Research Areas

Children, Youth, and Families

The Children, Youth, and Families signature research area grew out of Columbia’s outstanding portfolio of research on all phases of the life course—from fetal development through early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, as well as on overarching family patterns and processes. A particular strength of our work is its developmental perspective, emphasizing the ways in which experiences at one phase of the life course set the stage for effects and transitions at subsequent stages. In addition, our work pays special attention to inequalities and to those who may be particularly at risk, including the poor and under-represented minorities. Finally, consistent with CPRC’s overarching themes, we seek to understand not only how healthy development can be realized, but also how it can be fostered through appropriate public policies.

Integrating research from faculty in the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of Social Work, and the School of Arts and Sciences, the work of the Children, Youth, and Families group covers a wide range of topics, including:
  • prenatal influences on child and adult development, focusing on mental health (Ezra Susser), as well as economic outcomes (Douglas Almond)
  • the long-run effects of early childhood conditions and experiences, including low birthweight, child abuse, exposure to toxins, and the role of programs such as Medicaid, WIC, and Head Start (Janet Currie)
  • the adverse impact of prenatal exposure to air pollutants and environmental hazards (Virginia Rauh)
  • the influence of family and neighborhood characteristics on child outcomes and the role of interventions such as IHDP and Early Head Start (Jeanne Brooks-Gunn)
  • work-family policies and child and family well-being (Jane Waldfogel and Wen-Jui Han)
  • teacher- and school-level influences on student achievement (Tom DiPrete)
  • identifying effective teachers (Jonah Rockoff)
  • the costs of inadequate education (Hank Levin)
  • household bargaining and family relationships (Pierre-Andre Chiappori)
  • the capabilities, relationships, and resources of unmarried couples with children and the effects of all these on child well-being (Irv Garfinkel, Ron Mincy)
  • fundamental causes of SES differentials in health and mortality (Bruce Link and Jo Phelan)
  • effects of welfare and child support policies on child and family well-being (Irv Garfinkel, Neeraj Kaushal, Ron Mincy, Jane Waldfogel)
  • effects on children of war and civil strife (Neil Boothby)

To see the full list of researchers active in the Children, Youth, and Families group, click here.


To ensure successful dialogue and collaboration amongst its multidisciplinary members, the Children, Youth, and Families group is co-convened by the following faculty from the School of Social Work, the Department of Economics, Teachers College, and, at the Mailman School of Public Health, the Department of Population and Family Health:

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Professor of Child Development and Education,

John Santelli, Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health and Department Chair,

Fred Ssewamala, Associate Professor of Social Work and International Affairs; Director, Columbia University International Center for Child Health and Asset Development,

Jane Waldfogel, Professor of Social Work,

Lena Edlund, Associate Professorof Economics,

Past Conferences

May 2011 - The group sponsored two events: "Comparative Child and Family Policy: A Conference in Honor of Dr. Sheila B. Kamerman" on May 12, 2011 and "Examining Gene-Environment Interactions in the Social Sciences" on May 20, 2011. Details and agendas can be found on our Past Events page.

May 2010 - The group presented a mini-conference on Disparities in Child Health and Development. Details can be found on our Past Events page.

May 2009 - The CPRC's Children, Youth, and Families signature research area group presented a mini-conference on The National Children's Study and Birth Cohort Research at Columbia. The goal of the conference was to bring together researchers working on birth cohort studies, and to highlight Columbia's prominent role in The National Children's Study, a new U.S. birth cohort study that will eventually enroll 100,000 children. To download the agenda, speaker bios, and presentations, go to our Past Events page.

May 2008 - The group convened a mini-conference around "Early Influences on Later Outcomes," the agenda for which is available here.

May 2007 - The group convened a mini-conference of Columbia University scholars conducting research in the Children, Youth, and Families area. The agenda, which featured presentations on prenatal influences, education policy, and issues in adolescence, can be found here.