University of Wisconsin–Madison


Self-control and reward sensitivity during child development

The primary purpose of the study is to examine how neurobiological (i.e., temperament, genetics) and environmental factors independently and jointly influence variation in early childhood self-control and reward sensitivity, two key constructs within the NIMH Research Domains Criteria (RDoC). Self-control and reward sensitivity are highly heritable, multifactorial constructs with cross-cutting associations to the externalizing disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Yet, not all children with deficiencies in these traits develop externalizing problems. The current study utilizes a developmental psychopathology framework to examine the neurobiological and environmental factors that underlie these traits, and to determine how variation across these factors may uniquely “set the stage” for behavioral development.

Genetic and environmental influences on trajectories of adolescent development

Our project uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) ( to investigate the independent and interactive roles of genes and environments on antisocial behavior trajectories, from adolescence to adulthood. Our specific aim is to test the theory that certain genes will interact not only with negative environmental risk factors, but also with enriched/positive environmental factors (i.e., neighborhood characteristics, religiosity, social support, relationships with parents) to predict individual variation in antisocial behavior trajectories.