Chris Boyatzis

Professor of Psychology

About Chris Boyatzis

Coordinator, children's studies minor

Educational Background

  • B.A. "with distinction" in psychology, Boston University
  • M.A. psychology, Brandeis University
  • Ph.D. developmental psychology, Brandeis University

Classes Taught Recently

  • PSYC 207, Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC 216, General Research Methods
  • PSYC 297, Applied Research Methods in Developmental
  • PSYC 307, Culture and Child Development
  • PSYC 320, Children's Studies
  • PSYC 327, Social Development
  • PSYC 337, Child Development in Denmark (summer program)

Recent Positions

  • Director, Bucknell in Denmark summer program
  • Former president of Div. 36 (Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association
  • Associate Editor of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, and current or past editorial board member for Emerging Adulthood, Journal of Adolescent Research, Journal of Family Psychology, Teaching of Psychology, Candadian Journal of Behavioural Psychology, and The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

Research Interests

I am a developmental psychologist, and I teach many courses in that field. I enjoy helping students who hope to study or work with children find the right path for them. I also enjoy mentoring students in research, both on my scholarly interests and their own; since 2000, students have co-authored 50 papers with me at major academic conferences. For many years my primary interests have been in the area of spiritual and religious development, and in the role of culture in shaping childhood.

In the area of religion and spirituality, I explore three issues. One is religious and spiritual development during childhood. Beginning at surprisingly young ages, children begin to ask the very questions that philosophers and theologians have asked for millennia. So my research explores many facets in this domain of development-how do we define and measure spiritual and religious development? How do parents influence it? Is there empirical evidence that religion is "good" for children? Raising two daughters intimately influenced this interest of mine, and I've published many chapters in major handbooks to help scholars better understand these issues. A second issue I study concerns how college students' religiosity is related to their coping, well-being, and psychological adjustment in college and during their transition out of college. This work is important because college and early adulthood are typically times of very low religiousness, yet religion and spirituality may be valuable assets in adjustment and well-being. A third issue is what we call "god in the bod"-or how women's spirituality and religiosity is related to their body image and eating behavior. Students have been heavily involved in all of these areas, resulting in many conference papers and publications.

My overarching professional goal through this work is to help build the field-to increase awareness of religious and spiritual development as a crucial (yet historically neglected) dimension of child, adolescent, and emerging adult development. Beyond my publications, I have organized conferences and edited many special issues of journals to increase knowledge of religious and spiritual development.

In the area of how culture shapes child development, since 2011 have directed a summer program, Bucknell in Denmark, that focuses on childhood in Denmark. The experience transforms many students' (narrowly American) views on childhood, parenting, the education system, safety and risk taking, the role of nature in children's lives, and how government and society might better support children's well-being. My own views of child development have been radically altered (for the better) through my program, and I have been conducting a cross-cultural study of parenting in the US and Denmark, using surveys and in-depth interviews of Danish and American mothers. Many students have been central in this work, in Denmark and back on campus.

Selected Publications


Richert, R., Boyatzis, C. J., & King, P. E. (2017). Children, religion, and culture [Special issue]. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 35, March.

Hall, E., & Boyatzis, C. J. (2016). God in the bod: Charting the course of research on religiosity and the body [Special issue]. Journal of Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, 19(2).

Boyatzis, C. J. (2006). Unraveling the dynamics of religion in the family and parent-child relationship [Special issue]. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16(4).


(*indicates a student co-author)

Baumgardner*, M. S., & Boyatzis, C. J. (in press). The role of parental psychological control and warmth in college students' relational aggression and friendship quality. Emerging Adulthood.

Kimball, C.N., Cook, K.V., Boyatzis, C.J., & Leonard, K. (2016). Exploring emerging adults' relational spirituality: A longitudinal, mixed-methods analysis. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 8, 110-118.

Cook, K.V., Boyatzis, C.J., Kimball, C.N., & Leonard, K.C. (2015). Religiousness and spirituality among highly religious emerging adults. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 34, 250-263.

Kimball, C.N., Boyatzis, C.J., Cook, K.V., Leonard, K.C., & Flanagan, K.S. (2013). Attachment to God: A qualitative exploration of emerging adults' spiritual relationship with God. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 41, 175-188.

Leonard, K.C., Cook, K.V., Boyatzis, C.J., Kimball, C.N., & Flanagan, K.S. (2013). Parent-child dynamics and emerging adults' religiosity: Attachment, parents' beliefs, and faith support. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5, 5-14.

Homan, K. J., & Boyatzis, C. J. (2010). Attachment to God as a protective factor in the etiology of eating disturbance: Cross-sectional and prospective evidence. Eating Disorders, 18, 239-258.

Boyatzis, C. J., Kline*, S., & Backof*, S. (2007). Experimental evidence that theistic/religious body affirmations improve women's feelings about their appearance. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46, 553-564.

Boyatzis, C.J., & McConnell*, K.M. (2006). Quest orientation in young women: Age trends during emerging adulthood and relations to body image and disordered eating. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16, 197-207.


King, P.E., & Boyatzis, C.J. (2015). Religious and spiritual development. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), Socioemotional processes. Vol. 3 of the Handbook of child psychology and developmental science (7th ed., pp. 975-1021). Editor-in-Chief: R.M. Lerner. New York: Wiley.

Boyatzis, C.J. (2013). The nature and functions of religion and spirituality in childhood. In K.I. Pargament (Ed.), APA handbooks of psychology, religion, and spirituality (pp. 497-512). Washington, DC: APA Press.

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