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Northwestern University

Jennifer Tackett

New Knowledge for a Complex World

Research Profile

Understanding adolescent personality

Clinical psychologist Jennifer Tackett is dedicated to understanding how personality shapes adolescent behavior. How does it influence how young people get along, get ahead and keep themselves under control?

Tackett is the director of Northwestern’s Personality Across Development (PAD) lab, which seeks to answer important questions about how young people grow and mature. Can certain personality traits — such as aggressiveness and sensation-seeking — have protective effects, even as they heighten the possibility that young people might engage in risky behaviors? Can those same personality traits have a positive impact on relationships with families and peers, school achievement and leadership? Tackett’s lab uses a variety of methods, including genetic and hormone analysis, eye tracking, parent/child interviews and questionnaires, to understand how personality relates to psychopathology and other outcomes, such as decision-making, gambling and alcohol use, academic performance and leadership.

Curious as to how young people develop a sense of themselves, Tackett is also leading the first large-scale research projects on adolescent leadership, through which she seeks to discover how adolescents’ values respond to contextual influences.

Jennifer Tackett

There’s no precedent for the kind of work we’re doing right now, so without Northwestern’s support, we wouldn’t have been able to build this research program and do something truly exciting and innovative.  ”

—Professor of Psychology Jennifer Tackett

Learning more about genes and environment

Tackett is also a co-principal investigator of the Illinois Twins Project. Operating in conjunction with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, this first-ever database for the state of Illinois will support research into the differences between fraternal twins, who share about half their DNA as well as a common family environment, and identical twins, who share all their DNA. The database will serve as a scientific resource for researchers interested in how genes and environment influence twins and multiples.

Tackett, who is also the director of clinical psychology training at Northwestern, received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Minnesota. She is a graduate of the Texas Academy of Math and Science and Texas A&M University, and has held previous faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and the University of Houston. She is a senior editor at Collabra: Clinical Psychology and an associate editor at Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.


children and adolescents who have contributed data for research conducted by the PADlab

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