Research Focus Areas

The Center’s work has led to a wide-array of groundbreaking research and the development of programs for children and families.

Early Childhood and Child Well-being


Birth to age 8 is a critical period of brain development that sets the stage for future success in school and life.

In 2008, founding Center Director Kenneth Dodge and community partners launched Durham Connects, a universal nurse home visiting program for the families of newborns to bridge the gap between parents and community resources.

The program has been studied in two rigorous randomized controlled trials, the results of which have been published in highly-regarded journals including Pediatrics and the American Journal of Public Health. Families that participated in the program were found to have better community connections and parenting behaviors, use higher quality child care and a reduction in the need for emergency medical care for infants.

Today, the program is being replicated nationwide as the Family Connects program.

The Center has several other research efforts dedicated to early childhood. The Early Childhood Initiative, led by Anna Gassman-Pines, brings together scholars at Duke to find solutions to early childhood challenges.

Faculty at the Center have also done extensive research on the long-term outcomes of North Carolina’s investment in Smart Start and NC Pre-K. They have found that students who participated in the program have higher test scores, less grade retention and fewer special education placements through fifth grade.

Christina Christopoulos, Duke UniversityCenter research scholars Katie Rosanbalm and Christina Christopoulos are leading a project to train preschool teachers to use the Incredible Years curriculum to help preschoolers develop strong social-emotional skills and to help teachers improve classroom management. They’ll then evaluate the outcomes in a randomized trial.

Education Policy

The Center’s faculty have worked on projects looking at a variety of issues affecting education, including school truancy, charter schools, teacher training and education reform efforts.

Housed within the Center, the North Carolina Education Research Data Center provides researchers and the broader policy community with access to data for policy-oriented research. Data are available to eligible researchers from academic institutions and non-profit research organizations to carry out studies that are feasible using NCERDC data and that are relevant to education policy in North Carolina.

The Durham Children’s Data Center was established in January 2015. The DCDC collaborates with Durham community leaders to identify important public policy questions for the community, determine the data that can be examined to answer those questions and complete research briefs for community leaders.


Nearly half of U.S. students have used an illicit drug by 12 And each year, alcohol-related incidents kill some 5,000 young people and send nearly 200,000 to the emergency room, according to federal statistics. The Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience (C-StARR) hopes to shed light on the deadly problem of teen substance abuse with the aid of a five-year, $6.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). C-StARR focuses on the biology and behavior behind teen drinking and drug use, emphasizing the relationship between self-regulation and substance use in the high school years. Among other projects, C-StARR scholars are using brain imaging data to enhance existing behavioral research efforts. Principal Investigators: Rick Hoyle, Kenneth Dodge, E. Jane Costello. Project Website

More Research on Adolescence