human development and family studies

Transition Center, 2 Lower College Road, Kingston, RI 02881

401.874.2150 (ph); 401.874.4020 (f)

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Asha Spivak

  • Assistant Professor, HDF
  • Transition Center, room 205
  • Phone: 401.874.2931
  • Email:


Dr. Spivak has spent the last decade conducting research to illuminate how teacher and parent practices, school and home environments, diversity-related experiences, and interactions with parents, teachers, and peers shape prosocial development in early childhood through adolescence. Prosocial behavior involves voluntary acts intended to improve the welfare of other people. Such behaviors include sharing resources; volunteering; lending a helping hand; negotiating conflicts in mutually beneficial ways; cooperating with others to achieve common goals; and protecting peers from harm and bullying. Accumulated empirical literature suggests such prosocial behaviors have implications not only for constructively navigating interactions, relationships, and school and other social contexts but also for life in a civil society. At times, her research also extends to other areas including empathy, interpersonal conflict, and civic engagement. Informed by her prior work as an early childhood educator and mentor of teachers in early intervention, she brings pragmatic, teacher-friendly perspectives to her teaching and research. Prior to joining the URI faculty, she received advanced training in field-based program evaluation and meta-analysis during her Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral fellowships. Currently, she is working on a series of meta-analyses to pinpoint what 40 years of research indicate about which specific types of teacher and parent practices and strategies show evidence-based promise to teach and encourage children and youth to engage in helpful, caring behaviors.


Social and emotional development in early childhood through adolescence with a focus on prosocial behavior, altruism, empathy, tolerance, civic engagement, and peaceful and mutually beneficial conflict negotiation; cross-ethnic/race prosocial behavior; ethnic/racial bias in prosocial behavior; peer conflict; social and emotional learning interventions; teacher practice and education; early childhood education and intervention; parent education; and social-emotional instruction infusion into academic curricula.


*Prospective or current undergraduate or graduate students should feel free to contact Dr. Spivak about the program or possible research opportunities.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellow, Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, 2014-15

Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Postdoctoral Fellow, Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, 2012-14

Ph.D. Human Development and Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, 2012

M.A. Human Development and Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, 2007

M.A. Curriculum Development and Instructional Leadership, Vanderbilt University, 2005

B.A. Humanities with minor in Psychology, Hampshire College, 2002



Spivak, A. L., & Farran, D. (2016). Predicting first-graders’ social competence from their preschool classroom interpersonal context. Early Education and Development. 6, 735-750.

 Spivak, A. L., & Durlak, J. (2016). School intervention and prosocial behaviour. In Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. (pp. 52-56). Centre for Excellence for Early Childhood Development and Strategic Knowledge Cluster on Early Child Development, Montreal.

 Spivak, A. L. (2015). Dynamics of young children’s socially adaptive resolutions of peer conflict. Social Development, 25, 212-231.

 Spivak, A. L., Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Polanin, J.R. (2015). Protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis: Practices and Program Components for Enhancing Prosocial Behavior in Children and Youth. Campbell Systematic Review.

 Spivak, A. L., White, S. S., Graham, S., & Juvonen, J. (2015). Correlates of prosocial behaviors in ethnically and racially diverse middle schools. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 61, 236–263.

 Spivak, A. L., Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Polanin, J.R. (2014) Proposal for a systematic review and meta-analysis: Instructional strategies for enhancing prosocial behavior in children and youth. Campbell Systematic Review.

 Spivak, A. L., & Farran, D. (2012). First grade teacher behaviors and children’s prosocial actions in classrooms. Early Education and Development, 23, 623-639.

 Spivak, A. L., & Howes, C. (2011). Social and relational factors in early education and prosocial actions of children of diverse ethnic or racial background. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 57, 1-24.

 Howes, C., Wishard Guerra, A., Fuligni, A., Zucker, E., Lee, L., Obregon, N. B., Spivak, A. (2011). Classroom dimensions predict early peer interaction when children are diverse in ethnicity, race, and home language. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26, 399-408.




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