Ross A. Thompson

Ross A. Thompson, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Ross A. Thompson

Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California Davis

Contributions to the Field

Dr. Thompson’s expertise focuses on early personality and socio-emotional development in the context of close relationships. His work in the cross-disciplinary field of developmental relational science pursues dual tracks. First, his research explores the influence of relational processes on emotional growth, conscience development, emotion regulation, and self-understanding in young children. Second, he has worked on the applications of developmental relational science to public policy problems concerning children and families, such as early childhood mental health, the constituents of school readiness, divorce and child custody concerns, child maltreatment prevention, and research ethics. He was on the National Research Council Institute of Medicine committee that produced the landmark report From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), and on a second committee that produced Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (2015). He is a past president of the ZERO TO THREE Board of Directors.


  • Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science
  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • Founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
  • National Board of Advisors, Buffett Early Childhood Institute
  • Scientific Advisory Board, National Institute for Early Education Research

Current Research

Current projects focus on the development of constructive social motivation in the early years, including studies of emotion regulation, prosocial behavior, and conscience development in young children.

Recent Honors/Awards/Recognition/Books Published

Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association, 2018. UC Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award, 2011. Ann L. Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research, 2007.

Books include: Toward a Child-Centered, Neighborhood-Based Child Protection System (2002), The Postdivorce Family (1999), Preventing Child Maltreatment Through Social Support (1995), and Infant-Mother Attachment (1985).

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