Research

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We believe that progress in promoting human health and wellbeing will be best achieved by working in partnership with other scientists, mental health clinicians, educators, healthcare professionals, and community leaders.

Our work is broad in scope, from basic research to understand the causes of human behavior, to applied research to develop programs to promote behavior change. The scientists and their interests drive our research program. ORI’s current work is grouped into four research categories. There is much collaboration across research areas as scientists share their expertise with one another.

Areas of Research

Promoting Healthy Child Development

This is ORI’s largest research area. Researchers in this area examine the role that families, schools, friends, neighborhoods, and communities play in promoting the positive development of children, teens, and young adults. The research teams study what leads to social and academic success as well as what leads to problem behaviors, such as substance use and school failure. ORI scientists work with schools and parents to refine and adapt evidence-based programs such as literacy strengthening, social skills programs, and parent training programs.

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Promoting Physical Health

ORI researchers are studying ways to keep people of all ages physically healthy. ORI’s work in chronic illness prevention began in the 1980’s with research to find ways to help people with diabetes manage their illness. The study and promotion of physical activity began in the 1990s with important longitudinal research on the factors which influence children and youth to become and remain physically active and with important clinical trials of the benefits of Tai Chi exercise for the elderly.

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Promoting Psychological Health

ORI scientists study emotional and behavioral disorders as well as normative development and personality, in order to better understand factors that make people vulnerable to serious mental health disorders as well as factors that increase resilience, that is, that help people cope with daily challenges. An important component of research in this area is developing and evaluating interventions for the prevention and treatment of disorders.

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Preventing and Treating Tobacco, Alcohol, Illegal Drug Use, and Related Problems

ORI’s work in this area dates from research funding obtained in the late 1970’s to study tobacco use in young people. Since then, research interests have broadened to include research on the prevention of alcohol and other drug use among youth. Two important ORI longitudinal studies – one on peer and family influences on youth drug use, and the other on young children’s knowledge of and intent to use alcohol and drugs -- have provided valuable guidance in the development of substance abuse prevention programs.

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