Dr. Wray-Lake’s research is grounded in lifespan developmental theory and draws from multiple disciplines to understand optimal social development among youth. A driving question of her research is how and why individuals become engaged in society. Thus, her research is centrally focused on youth civic engagement.
Civic engagement consists of behaviors, values, knowledge, and skills that comprise political and prosocial contributions to community and society. Wray-Lake’s research documents patterns of developmental change in civic engagement across adolescence and young adulthood. Findings are showing that developmental trajectories vary across individuals and differ by type of civic engagement. A primary interest is identifying how relationships and experiences in everyday contexts such as families, schools, and neighborhoods foster growth in youth civic engagement. She is interested in examining mechanisms that explain socioeconomic inequalities and understanding ethnic and cultural differences in youth civic engagement. Dr. Wray-Lake also conceptualizes civic engagement as a malleable lever that can promote youth thriving, and has interests in linking civic engagement to socioemotional competencies and psychological well-being. Her program of research uses mixed methodologies and has both conceptual and applied implications.
Dr. Wray-Lake received her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from the Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in Psychology from Bucknell University, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wake Forest University.
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
The Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project: This project is a five-year longitudinal study of civic development spanning childhood and adolescence, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Aaron Metzger at West Virginia University and Dr. Amy Syvertsen at Search Institute. With these data, we will newly document patterns of age-related change in multiple types of civic engagement. Longitudinal analyses aim to identify different contextual supports that promote civic engagement among elementary, middle, and high school youth. We are also investigating bidirectional associations between civic engagement and socioemotional competencies as they unfold over time. We conduct this research in school settings with valuable school partners in California, Minnesota, and West Virginia. For information and updates, visit our project website: www.civicroots.org.
Civic Engagement across the Transition to Adulthood: Funded by the Spencer Foundation, this project examines developmental, contextual, and historical effects of civic engagement across ages 18 to 30. Using nationally representative longitudinal cohort sequential data from Monitoring the Future, we aim to: (1) describe complex, meaningful patterns of developmental change in multiple forms of civic engagement (i.e., social responsibility, volunteering, political actions), (2) identify experiences in high school and across young adulthood that predict developmental change in civic engagement, and (3) investigate variations in developmental patterns and correlates of civic engagement across social groups (e.g., socioeconomic status, ethnicity) and three decades of historical cohorts. Findings are expected to inform applied research and policy efforts to improve civic education during the transition to adulthood.
Youth Voice Study: Youth in urban contexts are vastly under-researched, particularly in terms of their civic engagement. This study aims to understand the factors that motivate, facilitate, and empower youth to engage in their communities and address social issues as well as the obstacles to empowerment and contributors to disengagement among urban youth. We conducted one-on-one interviews with 90 urban and primarily ethnic minority youth. Hearing from youth in their own voices will jumpstart new thinking to invigorate this field of research and shed more light on the ways that communities can support youth’s authentic contributions to their community.
Wray-Lake, L., Metzger, A., & Syvertsen A.K. (2016). Testing multidimensional models of youth civic engagement: Model comparisons, measurement invariance, and age differences. Applied Developmental Science.
Wray-Lake, L., Syvertsen, A.K., & Flanagan, C.A. (2016). Developmental change in social responsibility during adolescence: An ecological perspective. Developmental Psychology, 52(1), 130-142.
Wray-Lake, L., Rote, W., Gupta, T., Godfrey, E., & Sirin, S. (2015). Examining correlates of civic engagement among immigrant adolescents. Research on Human Development. 12(1-2), 10-27.
Wray-Lake, L., & Sloper, M. (2015). Youth civic engagement and the role of experiences across contexts. Applied Developmental Science.
Wray-Lake, L., Rote, W., Victorino, C., & Benavides, C.M. (2014). Examining developmental transitions in civic engagement across adolescence: Evidence from a national U.S. sample. International Journal of Developmental Science, 8, 95-104.
Wray-Lake, L., & Flanagan, C. A. (2012). Parenting practices and the development of adolescents’ social trust. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 549-560.
Wray-Lake, L., Flanagan, C. A., & Maggs, J. L. (2012). Socialization in context: Exploring longitudinal correlates of mothers’ value messages of compassion and caution. Developmental Psychology, 48(1), 250-256. doi:10.1037/a0026083
Wray-Lake, L., & Hart, D. (2012). Growing social inequalities in youth civic engagement? Evidence from the National Election Study. PS: Political Science and Politics, 45, 456-461.
Wray-Lake, L., Maggs, J. L., Bachman, J., Johnston, L., O’Malley, P., & Schulenberg, J. 2012). Associations between community attachments and adolescent substance use in nationally representative samples. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 325-331.