, biological changes and health status, as they occur during different stages of aging, including studies of sensory development and visual impairment. Other topics include epidemiological and experimental research approaches aimed at addressing a broad range of key contemporary health related issues in society, including obesity, mental health, addiction, marginalization, discrimination, and social inequality.


(Axis Leaders: Mark Ellenbogen, Suzanne King, Virginia Penhune)

Development & Continuity of Fundemental Skills

Skills are learned capacities that an individual develops with experience. Deploying the right skills at the right time allows an individual effectively respond to the challenges posed by their environment. The Skills Axis seeks to identify the skills that are important for an individual's successful development, and to investigate how these skills are acquired, improved, and maintained. We are interested in both the normative skills acquired by nearly every typically developing person (e.g., learning one's native language, learning to walk), and in specialized skills acquired by only some individuals in response to their instrumental needs, goals, or interests (e.g., learning a second language, learning to play a musical instrument). Although each of our members is specialized in their expertise, collaborations within the group reveal how these skills build upon each other. For example, the acquisition of basic language skills in infancy sets the stage for phonological awareness in preschool, an important prerequisite for learning to read, which in turn paves the way for school success and subsequent career achievement. Similarly, we are exploring how acquisition of particular skills can be beneficial and/or protective with respect to other domains of functioning. For example, in infancy and early childhood, we have found evidence that growing up bilingual confers social and cognitive advantages, such as improved executive functioning, and decreased in-group biases. Amongst older adults, we are exploring how brain training and aerobic exercise can be protective against age-related cognitive and motor decline, and whether learning a second language might delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Another interest is in how the development of new skills might compensate for deficits and/or losses in other domains. For example, speechreading can support language comprehension in individuals with hearing loss. Our work interfaces with the other research Axes in important and dynamic ways. For example, the honing of specific social skills supports the maintenance of healthy relationships across the lifespan. From an intergenerational perspective, the acquisition of parenting skills by one generation will help to support the development of a myriad of other skills in the younger generation. Considering our work through the lens of this Skills Axis has led to new approaches, collaborations, and insights into the role that skills play in promoting successful development. Further, our collaborations are beginning to reveal specific skills-based interventions that can promote healthy functioning across the lifespan.


(Axis Leaders: Krista Byers-Heinlein, Karen Li, Jean-Pierre Gagné)



CRDH Core Dimensions

The Core Dimensions are designed to cover cross-Axis themes that are essential to the Centre’s goals and functioning.


Core Dimension: Internationalization and Global Perspective
The purposes of the Internationalization and Global Perspective Dimension are (a) to promote opportunities for participation in international partnerships, (b) to facilitate research and training in other countries, and (c) to foster a consciousness regarding the importance of literally pushing the boundaries in research on human development.  This Dimension is committed to the premise that in the current research climate an “international” emphasis needs to go beyond mere networking.


Core Dimension: Developmental Methods

The activities of the Developmental Methods Dimension are primarily aimed at helping CRDH Members keep up with recent advances in research methods that are immediately relevant to the study of human development.  Research on human development is dependent on sophisticated methods and statistical techniques that are in a constant state of improvement.  A secondary aim is to complement the discipline-based methods courses taken by our Trainees with instruction in procedures specifically suited to studying development.


Core Dimension: Knowledge Transfer and Public Scholarship

The Knowledge Transfer and Public Scholarship Dimension has two purposes.  Its first purpose is to oversee and facilitate connections between CRDH Members and community partners.  The second goal is to situate CRDH research within the broader issues of concern to the general public and to engage CRDH in intellectual issues that are of interest beyond the walls of the academic community.