Home > Research > Canada Research Chairs > Canada Research Chair in Youth Development

Chairholder: Dr. Heather Lawford

Dr. Heather Lawford

“I Want to Change the World:” How (and Why) Young People Make Lasting Contributions*

What steers one young person to serve their community and another to engage in terrorism? Both paths leave very different legacies for the future—an idea that researchers refer to as “generativity.” Yet we know very little about how generativity develops before a person reaches midlife.

Dr. Heather Lawford, Canada Research Chair in Youth Development, examines the roots of generativity. She and her research team are studying young people who are leaving a lasting benefit to society through their exemplary actions.

Youth who have already connected to their generative motivations often enjoy a significant advantage as they prepare for adulthood. Therefore, we need to find ways to engage and motivate youth to behave as responsible and contributing citizens. For example, through the Prime Minister’s youth council, Canadian youth have a say on national policy issues such as education, the environment and gender equality.

By measuring generativity in youth, Lawford’s research will improve our knowledge of how youth express and deepen their commitment to generativity. It will also improve our capacity to understand generativity across the lifespan so we can better support generative development.

Ultimately, Lawford’s research could improve individual well-being and inform local and national program and policy recommendations. As a community and a nation, we all benefit by supporting youth in their generative development.

*This was taken from the Canada Research Chairs website. Dr. Heather Lawford, Canada Research Chair in Youth Development