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L Alan Sroufe

Professor Emeritus
Ph.D., 1967, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Socioemotional development, developmental psychopathology.
Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation

My research involves the complementary study of normal and abnormal development. The basic strategy of that research is to define the salient developmental issues for each period, then trace normative pathways and delineate developmental deviations. The focus of my recent work is on prediction of adaptation in adulthood, including parenting, and the roots of psychopathology. The longitudinal approach allows study of continuity and change from infancy forward. (See the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children research lab.)

One emphasis has been to outline the progressive nature of relationship competence from early childhood to adulthood. Preschool children face the challenge of entry into the peer group and development of interactive skills. Beyond these, in middle childhood forming close same-gender friendships, coordinating these with functioning in the same-gender peer group, and maintenance of clear gender boundaries become important. Adolescents have the task of coordinating close friendships, same gender group functioning, cross-gender group functioning and cross-gender dyadic relationships. Adults bring these experiences plus early attachment history to the task of parenting.

The research articulates a general model of development and psychopathology where behavior is seen as a joint product of past history and current circumstances. Assessments of early experience and current contexts together always predict psychopathology better than either alone. Early experience does not directly or solely cause later problems, yet has a special role through framing of subsequent experience. Tests of this idea include showing that foundations add to current contexts in predicting pathology and that troubled children having positive early foundations are more likely to recover than troubled children who do not. The obverse case is also true. Children with histories of anxious attachment who are functioning well in middle childhood are more likely to have problems in adolescence or adulthood than are other well-functioning children.

Selected Publications

  1. Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E., & Collins, W. A. (2005). The Development of the Person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford Publications.

    Sroufe, L. A. (2005).Attachment and development: A prospective, longitudinal study from birth to adulthood, Attachment and Human Development, 7, 349-367.

    Sroufe, L. A. (2007). The place of development in developmental psychopathology. In A. Masten (Ed.), Multilevel dynamics in developmental psychopathology: pathways to the future. The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology, Vol. 34, (pp. 285-299). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Weinfield, N. S., Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., & Carlson, E. (2008). Individual differences in infant-caregiver attachment. . In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications, 2nd ed., (pp 78-101). New York: Guilford Press.

    Sroufe, L. A. (2009). The concept of development in developmental psychopathology. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 178-183.

    Kovan, N., Levy-Chung, A., & Sroufe, L. A. (2009). The Intergenerational Continuity of observed early parenting: A prospective, longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1205-1213.

  2. Sroufe, L. A., Coffino, B., & Carlson, E. (2010). Conceptualizing the role of early experience. Lessons from the Minnesota longitudinal study. Developmental Review, 30(1), 36-51.

    Sroufe, L. A., & McIntosh, J. ( 2011, July). Divorce and attachment relationships: The longitudinal journey. Family Court Review.

    Causadias, J. M., Sroufe, L. A., & Herreros, F. (2011). The establishment of an attachment research network in Latin America: Goals, accomplishments, and challenges. Attachment and Human Development, 13, 193-198.

    Supkoff, L., Puig, J., & Sroufe, L. A. (2012). Situating resilience in developmental context. In M. Ungar, The social ecology of resilience. New York: Springer.

    Sroufe, L. A. (2013). The promise of developmental psychopathology: past and present. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 1215-1224.

    Sroufe, L. A. (in press). The place of attachment in development. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications, 3rd ed. New York: Guilford Press.