Rebekah Levine Coley, a professor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College and chair of the school's department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology, is the inaugural recipient of the American Psychological Association’s E. Mavis Hetherington Award, which recognizes excellence in scholarship and contributions to applied developmental science.

The awardee, originally scheduled for an in-person acknowledgement and keynote at the APA’s 2020 annual meeting, will be saluted during the professional organization’s virtual convening on August 6-8. The Hetherington Award is one of two new honors within the APA’s Developmental Psychology Division 7.

Rebekah Levine Coley

Rebekah Levine Coley

According to the APA, the distinction recognizes developmental scientists whose work has not only advanced the science of developmental psychology, but also has helped to promote well-being of children, families, and groups or organizations.

“I still recall the experience of reading a Mavis Hetherington paper concerning family structure and adolescent development in my undergraduate developmental psychology class nearly 30 years ago,” wrote Coley in the APA’s Division 7 newsletter, Developmental Psychologist.  “I was struck by the relevance of this work for real people’s lives, for parents, educators and other professionals working with adolescents and for social and legal policies.”

Coley’s research, published in over 120 articles, chapters, and policy briefs, has been funded by U.S. and international government organizations and numerous foundations.  Her work has delved into issues related to poverty and economic inequality, family structure and parenting, housing and community contexts, and educational programs. As a leader in linking social science research to policy and practice, Coley seeks to translate research to broad audiences.

“Throughout my career, I have integrated an appreciation for the incremental building of basic scientific knowledge with a desire to unearth evidence and create insights that have a direct impact on real world issues and injustices,” she said. “Through both research and policy engagement, I seek to expand our field’s impact on children and families as well as on the social, political and legal systems that enhance and constrain their lives.”

Hetherington, a pioneer explorer of family dynamics, is a retired, University of Virginia psychology professor, and a leading researcher on the impact of divorce and remarriage on child development.  A Canadian native who has published more than 200 articles and edited 13 books, she also made significant contributions to research on childhood psychopathology, personality and social development, and stress and coping.

“We are thrilled that Rebekah Levine Coley has won the very competitive inaugural competition for the APA’s E. Mavis Hetherington Award,” said Stanton E.F. Wortham, the Charles F. Donovan dean of the Lynch School. “Professor Levine Coley has done extensive, high quality developmental science on crucial topics like welfare reform, father involvement, housing policy and adolescent substance. She has consistently developed the implications of her work for policy and practice, and she has been unusually active in disseminating her work to policymakers and practitioners in the real world.” 

With more than 121,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students as its members, the Washington, D.C.-based APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S.

Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | August 2020