ASU Sanford School program ranked No. 9 in the world

Screen shot of website page listing top ten schools for family studies with ASU number nine.

ASU's Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics has ranked No. 9 in the world for family studies programs.


Arizona State University’s Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics has surpassed Harvard in the Center for World University Rankings on family studies programs, ranking ninth in the world.

The rankings are based on quality of education, student training, and the prestige of faculty and faculty members’ research.

The Sanford School also received high national rankings from the HDFS 2017 North American Rankings: sixth overall for family and human development, fifth in child development and second in adolescent development.

Meet some of the faculty members who helped make it possible.

Tracy Spinrad

As adults, we are constantly inundated with requests for giving, especially during the holidays. But which organizations do you choose to give to, and which ones get put on the back burner?

Spinrad is currently working with young children to try to answer how they make decisions about the recipients of their sharing and donating. Her research focuses primarily on children from 18 months to second grade. Many of her studies focus on the emotional development of children, such as how they choose to give (are they more inclined to give to people similar or different from them?) and how children’s emotions and ability to regulate those emotions develop over time.

She has contributed significantly to her field, and she continues to be excited for the next question in need of answering.

“One thing I’ve learned is that the more you know, the more you really don’t know," Spinrad said. "The most exciting thing about my work is that I get to think about interesting questions that will impact children’s lives — and then figure out the best way to answer those questions.”

Spinrad works with both undergraduate and graduate students and helps train them on how to collect longitudinal data, properly code children’s and parents’ reactions, and sift through rich data to develop research articles and present new findings. Read more.

Carlos Valiente

One of ASU's missions is to do work here to help better the community. Valiente's work has expanded the data regarding the extremely poor population in Ethiopia and helped improve the lives of those who live in extreme poverty.

This year, Valiente and his family returned from a collaborative project, called Project Hope, between ASU and Embracing Hope. The project involved moving Valiente, his wife and five children (ages 5–14) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for one year to develop teachers and training (including curriculum creation), support IT, and to raise the overall quality of services provided by Embracing Hope. In his time in Ethiopia, he was also able to work with 150 extremely poor women and children (preschool to second grade) and study how emotions and self-control relate to academic success. Valiente also wrote grants for the communities in Ethiopia to help provide much needed funding for education.

Valiente said it wasn’t easy for him and his family to adjust to life in Ethiopia, and the hardest parts were learning to remain safe while living in an unstable environment, dealing with sporadic internet access, and addressing the health challenges associated with living in Ethiopia. Read more.

Rebecca White

If you have ever been curious about the effects of culture, then look no further than the research of Rebecca White. White has spent a large portion of her research career studying the influence that different neighborhoods have on child development, specifically for Mexican and Latino adolescents in the U.S.

In a recent study, she examined outcomes such as ethnic identity development and dual-cultural adaptation on the development of psychological problems such as anxiety and depressive symptoms. She is trying to answer the question of how these different neighborhood circumstances affect behavior and character development.

White is also looking at whether bicultural competence is more advantageous to the psychological development of children and adolescents. She launched a research project on how marginalized communities support positive development and adaptation. Read more.

Natalie Wilkens

Why are some children emotionally and socially well-adjusted while others seem to struggle? This is the question Natalie Wilkens is looking to answer.

Wilkens is currently working on several ongoing research projects centering on the different aspects of childhood and adolescent social development and why some children develop adjustment problems such as social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and aggression. She is trying to answer the questions of what factors lead to social development problems and how we can potentially mitigate these issues.

Wilkens is also part of a large research team comprised of many different faculty from other top ten schools and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Program. In this project, she is researching the effects of a family member leaving their country of origin to work elsewhere on the social and emotional development of the children left behind.

This topic is largely understudied but important to many people worldwide. Wilkens said she hopes that the findings from this project will help to inform policy directed at protecting children and informational programs for families participating in migration. Read more.

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