University of Minnesota
After completing his PhD in 1977, Dante Cicchetti rapidly achieved international recognition by seeking to both understand and ameliorate the effects of child abuse on children’s development. His profound success in that endeavor has been recognized by numerous professional bodies and scholarly organizations.
Whereas most developmental psychologists concerned with the effects of child abuse adopt a vague conceptual framework in which child abuse, being negative, is expected to have negative effects on children, Cicchetti’s research focuses on developmental differences and formative processes. Cicchetti was intimately involved in articulation of the organizational approach to development early in his career, and this approach has allowed him to undertake a systematic research program that has profoundly advanced our understanding of how child abuse can derail developmental processes.
The theoretically driven nature of Cicchetti’s research is complemented by a recognition that the results of descriptive evaluative research need to be viewed in the context of approaches to intervention. Accordingly, Cicchetti and his colleagues have developed and tested many kinds of interventions whose impact can be systematically evaluated. Such research contributes to a growing understanding of how best to intervene with the large number of child-abuse victims, and it provides rigorous tests of theory-driven attempts to understand the effects of abuse.
Cicchetti’s research has included multiple levels of analysis (stress neurobiology and neuroscience), and for the last decade, his methods have included molecular genetic approaches as well. In this regard, too, Cicchetti has led the field into novel and richly productive avenues.
To further advance scholarship on developmental psychopathology, Cicchetti founded and edits the journal Development and Psychopathology, which is internationally recognized as the preeminent forum for a growing cadre of researchers who have applied Cicchetti’s organizational developmental perspective to the understanding of development and its susceptibility to adversity and challenge.
See Cicchetti’s award address presented at the 2014 APS Annual Convention in San Francisco.