Elizabeth Cauffman is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Science in the School of Social Ecology and holds courtesy appointments in the School of Education and the School of Law. Dr. Cauffman received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Temple University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center on Adolescence at Stanford University. At the broadest level, Dr. Cauffman’s research addresses the intersect between adolescent development and juvenile justice. She has published over 100 articles, chapters, and books on a range of topics in the study of contemporary adolescence, including adolescent brain development, risk-taking and decision-making, parent-adolescent relationships, and juvenile justice. Findings from Dr. Cauffman’s research were incorporated into the American Psychological Association’s amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty, and in both Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, which placed limits on the use of life without parole as a sentence for juveniles. As part of her larger efforts to help research inform practice and policy, she served as a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice as well as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on the Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Science of Adolescent Development and Its Applications. Dr. Cauffman currently directs the Center for Psychology & Law (http://psychlaw.soceco.uci.edu/) as well as the Masters in Legal & Forensic Psychology program (https://mlfp.soceco.uci.edu/) at UCI. To learn more about her research, please visit her Development, Disorder, and Delinquency lab website.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Legal and Social Policy
Social Ecology Professor of the Year (professional)
2014 University of California, Irvine
Chancellor’s Fellow (professional)
2012 University of California, Irvine
Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (professional)
2011 University of California, Irvine
Associated Graduate Students Mentoring Award (professional)
2010 University of California, Irvine
Temple University: PhD, Developmental Psychology 1996
University of California, Davis: BA, Psychology 1992
Minor in Human Development
- President-Elect of the Society for Research on Adolescence
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine : Member
- Society for Research on Adolescence : Executive Council
Media Appearances (4)
Commentary: Release nonviolent juvenile offenders from custody to protect them from COVID-19
Los Angeles Times online
Elizabeth Cauffman is a psychological science professor at UC Irvine. Laurence Steinberg is a psychology professor at Temple University.
UCI shatters research and philanthropic funding records
UCI News online
Funding from charitable foundations increased by 28 percent to $60 million in fiscal 2015-16. Among them, the MacArthur Foundation granted $1 million to Elizabeth Cauffman, professor of psychology & social behavior, for her Crossroads study, which looks at how the judicial system affects first-time offenders, and $1.625 million to the UC Humanities Research Institute to support the annual Digital Media & Learning Competition for the purpose of developing new technologies and understanding their implications for individuals and societies.
Searching for a Better Understanding of Youth Crime
Voice of OC online
Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman, the lead researcher on the Crossroads study and a professor of psychology and social behavior at UCI, spoke with us about some of the study’s early findings and why biology can change some of our assumptions about those who commit crimes.
Justice for kids
UCI News online
We’ve had a great relationship with UCI, especially with the School of Social Ecology. The research that Jodi Quas and Elizabeth Cauffman have been doing is powerful. It has helped educate a lot of our justice system partners and policymakers about utilizing evidence-based, empirical data to make decisions that have an impact on reducing recidivism, [improving community] safety and leading to better outcomes. It has helped the juvenile court identify at-risk youth, and it has affected how we intervene and, ultimately, how we create case plans for them.
Research Grants (3)
Young Adult Court: A New Approach to Justice
National Institute of Justice $783,000
1/1/2019 – 12/31/21
Crossroads: Formal vs. Informal Processing in the Juvenile Justice System
William T. Grant Foundation $598,937
7/1/2018 – 6/30/2020
Building a Young Adult Court in Orange County
UC Consortium on Adolescent Development $3,965
1/1/2018 – 6/30/2018
Do callous–unemotional traits moderate the effects of the juvenile justice system on later offending behavior?Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Emily L. Robertson, Paul J. Frick, James V. Ray, Laura C. Thornton, Tina D. Wall Myers, Laurence Steinberg, Elizabeth Cauffman
2020 Research suggests that callous–unemotional (CU) traits, a recent addition to psychiatric classification of serious conduct problems, may moderate the influence of a number of contextual factors (e.g., parenting, deviant peer influence) on an adolescent’s adjustment. The current study sought to replicate past research showing that formal processing through the juvenile justice system increases recidivism and tested the novel hypothesis that CU traits would moderate the relationship between processing decision and future antisocial behavior.
Youth Perceptions of Law Enforcement and Worry About Crime from 1976 to 2016Criminal Justice and Behavior
Adam D. Fine, Sachiko Donley, Caitlin Cavanagh, Elizabeth Cauffman
2020 Recent unjust interactions between law enforcement and youth of color may have provoked a “crisis” in American law enforcement. Utilizing Monitoring the Future’s data on distinct, cross-sectional cohorts of 12th graders from each year spanning 1976–2016, we examined whether youth perceptions of law enforcement have changed. We also traced youth worry about crime considering declining perceptions of law enforcement may correspond with increasing worry about crime.
Lesson learned? Mothers’ legal knowledge and juvenile rearrests.Law and Human Behavior
Cavanagh, C., Paruk, J., & Cauffman, E.
2020 Objective: The present study examined how mothers’ personal characteristics, experience with, and attitudes toward the juvenile justice system are associated with their knowledge of the juvenile justice system over time. Hypotheses: We hypothesized that additional exposure to the system (via sons’ rearrests) would be associated with greater legal knowledge. We predicted that White women, women with higher educational attainment, and women who had been arrested would experience greater gains in legal knowledge over time, relative to non-White women, women with lower educational attainment, and women who had not been arrested.
Does self-report of aggression after first arrest predict future offending and do the forms and functions of aggression matter?Psychological Assessment
Matlasz, T. M., Frick, P. J., Robertson, E. L., Ray, J. V., Thornton, L. C., Wall Myers, T. D., Steinberg, L., & Cauffman, E.
2020 The current study tested whether a self-report measure of aggression (i.e., the Peer Conflict Scale; PCS) would predict later delinquency, after controlling for other risk factors, and tested whether the different forms and functions of aggression contributed independently to this prediction. Self-report of aggression was assessed at the time of first arrest, and both self-report of delinquency and official arrests were assessed at 5 different time points over a 30-month follow-up period in a sample of male adolescent offenders (N = 1,216; Mage = 15.12, SD = 1.29 years) arrested in 3 regions (i.e., western, southern, northeast) of the United States.
Age-Graded Differences and Parental Influences on Adolescents’ Obligation to Obey the LawJournal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
Adam Fine, April Thomas, Benjamin van Rooij & Elizabeth Cauffman
2020 Legal socialization is the study of how individuals develop their attitudes towards the law and its authorities. While research on perceptions of legal authorities has increased, studies have not adequately examined developmental trends in youths’ obligation to obey the law in particular.