ECI network member Nazlı Baydar Associate Professor of Psychology at Koç Üniversitesi. Her main research areas are developmental psychology and applied social statistics, with a focus on early childhood and the development of human capital prior to entry into formal schooling. She is interested in three main research questions: (1) the sources of variability in intervention effects (how much of what works for who); (2) what are the causal developmental processes that are activated by different aspects of intervention programs; and, (3) how can we measure and evaluate impacts of interventions on developmental trajectories. Baydar received her Ph.D. from Vrije University in Brussels and completed postdoctoral work at Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia Universities, focusing on the application of advanced statistical modeling approaches to longitudinal data.
Describe your area of study and how it relates to current policy discussions surrounding inequality.
My research is focused on developmental and family psychology. Many personal characteristics that contribute to macro level inequalities become evident in early childhood (and maybe even earlier in infancy). My research focuses on the family and community level factors that support or impede the development of a child's full potential. For this purpose, it is especially important to focus on malleable characteristics of the children and the families. For example, we recently found that play and learning materials provided to the child at age 3, substantially contributes to the child's ultimate level of mathematics achievement in school. This is a good example of a policy-relevant developmental research that I do, because it is relatively easy and low cost to provide children with toys and learning materials compared to other family characteristics that are difficult to change.
What areas in the study of inequality are most in need of new research?
We must do better with studying change: specifically, how to change entire developmental trajectories of children. This research requires longitudinal studies that focus on malleable characteristics of families, neighborhoods, and schools. This research must also not miss focus on the prediction of long term change. We know that predictors of change (e.g., in language skills) are different from the predictors of cross-sectional status (e.g., vocabulary knowledge at one point in time).
What advice do you have for emerging scholars in your field?
Emerging scholars must not lose sight of our responsibility to contribute to the well-being of all individuals and all societies. Whereas specialized focus on highly specialized psychological processes may be academically rewarding, we need to remember that we are "social scientists." As such, we must work to enhance the human potential and we must learn how to support the processes that lead to the realization of the human potential.