National Academy of Medicine Lecture Honoring Kenneth Dodge

Becoming More Benign, Competent, and Peaceful Creatures

March 23, 2016
3:00 PM-4:00 PM

Becoming More Benign, Competent, and Peaceful Creatures

Understanding the psychological mechanisms of aggression has the potential to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems among families, social groups, and nations. In this lecture, Kenneth Dodge discussed how his research has improved our understanding of the development and prevention of chronic violence in children and adolescents.

Dodge, recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine, has conducted both laboratory and longitudinal studies of how chronic aggressive behavior develops across the life span. His work has identified how biological and early family experience factors lead to a social-cognitive pattern that serves as a catalyst for development of aggressive behavior. This acquired pattern is one of overly defensive response to threatening events that includes perceptual readiness to attribute hostile intent to others, testosterone release, and heart rate hyperreactivity.

Using this knowledge, Dodge and colleagues have developed and tested a comprehensive intervention to prevent the development of chronic violence in high-risk children. The Fast Track intervention is designed to teach children to respond to provocation more calmly and to arm them with skills that help them interact successfully with others. A randomized controlled trial demonstrates that children can be equipped with these necessary skills and that doing so leads to better outcomes 20 years later, including fewer violent arrests and higher overall well-being and happiness.

With community partners, Dodge has developed Family Connects, which aims to surround parents of newborn infants with professional and social support and more benign ways of framing the task of parenting. Two randomized controlled trials and a field quasi-experiment show that this program improves parenting and prevents unnecessary emergency room visits. Dodge is now disseminating these programs and identifying ways to finance preventive interventions and to shape public policy toward more benign and peaceful outcomes.


Kenneth Dodge is the William McDougall Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, where he directs the Center for Child and Family Policy. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in October 2015.

Membership in the National Academy of Medicine is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service. New members are chosen based on their accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.

Dodge is trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist. He has published more than 500 scientific articles which have been cited more than 70,000 times. He has been honored with the Research Scientist Award from the National Institutes of Health, the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution from the American Psychological Association, the J.P. Scott Award for Lifetime Contribution to Aggression Research from the International Society for Research on Aggression, the Science to Practice Award from the Society for Prevention Research, and the Inaugural “Public Service Matters” Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration.