Laurence Steinberg has made a lasting contribution to how the development of young people is understood by both scientists and politicians.
Laurence Steinberg once described his own childhood and youth as “disgustingly normal”. Today, Laurence Steinberg is regarded as one of the most distinguished experts in adolescent psychological development – an expert who has made a name for himself well beyond scientific and specialist circles.
During the course of his 30-year career in research and teaching, Professor Steinberg has made groundbreaking contributions to the scientific study of the development of young people. His research activity is not only extremely wide-ranging, but also exceptionally profound. Alongside basic research into cognitive, social and emotional development during adolescence, he has worked on the psychopathology of young people, on antisocial behavior and, more recently, on adolescent risk-taking and decision-making. His research is characterized by a highly interdisciplinary approach, with a particular focus on the dynamic interplay between biological, psychological and contextual factors.
For Laurence Steinberg, applied research with a clear relevance to policy and practice is equally as important as basic science. This perspective meant that studies of adolescent employment during the school year led to changes in US child labor legislation. The US Supreme Court quoted Steinberg several times in its decision to abolish the death penalty for young people. And current ongoing research into the link between brain development and risk-taking behavior aims to provide health care policy-makers with clear guidelines as to how dangerous behavior among adolescents can be reduced.
With the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2009, the Jacobs Foundation is rewarding Laurence Steinberg for his immense contribution to improving the life circumstances of young people and their families.