Active research projects

DePTh Lab

Below are all of the research projects that the DePTh lab is currently involved in. Projects are listed in no particular order.

Character and Thriving Among Kenyan Youth: A Novel Measure for Use with Street Children and Youth Enrolled in Schools

PIs: Dr. Geldhof & Dr. Onyiko (Maasai Mara University)
Funder: Templeton World Charity Foundation
Dr. Geldhof’s Role: PI

All humans strive to be their best, but what it actually means to thrive varies from one context to another. This project celebrates the diversity of the human experience by seeking a ground-up understanding of character and thriving as they manifest among three distinct groups of youth living in Kenya: Street children living in Nairobi, urban school children living in Nairobi, and rural school children living in the areas surrounding Narok. Our goals are to: 1) Conduct semi-structured interviews with these youth and important adults in their lives, 2) Leverage information obtained from those interviews to form a rich understanding of the ways such youth exhibit thriving, and 3) Generate one or more valid and reliable questionnaires useful for assessing youth thriving in a context-sensitive way. Our ultimate goals are to produce a publicly available measure useful for evaluating programs designed to serve one or more of these groups and to use this new measure as a means for highlighting the importance of context for measurement.

Dr. Geldhof and his team are collaborating closely with Dr. Onyiko (Maasai Mara University), Dr. Bowers (Clemson University), Dr. McQuillin (University of South Carolina), and Dr. Allen (Clemson University) on all aspects of the project except data collection. Dr. Onyiko and his team are solely responsible for collecting data on this project.

Additional project details

Science of Learning and Development: Methods and Measures Across the Development Continuum

PIs: Dr. Cantor (Turnaround for Children), Dr. Lerner (Tufts University), & Dr. Osher (American Institutes for Research)
Funder: Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative
Dr. Geldhof’s Role: Investigator; Member of the measure development team

Development unfolds through a complex interplay of factors that range from the biological to the ecological. This complexity does not allow all individuals to follow a universal developmental trajectory, much less a monotonic progression that can be easily captured using widely spaced (e.g., annual) assessment intervals. The purpose of this study is to enable developmental scientists to better acknowledge the complexity of development by creating new measures of key constructs (e.g., relationship skills, self-regulation, executive function) that are sensitive enough to capture moment-to-moment changes. We will then analyze these data by modeling critical multivariate associations in ways that acknowledge the uniqueness of each individual’s developmental trajectory (i.e., the idiographic nature of development). By providing this baseline, we hope to push developmental science to become a science of the individual rather than a science that largely assumes individuals can be summarized adequately using population-level models.  

Dr. Geldhof and his team are responsible for building the team’s collective capacity to apply cutting-edge statistical methods for analyzing intensive repeated measures data.

Additional project details

Creating a Relative Efficacy Map of Animal- and Horticultural-Based Interventions in a Complex Clinical Environment: A Pilot Study of Green Chimneys' Mental Health and Special Education Services Within a Positive Youth Development Framework

PI: Dr. Morris (University of Denver)
Funder: Green Chimneys
Dr. Geldhof’s Role: Investigator; Leader of the data analysis team

Animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) align with the Positive Youth Development framework by offering a variety of opportunities for youth to engage in reciprocal human-animal relationships that can elicit a range of social-emotional competencies. These competencies include attachment, moral development, perspective-taking, sense of responsibility, and social skills. AAIs often exist as components of complex learning and therapeutic environments that include multiple interventions and varied protocols for their implementation, but this embeddedness complicates efforts to examine the link between AAIs and key outcomes. In this project, we analyze intensive repeated measures data (i.e., coded videos) collected in classrooms prior to and after youth engage in AAIs. The results of these models will then form a Relative Efficacy Map that begins to detail the impact of different AAIs on critical classroom outcomes.

The Relative Efficacy Map will be developed at Green Chimneys, a residential treatment and special education school that represents a complex environment integrating a diverse range of AAIs. Green Chimneys uses a Positive Youth Development framework to support developmental health and academic competencies in youth with persistent psychosocial, educational, and developmental issues. Our long-term goal is therefore to expand the Relative Efficacy Map in ways that inform the relative impacts of each AAI among youth who present distinct profiles of co-morbidity.

Dr. Geldhof and his team provide methodological support for the project. Most importantly, they are responsible for analyzing data from video observations and youth surveys and drafting the relative efficacy map.

More about Green Chimneys

Boys Scouts of America National Character Initiative Phase 2 – Opening Up the Black Box: Uncovering the Role of Adults in Youth Character Development

PIs: Dr. Linver & Dr. Urban (Montclair State University)
Funder: Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
Dr. Geldhof’s Role: Investigator; Member of the data analysis team

Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America) is one of the largest youth development programs in the United States and provides a unique milieu in which youth-led troops are scaffolded by adult mentors. Each adult involved in Scouts BSA undergoes a mandatory set of trainings (depending on the adult’s role in a troop), but leaders enjoy the ability to attend additional non-required trainings that can increase their leadership capacities. Participation in these additional trainings likely translates into improved youth outcomes, yet this topic remains empirically unexplored. Through a combination of multilevel and mixture models, we aim to understand which profiles of adult experiences correlate with which positive outcomes among the youth in their respective troops.

Dr. Geldhof and his team help direct the overall research design, especially as it relates to analyzing data in ways that answer the grant’s core research questions. As data continues to become available, we are working with the team at Montclair State University to run and report the relevant analyses.

Additional project details

Thriving Out of Poverty: A Multi-National Longitudinal Study of the Compassion International Model of Promoting Positive Youth Development among Children Living in Poverty

PI: Dr. Lerner (Tufts University)
Funders: Compassion International; King Philanthropies
Dr. Geldhof’s Role: Investigator; Data analysis consultant

This project aims to understand the bases of thriving among some of the world’s poorest youth. More specifically, we examine youth participating in Compassion International’s child development programs in El Salvador, Rwanda, and a to-be-determined Asian country as well as counterfactual youth living in those same contexts. We aim to identify which aspects of Compassion International programming work in which ways with which children to promote which indicators of Positive Youth Development. In so doing, this work provides an important first step toward the use of longitudinal data for informing evidence-based approaches that can promote thriving among the world’s most vulnerable young people.

Dr. Geldhof and his team provide statistical support, especially as it relates to latent variable models and ensuring measurement invariance across contexts.

Additional project details


(Grant and Non-Grant Funded)