Dr. Susan Calkins, Departments of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
How do toddlers self-regulate? How do young children learn to regulate their physiological, attentional, emotional and behavioral responses to the world?
Dr. Susan Calkins wants to help children by studying how they manage their emotions and has spent decades in that pursuit. With degrees from Wellesley College, Harvard and the University of Maryland, this UNCG dual professor in the Departments of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies engages in multiple research projects. Awarded the Bank of America Excellence Professorship, Calkins has acquired an array of accolades – but most importantly, a supportive university community that values her vital work.
The Bank of America Excellence Professorship is a well-deserved award of esteem and support for Calkins’ work. She is on the executive board of the Child and Family Research Network, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a recipient of multiple Dean’s Merit Awards for Research and Teaching, as well as additional professional recognition. Calkins has edited two books on child development, including “The New Handbook of Infant Biopsychosocial Development,” and has written a plethora of professional articles and book chapters. She is currently engaged in four collaborative research projects, investigating aspects of early childhood development.
The Right Track Project is the focus of more than 20 years of Calkins’ career, entailing $8 million in RO1 large grant funding from the National Institutes of Health. Collaborating with UNCG Professor of Psychology, Dr. Susan Keane; UNC Chapel Hill Professor of Psychology, Dr. Lilly Shanahan; and the late Dr. Marion O’Brien, Professor Emerita at UNCG’s Department of HDFS, Calkins studied approximately 450 children from ages two to 17, observing how they reacted when challenged, and how emotional management skills evolved with development.
“Being able to manage emotions is critical for academic achievement, school readiness and mental health,” Calkins asserts.
Most children develop emotional management skills, but there is a small group of children who have a higher level of difficulty progressing beyond the “terrible twos” – a period in which a child’s early development is associated with difficult behavior. Calkins’ lab team studies activities children can use, including attentional focus to learn emotional regulation and self-control. Singing, counting or playing games can be effective tools for combatting frustration.
Managing emotions is essential to productive school, work and social relationships. Calkins’ research promotes the emotional health of the next generation, keeping them on the right track.
Story by Zoe Dillard, Donor Relations.
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