Faculty Profiles

C. Cybele Raver

Professor of Applied Psychology

“Being able to study the forces that affect children’s development in the context of income, poverty, and inequality is really much aligned with my intellectual interests.”

C. Cybele Raver PhotographC. Cybele Raver, professor of applied psychology and director of Steinhardt’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change, is an ambassador for improving the educational opportunities of children, specifically facing social and economic disadvantages.

Raver’s academic interests spring from her early observations of human development. “ “The human organism is a fascinating system,” she says. “Child development offered me an opportunity to understand more of how human behavior, human cognition, and human emotion grow and change over time.”

Raver is engaged in multiple projects studying ways to improve children’s emotional and behavioral outcomes in school. “I am very fortunate to be able to work on a very large preschool randomized trial testing different models of intervention for children’s emotional and behavioral development with my colleague Pamela Morris and MDRC.”

Additionally, her research involvement in issues of poverty and inequality among disadvantaged children is reflected in CSRP, a federally funded randomized controlled trial that provides teacher training, coaching, and mental health consultation in Head Start preschools. Exposure to poverty related stressors places children at significantly elevated risk for behavioral and emotional difficulty. In addition, they have much lower access to mental health services. Raver explains, “They face what we call double jeopardy. CSRP gave me the opportunity to collaborate with a large number of community organizations to test innovative ways to support young children’s emotional and behavioral development, and to see whether investments in their development led to increased opportunities for learning.”

The initial results of the CSRP are encouraging: Children in the treatment group showed significantly fewer internalizing behavioral problems (such as sadness and withdrawal) and significantly fewer externalizing behavioral problems (such as aggression, disruption, and acting out). The results bode well for the children’s transition to school. 

Her dedication to her research and work in child development has earned her several awards, including the William T. Grant Faculty scholar award, and grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and, most recently, from the Spencer Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The last two grants support CSRP, enabling Raver and her co-investigators to follow the children from CSRP as they move from third to fifth grade. “We try to detect what the role of the school systems might be in influencing their trajectories.” Raver says, “We’re particularly interested in how children’s self regulation might be affected by the emotional climate of their schools.”

Raver encourages her current students to “find ways to pursue the questions that make them feel most excited, enthusiastic, and passionate, and to explore that by assisting faculty mentors on ongoing research projects.”

By Isabela Raygoza