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  • Ross Thompson

    Ross Thompson

    Distinguished Professor

        University of California, Davis
    Phone: 530.754.6663
    Office: 279 Young Hall


    Curriculum Vitae



    Lab Website

    Research Interests



    Ph.D., Psychology, University of Michigan, 1981

    M.A., Psychology, University of Michigan, 1979

    B.A., Psychology, Occidental College, magna cum laude, 1976



    Ross Thompson is distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and is director of the Social & Emotional Development Lab.  Dr. Thompson has served twice as associate editor of Child Development, was a Senior NIMH Fellow in Law and Psychology at Stanford University in 1989-90, and served on the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (1998-2000) and the Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8 (2013-15) of the National Research Council / Institute of Medicine.  His books include Preventing Child Maltreatment Through Social Support: A Critical Analysis (Sage, 1995), The Postdivorce Family (Sage, 1999), Toward a Child-Centered, Neighborhood-Based Child Protection System (Praeger, 2002), Socioemotional Development (Nebraska Symposium on Motivation; University of Nebraska Press, 1990), and Infant-Mother Attachment (Erlbaum, 1985), and he is currently working on Early Brain Development, the Media, and Public Policy


    Research Focus

    A developmental psychologist, Dr. Thompson studies early parent-child relationships, the development of emotion understanding and emotion regulation, conscience development, prosocial motivation and the growth of self-understanding in young children.  He is broadly concerned with the development of constructive social motivation early in life.  Recent studies have examined, for example, how the content and structure of early parent-child conversation shapes young children's developing understanding of emotion, morality, and self.  Dr. Thompson also works on the applications of developmental research to public policy concerns, including school readiness and its development, early childhood investments, child abuse prevention, families in divorce, and early mental health.  He has written in a large variety of public and policy forums about these topics.




    Dr. Thompson teaches in the area of developmental psychology. He currently  teaches courses in General Psychology, Social and Personality Development, a graduate course in Developmental Psychology: Social/Emotional/Personality and topical graduate courses on various issues related to social and personality development.



    Dr. Thompson received the UC Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2011, and the Ann Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research in 2007.  He has received the Boyd McCandless Award from the American Psychological Association, and the Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award from the University of Nebraska, where he was also a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers while a faculty member there.  He has been a Visiting Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, a Senior NIMH Fellow in Law and Psychology at Stanford University, and a Harris Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.