Dr. Forthun's contact information:

Dr. Larry Forthun

Associate Professor
Human Development

I am an Associate Professor of Youth Development in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. My educational background is diverse with a B.S. in Psychology, a M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies with an interdisciplinary minor in adolescent risk taking. My appointment in the department is 60% teaching and 40% research.

My teaching responsibilities include both graduate and undergraduate courses that primarily focus onthe risky and problematic behaviors of youth, youth and family development, and prevention science. I believe that teaching and learning is an active developmental process. Students learn best in an environment that encourages active participation (e.g., engagement and intentionality) and is appropriate to their developmental level. I believe that building relationships with students helps them feel engaged in the educational process and helps them realize that they have a voice in their own education. I encourage this voice in the classroom through the solicitation of feedback on my teaching style, method, and content. I also strive to engage students and promote learning at an appropriate developmental level, assessing current skills and capabilities and designing challenging learning activities that are engaging, yet growth promoting. I regularly re-evaluate myself as an educator and use student feedback to create the most collaborative learning environment possible.

My research interests include both basic and applied research. My program of basic research examines the individual, family, and contextual risk and protective factors of adolescent and emerging adult risky and problematic behaviors. In my past research, I have studied a number of risk factors including sensation seeking (or thrill seeking), psychological well-being, managing emotions, parent attachment, parental substance abuse, peer attachment, and sibling relationships. More recently, I have explored one protective factor in-depth: identity formation. Much of this research uses a “person-centered” approach that classifies individuals into distinct identity profiles to better understand the linkage between identity formation and positive/negative developmental outcomes. My investigations have included a number of health-compromising behaviors including alcohol and other drug use, sexual deviance, antisocial behavior, problematic eating behaviors (e.g., dieting, excessive exercise), and internalizing problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, low self-worth).

My program of applied research concentrates primarily on prevention science. This line of research focuses on the evaluation of school and community-based programs to promote positive development among at-risk youth. In an early study, I assisted in the evaluation of an alternative education program serving minority, at-risk youth. In another evaluation study, I assisted a local school district with a study of Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI); an intervention that teaches school personnel how to appropriately respond to adolescents in crisis. My current research focuses on studying and evaluating community and school-based programs and activities to reduce problematic behaviors among adolescents and emerging adults including substance use, delinquency, sexual deviance, bullying, and mood problems. I am particularly interested in examining the developmental mechanisms that mediate program activities and program outcomes.