Joseph Allen is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in working with adolescents. Joe has served as the Principal Investigator of the Kliff-Vida Project since its inception in 1998. He earned his B.A. in Psychology at the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology from Yale University. He worked in a Post-Doctoral Research Position at Harvard Medical school before returning to his Undergraduate alma mater as a professor, where he teaches classes at the Undergraduate and Graduate levels. Joe has published over 100 articles in journals such as Developmental Psychology, Child Development, and Journal of Abnormal Psychology. He has received numerous grants and awards and is known for inspiring students at all levels with the passion and care that he shows for his work and his colleagues.
One thing often lost in media coverage is that Charlottesville was selected for protests specifically because it was seen by white supremacists and the alt-right as a beacon of tolerance and respect for diversity. It was the City Council’s decision to move civil war memorials from their longstanding perches that sparked the protests. For a city of its size, Charlottesville is amazingly diverse. In addition to the broad population that the University attracts, we are enriched by being a designated refugee resettlement city. Over 40 languages are spoken in our public schools. Our city is far from perfect, and there is much still to do to reach our vision, but as we work on this together, we’re fortunate to live in a town that consistently appears on multiple “top ten” lists of best places to live in America.
Our first major project is an ongoing longitudinal study examining the influences of social relationships, autonomy, and attachments to parents as they predict development from adolescence into adulthood. We began collecting data from our sample in their adolescence in 1998 as the Kids, Lives, Families, Friends (KLIFF) Project and we are continuing 19 years later as the Virginia Institute for Development in Adulthood (VIDA). In our study, we are working to learn how adolescents are influenced by their parents, interact with their peers, and then go on to thrive (or struggle) in their relationships with romantic partners, peers, and in the workplace. We also want to understand what about the teenage years predicts future success - which we examine in terms of mental health and adjustment and physical health (e.g., immune functioning, cardiac risk factors, etc.). This study began with 184 early adolescents, with 97% still participating as of our most recent round of data collection.
We are also testing an intervention we developed to change the quality of adolescents’ peer relationships. We start from the recognition that, under the right conditions the adolescent world, rather than being a Darwinian struggle for survival, can be a source of support and encouragement. In groups from well-run summer camps, to theatre troupes, to wilderness experiences to retreats, under the right conditions, adolescents are willing to gradually open up to their peers and let down their guard. When peers can provide support and reciprocate, tight, life-changing bonds are often formed and endure. We have been working to identify and replicate critical ingredients in this process. The result is The Connection Project, a school-based program, based on cutting edge-research in the social sciences to enhance academic and life outcomes for at-risk teens. We are testing this both locally, and with funding from the William T. Grant Foundation, as a means to enhance the academic experience of marginalized groups in Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri.
VIDA Project, Department of Psychology, PO Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA, 22904
Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia