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Leslie Leve - University of Oregon. Eugene, OR, US

Leslie Leve

Associate Vice President for Research | University of Oregon

Eugene, OR, United-States

Expert in adoption, foster care, child abuse, interventions and outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.






Nature, Nurture and Childhood Obesity




Leslie Leve is an expert in adoption, foster care, child abuse, interventions and outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system, child development and teen girls. At the University of Oregon, Leslie is a professor in the Counseling Psychology and Human Services Department and the associate director for the Prevention Science Institute. She is currently working on a national study about the genetic and environmental influences on child health (ECHO). She can also speak to the problem of “re-homing” of adopted children, teen girls, and topics related to foster care and maltreatment.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Adoption Foster Care Child Abuse Interventions and outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system Child Development Teen Girls Juvenile Justice System Re-homing

Accomplishments (4)

Fund for Faculty Excellence Award (professional)


Number 8 top downloaded paper from Child Development Perspectives (professional)

Article: Tang, Y. Y., Yang, L., Leve, L. D., & Harold, G. T. (2012). Improving executive function and its neurobiological mechanisms through a mindfulness-based intervention: Advances within the field of developmental neuroscience. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 361–366. PMC: 4238887

Prevention Science Award, Society for Prevention Research (professional)


Society for Research in Child Development Award (professional)


Media Appearances (9)

More effort needs to be on drug prevention, not cure

The Hill  online


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that it is ending the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) and replacing it with an as-yet undefined effort to be administered by SAMHSA’s newly created Policy Lab.

We hope that this development will advance our nation’s efforts to prevent and treat substance abuse and mental illness. As behavioral scientists who have been working on these efforts for the past forty years, we highlight below some critical steps that are needed for this change to truly improve Americans’ health.

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Rural Poor Need Better Access to Healthy Food

The Register-Guard  


Imagine you’re living in a small Oregon town with $10 to feed your family of four. Your options are limited to burgers from the local fast-food chain or snack food from the corner convenience store. Either way, you can’t win.

It’s tempting to blame others for their own poor food choices, but in many rural Oregon communities, fresh, local ingredients either don’t exist or are too expensive for many families. Left with limited choices, parents are sometimes forced to choose cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods tied to obesity, reduced cardiac function and many other health problems...

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cUriOus: Research Meets Radio

Jefferson Public Radio  


This month we visit with Leslie Leve from UO's Counseling Psychology and Human Services Department. She updates us on the University's Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, UO's $1 billion initiative fueled by the Knights' $500 million gift last fall. Dr. Leve will talk about her own research and how the Knight Campus' approach will help...

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Open Opportunities to do cCollaborative Research

American Psychological Association  


Leslie Leve, PhD, who trained as a developmental psychologist and is now a professor in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, is also beginning to reap the benefits of transdisciplinary research, thanks to her work with Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). Launched in 2016 with $157 million in awards, the seven-year initiative will study the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development...

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The Connections Between Spanking and Aggression

New York Times  online


This article discusses the connections between spanking children and how it might impact a child's future aggression.

"Leslie Leve, a professor of counseling psychology and human services at the University of Oregon College of Education, said that it was possible there were genetic predispositions toward aggressive behavior, which might affect both parents and children. 'There is a common misperception that when people think of a behavior as ‘genetic’ that it’s not changeable, and that is not true,' Dr. Leve said. 'With A.D.H.D. or aggression we know there is a genetic component, but there is a lot we can do in a family or educational environment. Genetics does not mean immutable.'

Dr. Leve has participated in studies of adopted infants, which can help tease out these effects, but which also show how complex the interactions are, with harsh parental responses affected by the child’s characteristics but also by factors in their own temperaments and their marriage."

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ANOTHER Reason for Stressed Parents to Fear the 'terrible Twos': a Screaming Toddler Could Be on Their Way to a Life of Crime

Daily Mail  online


"Career criminals begin their antisocial behaviour during their toddler years and may go on to a life of crime if their behaviour isn't challenged, scientists have discovered.

While most children grow out of their bad behaviour by adulthood, a study found those who engaged in 'callous unemotional traits' could grow up to have problems with the law later in life.

Behaviour traits such as a lack of empathy and emotion and lying in childhood could have an impact years on.
'The really exciting take-home message from this study is that small, day-to-day positive interactions that parents have with their young children can make a huge difference in children's development,' said Leslie Leve, a professor at the University of Oregon who co-led data collection.

'Even when a child has inherited a very challenging set of behaviours, hearing 'good job' or receiving a pat on the back can help protect that child from developing serious problems stemming from their inherited difficulties,' he added [sic]."

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Adopted Preschoolers Show More Empathy When Parents Are Affectionate

HealthCanal  online


Without that parental affection, children may become aggressive and break the rules without feeling guilty as they grow older and enter grade school, U-M researchers say.

The study by U-M psychologists Rebecca Waller, Luke Hyde and colleagues found that, as early as age 3, children can be identified as having callous and emotional behaviors—putting them at higher risk for more severe behavioral problems in the late elementary school years. These kids also showed little guilt about their misbehavior and delayed moral development.

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Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy Linked to Children’s Behavior Problems, NIH Funded Study Shows

National Institute of Health  online


In this research conversation, NICHD's Dr. James Griffin talks with grantee Dr. Leslie Leve on her study, which found a strong association between a mother's smoking during pregnancy and the chances that her child would have behavioral problems in school.

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When Adoptees Know Their Biological Mother

NPR  online


Every year, more families are undergoing "open adoptions," meaning children remain in contact with their birth mothers after joining their new families. Findings published in the Journal of Family Psychology this month confirm that open adoptions are changing the definition of "family" for adoptees and their loved ones.

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Articles (5)

How can genetically-informed research help inform the next generation of interparental and parenting interventions? Child Development


There is robust evidence that the interparental relationship and parenting behaviors each have a significant influence on children's risk for emotional (internalizing) and behavioral (externalizing) problems. Indeed, interventions targeting the interparental relationship and parenting processes show significant intervention-related reductions in child internalizing and externalizing problems. However, most evidence-based parenting- and couple-focused interventions result in small to medium effects on children's emotional and behavior problems. It is proposed that there is opportunity to improve upon these interventions through incorporation of knowledge from quantitative genetic research. Three core recommendations are provided for practitioners engaging in intervention work with children and families. These recommendations are contextualized relative to what quantitative genetic studies can tell us about the role of the interparental relationship and parenting behaviors on child outcomes.

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Heritable temperament pathways to early callous-unemotional behavior The British Journal of Psychiatry


Background: Early callous–unemotional behaviours identify children at risk for antisocial behaviour. Recent work suggests that the high heritability of callous–unemotional behaviours is qualified by interactions with positive parenting.

Aims: To examine whether heritable temperament dimensions of fearlessness and low affiliative behaviour are associated with early callous–unemotional behaviours and whether parenting moderates these associations.

Method: Using an adoption sample (n = 561), we examined pathways from biological mother self-reported fearlessness and affiliative behaviour to child callous–unemotional behaviours via observed child fearlessness and affiliative behaviour, and whether adoptive parent observed positive parenting moderated pathways.

Results: Biological mother fearlessness predicted child callous–unemotional behaviours via earlier child fearlessness. Biological mother low affiliative behaviour predicted child callous–unemotional behaviours, although not via child affiliative behaviours. Adoptive mother positive parenting moderated the fearlessness to callous–unemotional behaviour pathway.

Conclusions: Heritable fearlessness and low interpersonal affiliation traits contribute to the development of callous–unemotional behaviours. Positive parenting can buffer these risky pathways.

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Birth and adoptive parent antisocial behavior and parenting: A study of evocative gene- environment correlation Child Development


Negative parenting is shaped by the genetically influenced characteristics of children (via evocative rGE) and by parental antisocial behavior; however, it is unclear how these factors jointly impact parenting. This study examined the effects of birth parent and adoptive parent antisocial behavior on negative parenting. Participants included 546 families within a prospective adoption study. Adoptive parent antisocial behavior emerged as a small but significant predictor of negative parenting at 18 months and of change in parenting from 18 to 27 months. Birth parent antisocial behavior predicted change in adoptive father's (but not mother's) parenting over time. These findings highlight the role of parent characteristics and suggest that evocative rGE effects on parenting may be small in magnitude in early childhood.

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Risks, outcomes, and evidence-based interventions for girls in the US juvenile justice system Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review


The proportion of the juvenile justice population that comprises females is increasing, yet few evidence-based models have been evaluated and implemented with girls in the juvenile justice system. Although much is known about the risk and protective factors for girls who participate in serious delinquency, significant gaps in the research base hamper the development and implementation of theoretically based intervention approaches. In this review, we first summarize the extant empirical work about the predictors and sequelae of juvenile justice involvement for girls. Identified risk and protective factors that correspond to girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system have been shown to largely parallel those of boys, although exposure rates and magnitudes of association sometimes differ by sex. Second, we summarize findings from empirically validated, evidence-based interventions for juvenile justice-involved youths that have been tested with girls. The interventions include Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, and Treatment Foster Care Oregon (formerly known as Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care). We conclude that existing evidence-based practices appear to be effective for girls. However, few studies have been sufficiently designed to permit conclusions about whether sex-specific interventions would yield any better outcomes for girls than would interventions that already exist for both sexes and that have a strong base of evidence to support them. Third, we propose recommendations for feasible, cost-efficient next steps to advance the research and intervention agendas for this under-researched and underserved population of highly vulnerable youths.

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Practitioner review: Children in foster care--vulnerabilities and evidence-based interventions that promote resilience processes The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry


An increasing number of children are placed in foster care (i.e., a kin or nonkin family home other than the biological parent) due to experiences of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse, and/or neglect. Children in foster care are at increased risk for a host of negative outcomes encompassing emotional, behavioral, neurobiological, and social realms.

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