JK Lifespan Development Lab

Faculty Director
Department of Psychology (MC 0435)
Williams Hall
890 Drillfield Drive
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 24060
Primary Phone
Mobile Phone

About Us


We study risk and protective factors that are related to children's and adolescents' physical and mental health using multiple levels of analysis from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual perspective. We examine neurobiological, cognitive, emotional, social, and religious/spiritual processes as risk and resilience factors for developmental psychopathology and health risk behaviors. We investigate long-term effects of stressful life experiences (including child maltreatment, poverty, peer victimization) focusing on self-regulation (cognitive control and emotion regulation), self-system and personality processes, social relationships, and religiousness/spirituality as protective factors for psychopathology and health risk behaviors among children, adolescents and young adults. Here is the list of our ongoing projects:

  • Behavioral, psychological, and neurobiological predictors of risk decision-making and health risk behaviors
  • Youths' healthy development study: Longitudinal study of religiousness as a protective mechanism for adolescent health risk behaviors
  • Risk and protective processes in child maltreatment
  • Personality development and psychopathology using the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development data




Jungmeen Kim-Spoon

Lab Manager:

Morgan Rader

Graduate Students:

Claudia Clinchard

Sahar Hafezi

Morgan Lindenmuth

Celina Myers

Undergraduate Research Assistants:

Kristen Glaser

Dina Masri


For more information, see our lab website here:  JK Lifespan Development Lab webpage

Participant Information

Directions to Williams Hall

Here are the Directions to Williams Hall.

Directions to Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

Click here for directions to FBRI.

Current Research Projects

From the JK Lifespan Development Lab director, Dr. Jungmeen Kim-Spoon:


Within a developmental psychopathology perspective (Cicchetti, 1993), the development of psychopathology is viewed as unfolding along different developmental pathways among different individuals. Thus, it is expected that relevant causal processes vary among individuals who show the same pattern of disorders (i.e., equifinality), and that there is heterogeneity in the expression of disorders (i.e., multifinality). Therefore, it is important that different psychopathological outcomes are investigated simultaneously. 

From the developmental psychopathology framework, my research program focuses on developmental processes that mediate and/or moderate the long-term effects of stressful life experiences (such as child maltreatment) on the trajectories of psychopathology and resilient functioning. The research thereby makes important theoretical contributions to the understanding of the heterogeneity (e.g., multifinality) in the developmental outcomes resulting from earlier traumatic experiences and provides implications for prevention and intervention efforts. 

Methodologically, my research program incorporates multiple levels of analysis, from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual perspective, including behavioral, cognitive, emotional, neurobiological, and spiritual aspects of developmental processes. Statistically, my approach has stressed applying structural equation modeling (SEM) to study developmental changes and stability. My work is based on the premise that studying interindividual differences (differences among different individuals) in intraindividual variability (within-individual changes over time) is critical to obtaining a fuller understanding of human development. Accordingly, most of my research has utilized advanced statistical techniques for longitudinal analysis including SEM, latent growth modeling, growth mixture modeling, latent interaction modeling, and latent difference score modeling.

Our Research Projects:


Neurobehavioral determinants of health risk behaviors: From adolescence to young adulthood

This study is a continuation of the Neurobehavioral Determinants of Adolescent Risk Decision Making and Health Risk Behaviors in collaboration with Dr. Brooks Casas's lab and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The purpose of the study is to examine dynamic interactions between developmental trajectories of neural mechanisms that predict health risk behaviors in young adulthood and contextual influences on these mechanisms. -- Data collection currently ongoing; data analysis and scientific reports actively ongoing

Neurobehavioral determinants of adolescent risk decision making and health risk behaviors

Recent research in developmental neuroscience suggests that risk-taking in adolescence may be derived from differing developmental trajectories of two distinct neural systems that regulate risky decisions: (i) early maturation of a reward system that biases decisions toward high-reward options, combined with (ii) late maturation of a cognitive control system that biases decisions away from options with potential negative consequences. Yet, we know very little about how  reward and control neural systems develop and jointly contribute to differential vulnerability to poor decision-making that leads to adverse health outcomes. In collaboration with Dr. Brooks Casas's lab and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we are conducting a longitudinal study to examine how individual differences in developmental trajectories of reward/risk sensitivity and cognitive control are related to the development of adolescent health risk behaviors. -- Data analysis and scientific reports actively ongoing

Youths' healthy development study: Longitudinal study of religiousness as a protective mechanism for adolescent health risk behaviors

This is a 3-wave longitudinal study of adolescents that was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the department of psychology. The goal of this study is to identify personality and social relationship factors that may prevent adolescents from developing psychopathology and unhealthy behaviors, thus eventually promoting adolescents' healthy physical and psychological development. In collaboration with Dr. Michael McCullough at University of Miami, we have studied how adolescent religiousness and spirituality influence self-regulation development, psychological maladjustment (such as depressive symptoms and anxiety), and health-risk behaviors (such as smoking, drinking, and other substance use). - Data available for scientific reports  

Risk and protective processes in child maltreatment

This is a longitudinal study of maltreated school-age children that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) when Dr. Kim-Spoon was working with identifying emotional processes (e.g., reactivity and emotion regulation), personality processes (e.g., ego-control and ego-resilience), and self-system processes (e.g., self-efficacy, perceived competence, and self-esteem) that may ameliorate the negative effects of child maltreatment on the development of psychopathology. - Data available for scientific reports


Select Publications and Presentations

See our lab website here:  JK Lifespan Development Lab webpage (https://jklifespan.wixsite.com/jklifespanlab)

Join Us

Interested Undergrads

Are you an undergraduate interested in assisting with our research?

Email us at lifespan@vt.edu with attachments including 1) a curriculum vitae that includes your GPA, relevant courses, and any research or work experience you have, 2) unofficial transcript, and 3) two names of references and their contact information (those who know you through academic work such as research or classes are preferred).


Interested in joining the lab as a graduate student?

We are recruiting potential graduate students for the 2025 academic year (application deadline: December 1st). 

See the following websites for application process:

Psychology department grad admissions and application procedures and Developmental science area:

Virginia Tech Psychology Admissions and Funding

Virginia Tech Psychology Application Procedures

Developmental Science Area

For further questions, contact Dr. Jungmeen Kim-Spoon (jungmeen@vt.edu)

For questions about the graduate student experience or lab culture, contact our graduate students:

Morgan Lindenmuth (lindenmuthmb@vt.edu)

Claudia Clinchard (cclinchard2@vt.edu)