Clinical Psychology

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Core Scientific Areas

Consistent with our program principles and values, we have recruited highly productive faculty and students who exemplify these core principles and cluster within a limited, yet inter-related, set of scientific domains: developmental psychopathology, individual differences and personality, and biological bases of behavior. Emblematic of our focus on multi-level analysis, all of our faculty cut across at least two of these domains and also integrate the ecological context of behavior into their work.


Examples of these diversity and contextual variables include socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, traumatic events, family violence, and high-risk neighborhoods. Most of our faculty study populations across several developmental stages and have very active research programs that are significantly contributing to knowledge generation in clinical science.

Importantly, all of our faculty members place a high value on multi-disciplinary, research collaborations. Each faculty member collaborates with other faculty who are not clinical scientists. These collaborations include faculty in other areas of psychology (e.g., cognitive, social/personality) and from other disciplines, including neuroscience, genetics, epidemiology, human resources and labor relations, and psychiatry. Many clinical science faculty members have developed collaborations with scientists from other universities including the University of Michigan, Florida State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Wayne State University, University of Virginia, Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, Harvard University, and SUNY Stony Brook. Indeed, we have several current and pending grants with sub-contracts to many of these universities. Thus, cross-science and cross-disciplinary collaborations flourish in our program both through cultural attitudes towards multi-disciplinary work and through initiatives taken by our clinical science faculty.





Developmental Psychopathology

Research by several of our faculty utilizes the developmental psychopathology framework to understand the etiology of adaptive and maladaptive outcomes across the lifespan. Among our group, the developmental approach is applied to understand issues that cut across multiple forms of psychopathology and across the lifespan, such as: (1) dynamic processes underlying change in psychopathology and its causes over time; (2) the importance of developmental context (i.e., developmental transitions such as puberty and critical early environmental factors such as parent-child and peer relationships) for understanding the manifestation of and etiology of disorders; (3) how maturation of biological systems relate to the development of psychopathology; and (4) mapping normal developmental processes in the domains of emotion, temperament, and interpersonal behavior so as to better define patterns of abnormal development implicated in psychopathology.

This focus provides a key bridge to MSU’s Human Development Initiative which includes a number of international leaders in the area of developmental science who regularly collaborate with faculty and students from the clinical science program. A developmental psychopathology perspective also informs coursework and training related to both research and clinical work, as we emphasize students’ understanding of continuity and change of processes across development, methods for modeling longitudinal data, and the unique challenges of assessment and treatment for particular developmental periods.

For more information on research within this domain, please see the clinical science faculty web pages of G. Anne Bogat, Alexandra Burt, Emily Durbin, Christoper Hopwood, Brooke Ingersoll, Kelly Klump, and Alytia Levendosky.




Individual Differences and Personality

A core research focus in our clinical science program is on individual differences and personality traits that underlie and explain clinically relevant variation in human behavior. Researchers in this area apply quantitative modeling (e.g., factor analysis, latent class analysis, structural equation modeling, multilevel modeling, item response theory, dynamical systems analysis) coupled with multi-method assessments (e.g., behavioral observation/coding systems, biological assays, neurophysiological instruments, questionnaires, standardized interviews) to understand the implications of individual differences in personality, demography, attitudes, cognition, and emotion for psychopathology, antisocial behavior, functioning, interpersonal processes, harassment, coping, substance use, and treatment response, among other outcomes. Additional specific emphases include the analysis of stability and change in individual differences, basic issues in psychometrics, person-centered approaches to classifying individuals, and linkages between individual differences and biological, developmental, and social processes.

This focus provides a key bridge to the Social/Personality Program, which includes a number of international leaders in the area of basic personality science who regularly collaborate with faculty and students from the clinical science program. An individual differences framework also informs coursework and clinical training in the form of training emphases on diversity issues, applied assessment, and quantitative methods.

For more information on research within the individual differences and personality domain, please see the clinical science faculty web pages of, NiCole Buchanan, Alexandra Burt, Emily Durbin, Chrisopher Hopwood, Brooke Ingersoll, and Jason Moser.




Biological Basis of Behavior

Several clinical science faculty conduct research focusing on the extent to which genetic and neurobiological factors contribute to the development, maintenance, and course of behavior. Faculty in this research area use diverse and innovative study methods (e.g., psychophysiology, animal models, behavior genetic and epigenetic approaches, neuroendocrine challenges, cognitive neuroscience tools) to disentangle biological, psychological, and environmental processes in the manifestation of behavior across the lifespan and across the spectrum of pathology from normal to abnormal. A strong emphasis is placed on understanding how biological processes interact and influence psychosocial, environmental, and contextual risk factors to predict dysfunction.

The biological bases research focus provides key bridges to MSU’s Neuroscience Program and Cognitive Science Program which include a number of international leaders who regularly collaborate with faculty and students from the clinical science program. An integrative, biological bases framework also informs coursework and training related to both research and clinical work, as we emphasize students’ understanding of the biopsychosocial model and the ways in which diverse risk factors interact and coalesce in the manifestation of behavior across development and the spectrum of pathology.

For more information on research within the biological bases of behavior domain, please see the clinical science faculty web pages of Anne Bogat, Alexandra Burt, Kelly Klump, Alytia Levendosky, and Jason Moser.