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Our work examines the way individuals or groups interact with each other by focusing on the social problems that arise in the course of these interactions, including aggressive behavior, prejudice, discrimination, intergroup conflict, political extremism, and bullying in schools.

This broad research objective is based on two fundamental principles:

1.) Human beings are social beings. Many, if not all, attitudes, beliefs, decisions, and behaviors are at least in part a result of the social context in which we are embedded and the specific social connections that we establish, maintain, or avoid.

2.) Human behaviour constantly changes. The role of early life influences, different age periods, and critical transitions matters during our development over the life course. For example, prejudice or bullying do not come out of nowhere, but they have a history; and likewise they do not change immediately, but it requires a sequence of changes over time, while considering age-specific differences across developmental periods.

Our research analyzes the larger social network that connects individuals together with the longitudinal mechanisms that underlie their development. In this way, we aim to gain a better understanding of how social relationships, or the lack thereof, form our behavior and vice versa in order to improve the explanation of human behavior, to refine theoretical models, and to optimize interventions that aim to reduce social problems in society.


Selected publications

Current Research Projects

Social Integration in Diverse Societies (ESRC funded)

This research project aims to further our understanding of early intergroup contact effects on social integration, psychosocial development, and active citizenship in diverse societies by exploring possibilities for increasing social integration between young people from different groups and identifying factors that explain how intergroup contact might foster a positive youth development. Following a social-developmental perspective we will study long-term contact effects, age-specific differences in contact effects, and the complex parallel development of contact experiences and social, emotional, and cognitive skills that is expected to have positive long-term effects for developing adolescents. Using a cohort-sequential design, our research includes two longitudinal three-wave surveys: a follow-up of participants that already provided data between 2010 and 2012 and are now entering young adulthood, as well as a new cohort of adolescents:

Current Project

Research Vacancies

Prospective graduate students and postdocs that are interested in applying to join our lab may contact Dr Ralf Wölfer (

Related research themes