2020 James McKeen Cattell Fellow
Richard M. Lerner
Richard Lerner is one of the world’s leading developmental psychologists. His basic scientific contributions are surpassed only by his commitment to applying science to the real lives of children, families, and communities.
Lerner’s scholarly work (including over 80 authored and edited books) has largely focused on youth, a topic where he has offered a new vision of positive developmental processes—and a distinct departure from notions of adolescents as inherently difficult or deficient. His paradigm-shifting relational developmental systems theory holds that children, through their plastic developmental processes, have the capacity for positive growth. Incorporating biology, sociology, public policy, and psychological science, Lerner has spearheaded groundbreaking longitudinal mixed-methods research on the characteristics of families, communities, and institutions that contribute to positive youth development. His years of research show adolescents’ capacity for personal strengths, good family relationships, and positive social contributions.
In addition to conducting research, Lerner has served on dozens of national and international boards and committees where he applies his knowledge of human development to the work of government agencies and nonprofit organizations tasked with addressing social issues. Lerner’s legacy—one that includes both innovative research and outstanding leadership in social policy—has shaped a new wave of youth programs that focus not just on specific skill building, but also on opportunities for youth participation and leadership in their communities.
Lerner is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.