Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi have opened up new perspectives on the interplay between genetic disposition and environmental influences in the development of children. In 2002, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi published groundbreaking findings in the renowned journal Science regarding the complex interplay between genetic disposition and environmental influences in the development of antisocial behavior.
On the basis of data from a long-term study conducted in New Zealand, the two scientists were able to prove that the impact of genetic disposition is dependent on environmental influences. Men who were abused as children and who carried a specific version of the so-called MAOA gene exhibited a stronger tendency towards acts of violence. In contrast, men with a different version of the same gene were less likely to develop antisocial behavior, even when they had been abused as children.
This study acted as a catalyst for numerous further examinations of the interplay between genetic disposition and environmental factors. These British-Israeli researchers have thus dispelled the widespread belief in genetic determinism. They have been able to show how genetic effects on health and behavior are often dependent on environmental influences that are under human control.
This same focus also appears in other research areas of Moffitt and Caspi. They have developed a scientific classification of young offenders, illustrating that approximately 95 percent of all conspicuous criminological behavior remains restricted to adolescence and is thus treatable. Above and beyond this, they were also the first to provide evidence showing that around half of adults with psychological problems already had diagnosable disorders before they were 15 years old. It is therefore of great importance that programs for prevention and treatment are initiated in early childhood.
For their exceptional work, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi are awarded the Klaus J. Jacobs Prize 2010.
Every year, an international panel of eight experts elects a prize-winner with an excellent track record of achievement in the sciences.
Economist Professor Orazio P. Attanasio receives the 2016 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for his use of economic models and field experiments to assess and shape early child development programs and policies in low income countries.
Neurobiologist Michael Meaney, a McGill University professor and a senior fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, received the 2014 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in recognition of his ground-breaking achievements in child and youth development.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2013 honored Professor Greg J. Duncan of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Duncan has spent more than 30 years investigating the impact of poverty on children’s development. His research focuses primarily on issues of income distribution, poverty and child well-being. Trained as an economist, Duncan has always taken an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the complex dynamics of child and youth development, drawing on insights from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology, neuroscience and epidemiology.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2012 honored the leading international developmental and clinical psychologist Professor Dante Cicchetti. For more than 30 years, Cicchetti has been researching the results of child maltreatment and neglect as well as the conditions that lead to resilience, the psychological capacity to withstand difficult life conditions.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011 honored the developmental psychologist Professor Michael Tomasello. The principal results of Professor Michael Tomasello’s research are that even one-year-old children who cannot yet speak help and cooperate with other children. This behavior exists without any educational influence from adults.
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.