On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, Bishop’s University will officially announce the appointment of Dr. Heather Lawford, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychology, as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Youth Development. This event, which will be attended by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, and by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, will also include representatives of Students Commission Canada and of Minister Bibeau’s Youth Council.
What steers one young person to a life of beneficiary service to a community and another to engage in terrorism, presumably to defend a set of beliefs? Both paths represent very different legacies that young people are leaving for the future, an idea that researchers refer to as generativity. Yet, societally, we know very little about the developmental course of generativity before midlife. Dr. Heather Lawford, newly appointed Canada Research Chair in Youth Development, examines the developmental roots of generativity in the first youth-centered study of its kind. Dr. Lawford’s research program will include an in-depth study of young people who are exemplary in their actions to leave a lasting benefit to society. She will also develop the first measure of generativity in youth. Her research will contribute to an overall knowledge base of how youth express and deepen their commitment to generativity, enhance our capacity to understand generativity across the lifespan, and inform our efforts to facilitate generative development.
There is a need to engage and motivate youth to behave as responsible and contributing citizens, and this research is particularly relevant to that end. Youth who have already connected to their generative motivations often enjoy a significant advantage as they prepare for adulthood. In Canada today, youth inform national policy, through the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, where their voice is heard on issues such as education, environmentalism, and gender equality. Dr. Lawford’s research to date suggests that generativity plays a significant role in the development of youth purpose and overall thriving. As a community, we benefit by supporting youth in their generative development. Thus, implications of this research range from improving individual well-being to informing local and national organizations in terms of program and policy recommendations.