Robert Duncan, PhD

Research Interests

Early and middle childhood development, interventions, and policies, executive function, academic achievement, socio-emotional learning, fine and gross motor skills


I joined the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the Public Health Graduate Program at Purdue as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2017. Prior to joining Purdue, I received a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and a M.P.H. (in Biostatistics) from Oregon State University in 2015, and completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. I have an interdisciplinary background (i.e., lifespan psychology, life course sociology, family studies, public health, and education) and extensive quantitative training that inform my research. Broadly, my research focuses on understanding children’s development of academic skills, executive function, social-emotional skills, and fine/gross motor skills. I am particularly interested in the role of education interventions and policies for fostering academic success and wellbeing, especially in children facing increased levels of socio-demographic risk. My quantitative interests are primarily in longitudinal and multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, and causal inference.

Selected Publications

  • Duncan, R. J., Schmitt, S. A., Burke, M., & McClelland, M. M. (2018). Combining a kindergarten readiness summer program with a self-regulation intervention improves school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 42, 291-300. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.20.012

  • Schmitt, S. A., Lewis, K. L., Duncan, R. J., Korucu, I., & Napoli, A. (2018). The effects of Positive Action on preschoolers’ social-emotional competence and health behaviors. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46, 141-151. doi:10.1007/s10643-017-0851-0

  • Duncan, R. J., McClelland, M. M., & Acock, A. C. (2017). Relations between executive function, behavioral regulation, and achievement: Moderation by family income. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 49, 21-30. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2017.01.004

  • Duncan, R. J., Washburn, I. J., Lewis, K. M., Bavarian, N., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A. C., … Flay, B. R. (2017). Can universal SEL programs benefit universally? Effects of the Positive Action program on multiple trajectories of social-emotional and misconduct behaviors. Prevention Science, 18, 214-224. doi:10.1007/s11121-016-0745-1

  • McClelland, M. M., Tominey, S. L., Schmitt, S. A., & Duncan, R. J. (2017). SEL interventions in early childhood. Future of Children, 27, 33-48.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Geldhof, G. J., Purpura, D. J., Duncan, R. J., & McClelland, M. M. (2017). Examining the relations between executive function, math, and literacy during the transition to kindergarten: A multi-analytic approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, 1120-1140. doi:10.1037/edu0000193

  • MacDonald, M., Lipscomb, S., McClelland, M., Duncan, R. J., Becker, D., Anderson, K., & Kile, M. (2016). Relations of preschoolers’ visual motor and object manipulation skills with executive function and social behavior. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 87, 396-407. doi:10.1080/02701367.2016.12229862

  • Bavarian, N., Duncan, R. J., Lewis, K. M., Miao, A., & Washburn, I. J. (2015). Adolescent substance use following participation in a universal drug prevention program: Examining relationships with program recall and baseline use status. Substance Abuse, 36, 359-367. doi:10.1080/08897077.2014.95236

  • McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Duncan, R. J., Bowles, R. P., Acock, A. C., Miao, A., & Pratt, M. (2014). Predictors of early growth in academic achievement: The Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-14. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00599

  • Becker, D., Miao, A., Duncan, R. J., & McClelland, M. M. (2014). Behavioral self-regulation and executive function both predict visuomotor skills and early academic achievement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29, 411-424. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.04.014


  • 2015-2017, Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California, Irvine

  • 2015, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, Oregon State University

  • 2015, Master of Public Health (Biostatistics), Oregon State University

  • 2012, M.S., Human Development and Family Studies, Oregon State University

  • 2009, B.S., Psychology, University of Florida

Courses Recently Taught

  • Introduction to Quantitative Methods of Public Health (HK 510)

  • Linear Regression (HDFS 590)


  • 2017-2018, AERA-SRCD Early Career Fellow in Early Childhood Education and Development


  • 2014-2015, James N. Morgan Fund for Complex Interactions (Dissertation grant)

Professional Service

Ad hoc reviewer for Developmental Psychology, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Early Education and Development, and Assessment for Effective Intervention

Robert Duncan
Assistant Professor

Faculty Associate:
   Advanced Methods at Purdue,
   (AMAP), Core Faculty Member
   HHS Public Health Graduate

(PhD, Oregon State University)

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