New Ottawa-born professor studies children’s moral development

Posted on Saturday, November 1, 2014


How do children learn to cooperate with others? How do they express and understand emotions? How do they learn to interact with others socially? How can we prevent aggression and bullying and foster empathy in children?

Dr. Stuart Hammond, a psychologist whose research focuses on moral development in children and social influences on that development, explores these questions in the hopes of helping children and families.

“My research is increasingly looking at what’s happening in the home. It’s important to not just bring kids into the lab here to study them, but also to look at practices with parents. Many parents say, for example, that their kids absolutely love to take part in things.  If parents are trying to do the laundry, a very young child (age one to two) will want to take part. From a moral perspective, that is very interesting: why do kids want to help and cooperate and get involved in these things?”

Moral psychology research can also have important practical implications. One example is Roots of Empathy, an evidence-based anti-bullying program offered in many Canadian schools, which teaches children empathy and emotional understanding. Hammond was a Roots of Empathy instructor, as part of a graduate practicum. He hopes that his research can contribute to this and other programs in the future.

Although Hammond grew up and did his undergraduate studies in Ottawa, he has spent many years travelling and studying in different parts of the globe. He worked for a Japanese government program that taught English and other languages to schoolchildren. He then returned to Canada to study moral philosophy at the Université de Montréal, and eventually moved out west to complete his PhD in developmental psychology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Before returning to Ottawa, Hammond held a SSHRC postdoctoral research and visiting instructor position at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hammond is happy to be joining the faculty ranks at uOttawa.  “My appreciation for the city of Ottawa has deepened since I’ve been away, and I realize what a unique place it is.”

This winter he’ll teach a course on moral psychology, Moral Development (PSY4391). The latter course is the first of its kind at the University of Ottawa, and is sure to be an important addition to the School of Psychology.

We’re pleased to welcome Stuart Hammond to the Faculty of Social Sciences and wish him the all the best in his work here.  

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