University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Norton School to Host Conference on Evolution of Risk Behaviors in Adolescents

The Frances McClelland Institute is pairing with the Evolution Institute to explore the role of evolutionary theory in guiding solutions for high-risk behaviors.

The Evolution Institute and the University of Arizona's Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families are co-hosting an invitation-only workshop at the UA from Oct. 30–Nov. 2. The workshop features world-renowned scholars who will apply evolutionary theory to the development of practical solutions for high-risk adolescent behaviors plaguing Western societies.

The workshop, "Adolescent Risk Behaviors: The Need for an Evolutionary Analysis," will address why adolescents are susceptible to a range of risky behaviors such as drug abuse, gang membership, competition for status and respect and teen pregnancy that take a toll on them, their families and communities, according to Bruce J. Ellis, the Norton Endowed Chair of Fathers, Parenting and Families at the McClelland Institute.

Participants will share their findings with southern Arizona community, health and business leaders in a public roundtable discussion at the end of the workshop. That forum will take place on Monday, Nov. 2, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Marriott University Park, 880 E. Second St. in Tucson.

"Society's usual response to such behaviors is to assume that they're the outcome of harsh social environments children have encountered during their formative years," said Ellis, who is the event organizer. "But that's not always the case. By applying our knowledge of evolutionary theory we can present alternative perspectives and shape solutions that can begin to prevent or reduce such harmful behaviors."

The Frances McClelland Institute, is a catalyst for research that addresses the most critical social, emotional and physical issues facing families today. It focuses on collaborative, multidisciplinary research and community outreach in three areas:

·         fathers, parenting and families;

·         adolescent health and development; and

·         health, emotion and relationships.

"Our mission dovetails nicely with the Evolution Institute's goal of solving real-world problems with knowledge gained through a study of evolutionary science," said Stephen T. Russell, a UA professor and director of the Frances McClelland Institute. "We're confident that participant recommendations will help reduce the pervasiveness of these self-destructive and costly problems facing our communities."

Workshop participants include Jay Belsky, Birkbeck College, London; Anthony Biglan, Oregon Research Institute, Eugene; Ronald Dahl, University of Pittsburgh; Jacquelynne Eccles, University of Michigan; Bruce Ellis, the UA; Dennis Embry, PAXIS Institute, Tucson; A.J. Figueredo, the UA; Mark Flinn, University of Missouri, Columbia; Patricia Hawley, University of Kansas; Anthony Volk, Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario; and Carol Worthman, Emory University, Atlanta.

To learn more about the participants and the event, please visit:

To participate in the post-event Community Roundtable Discussion in Tucson, please contact Ms. Carmin Chan, McClelland Institute ( (520) 621-8067,



Event Date: 
Oct. 30–Nov. 2, 2009
Contact Us: 
Dr. Stephen T. Russell

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Mailing Address: 650 N. Park Ave Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078 (Map to McClelland Park)
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