Nancy Darling.
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Chair of Psychology


  • BS, Cornell University, 1981
  • MS, Cornell University, 1987
  • PhD, Cornell University, 1990


Adolescent social relations encompass changing relationships with parents and peers, the initiation of romantic relationships, and an expanding social world that includes greater and more unsupervised interactions with the community and a more sophisticated and multidimensional conception of peers.

As a developmental psychologist, my research focuses on how adolescents influence and are influenced by these social relationships and how these different social spheres interact to change the course of individual development. Because many of these processes aren't amenable to experimental manipulation (they don't let you randomly assign parental divorce to adolescents to see how it affects them), I have become particularly interested in two different aspects of the study of psychology: contextual variability and research methods.

Nancy Darling's lab
Online interview with Nancy Darling

Although all scientists work to develop generalizable models, developmental psychologists in particular have focused on looking at lawful variability in basic processes. For example, does severe, strict parenting have the same influence on children living in dangerous urban environments as it does on youth in the suburbs? Does it have similar effects on boys and girls? On youth in the Philippines and the United States?

Natural variability in basic processes across different individuals and in different situations provides critical insight into human development and has in some ways substituted for experimental manipulation in aspects of social development not well suited to laboratory study. Interest in contextual variability has led me to study adolescents in Japan, the Philippines, Chile, Italy, and in many different types of communities within the United States. And the complexity of these processes and the need to understand how the development of individuals is embedded in their relationships with others has led to a deep interest in statistics and research methods.

Our science is only as good as our models.

  • Cumsille, P., Martínez, M.L.  Rodríguez, V. & Darling, N.  (in press, 2014).  Análisis Psicométrico de la Escala Parental Breve (EPB): Invarianza Demográfica y Longitudinal en Adolescentes Chilenos.  Psyke. 
  • Tilton-Weaver, L., S. K. Marshall, Darling, N. (2013). What's in a name? Distinguishing between routine disclosure and self-disclosure .  Journal of Research on Adolescence, October 2013, 1-13.
  • Rosenthal, M.F*. Murphy, TG, Darling, N. & Tarvin, TA (2012).  Bill Color is a Dynamic Signal of Condition in the American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis.  Journal of Avian Biology 43 (6) 553-564.
  • Darling, N., & Dowdy, B. (2010). Trust, but verify: Knowledge, disclosure and trust in parent-adolescent relationships. In K. J. Rotenberg (Ed.), Trust and trustworthiness during childhood and adolescence (pp. 203-222). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Little, K.C., Welsh, D.P. Darling, N., Holmes, RN (2011). "I can't talk about it:" Sexuality and self-silencing as predictors of depressive symptoms in adolescent dating couples. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 789-794.
  • Cumsille, P., Darling, N., Martinez, L.M. (2010). Shading the truth: The patterning of adolescents’ decisions to avoid issues, disclose, or lie to parents. Journal of Adolescence, 33, 285-296.
  • Darling, N., & Dowdy, B. (2010). Monitoring, Disclosure, and Trust: Mothers' and Adolescents' Reports. In K. J. Rotenberg (Ed.), Trust and Trustworthiness During Childhood and Adolescence (pp. 203-222). Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press.
  • Darling, N., Cumsille, P., Peňa-Alampay, L., & Coatsworth, J.D.  (2009).  Individual and issue-specific differences in parental knowledge and adolescent disclosure in Chile, the Philippines, and the United States.  Journal of Research on Adolescence 19, 715-740.
  • Cumsille, P., Darling, N., Flaherty, B.P., & Martinez, L.M.  (2009).  Heterogeneity and change in the patterning of adolescents’ perceptions of the legitimacy of parental authority: A latent transition model.  Child Development, 30, 418-432. 
  • Darling, N., & Clark, S.A.  (2009).  Seeing the Partner: A Video Recall Study of Emotional Behavior in Same- and Mixed-Sex Late Adolescent Romantic Couples.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1015-1026. 
  • Darling, N., Cohan, C.L., Burns, A.R., & Thompson, L.  (2008).  Within-family conflict behaviors as predictors of conflict in adolescent romantic relations.  Journal of Adolescence, 31, 671-690.
  • Darling, N., Cumsille, P., & Martínez, M. L.  (2008).  Individual differences in adolescents' beliefs about the legitimacy of parental authority and their own obligation to obey: A longitudinal investigation.  Child Development, 79, 1103-1118.


  • Nancy Darling launches 1step2life app

    October 2, 2020

    Professor and Chair of Psychology Nancy Darling developed and launched the 1step2life app to support people living with severe persistent pain. Based in cutting-edge developmental and rehabilitation science, the app helps people living with pain focus on their progress and functioning rather than their pain. Starting where they are now, it allows them to set goals, log emotions and daily activities, and visualize their progress. It has modes for both patients and caregivers, supporting effective coaching as well as rehabilitation. The app was funded by the college's LaunchU Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition. Darling worked with a team of psychology students on the research and development of the app. Now available on both the App Store and Google Play. 

  • Nancy Darling Publishes CNN Series

    July 17, 2020

    Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling published the third piece in a CNN series focused on recent graduates. Darling authored two pieces in the series and was mentioned in a third. 

  • Nancy Darling's Work Featured in Op-Ed

    July 16, 2020

    Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling's work was discussed in an op-ed in the New York Times. 

  • Nancy Darling Featured in CNN Article

    June 27, 2020

    Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling was featured in a CNN article on the resilience of 2020 graduates.

  • Nancy Darling Presents, Participates in Roundtables

    April 5, 2016

    Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling made five presentations, participated in two roundtable panels, and presented three research papers at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Adolescence in Baltimore.

    For the Editor’s roundtable panel, Darling discussed writing and publication. She discussed professional issues for the roundtable Navigating the Mid-Career Years.

    The three research papers Darling presented included:

    • A Dynamic Systems Simulation of the Patterning of Attachment Dyads: Co-authored by student Caitlyn Grubb and alumnus Ian Burns, the work grew out of Darling and Grubb’s work in an advanced methods course last Spring. It used the Nova software developed by Professor of Computer Science Richard Salter to model social networks of dating couples in early adulthood.
    • Seeking and Providing Support: Are There Normative Differences in Adolescent and Adult Romantic Dyads?: Based on observational data coded by teams of Oberlin students, the work was co-authored by Grubb and student Kinsey Denney.
    • Adolescent Information within the Family Context: This work continues Darling’s studies of adolescent disclosure and lying in a longitudinal study of Chilean youth.
    • Nancy Darling Presents

      November 13, 2015

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling presented an invited workshop on dynamic systems modeling at the prestigious Theory Construction and Research Methodology pre-session of the National Council of Family Relations in Vancouver, British Columbia.

      The three-hour session introduced dynamic systems modeling as a complement to more traditional statistical techniques in the study of human development and the family. The hands-on component of the workshop focused on using Nova, a software product developed by Richard Salter, professor of computer science, for dynamic systems, agent-based, and spacial modeling (

      Models of teacher-adolescent interactions and romantic attachment grew out of work done with students in Darling's upper-level course on advanced methods for the study of adolescent development. Additional models of longitudinal change in romantic pairings were developed with Ian Burns ’10. Other models presented include Excel models developed with Elizabeth Lockman ’12.

    • Richard Salter, Nancy Darling Give Demonstration

      June 11, 2015

      Richard Salter, professor of computer science, and Nancy Darling, professor of psychology, gave the 70-minute demonstration "Nova: A New Tool for System Dynamics, Agent-Based, and Spatial Modeling” at the Innovations in Collaborative Modeling conference held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, on June 4. Drawn from Darling’s research, the demonstration applied the Nova modeling system to an example of social contagion of problem behavior in the classroom. Salter described how Nova, which he designed and implemented, was used to create that and other computational models.

      At the same time, Wayne M. Getz, A. Starker Leopold professor of wildlife ecology at UC Berkeley, presented at the DIMACS MPE 2013+ Workshop on Management of Natural Resources about joint work with Salter. The paper, entitled “A Nova Model and Web App for Sustainable Harvesting and Population Viability Analyses in Teaching and Research,” discusses the application of the Nova software platform to constructing models and web applications for both harvesting and population viability analyses of African wildlife—particularly issues concerning rhino conservation.

      Salter, Darling, Getz, and modeling expert Tony Starfield will all be at Oberlin College June 15-19 for the Workshop on Quantitative Reasoning Pedagogy & Computational Modeling with Nova Software, held in collaboration with the CLEAR center.

    • Nancy Darling Interviewed on South African Radio

      May 5, 2015

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling was interviewed on Capetown South African radio by Abongile Nzelezele about her work on adolescent lying.

      Darling has done research on adolescent lying and their decisions to share information with their parents in the U.S., Chile, Italy, Uganda, and the Philippines. She recently blogged about this work for Psychology Today in her piece “Why You Lied to Your Parents (and Whether They Believed You).” This work caught the eye of Nzelezele, who interviewed Darling about how accurate parents are at detecting lies, why and when adolescents lie, and what kind of parenting helps teens open up.

    • Nancy Darling Presents Results of Research Projects

      March 30, 2015

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling presented the results of three research projects at the Society for Research in Child Development 2015 Biennial Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her work involved collaborations with colleagues from Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Tanzania. 

      Darling co-authored a paper on parents' sexual socialialization of their adolescent children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with Lusajo Kajula, Sylvia Kaaya, and Heinz De Vries. This qualitative paper focused on the marked differences in parents' attitudes toward girls and boys as they enter adolescence. 

      She also presented a poster on differences in how adolescents interact with their romantic partners during socially supportive and conflictual conversations. These data involved intense codinga of videotaped interactions. This paper was co-authored with Andrew Burns and four Oberlin undergraduates: Akensheye Daniels, Elena Gold, Will Lynch, and Caitlyn Rodgers.

      Finally, Darling served as discussant for a panel of papers on the juncture between adolescents' right to privacy and parents' socialization goals and privacy invasion. Work included a discussion of parenting in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Canada.

      Darling (March, 2015). Privacy and Parenting During Late Childhood and Adolescence: Exploring Links Among Cognitions and Behaviors. Discussant for symposium presented at the Society for Research on Child Development Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

      Darling, N., Burns, A., Daniels, A., Gold, E., Lynch, W., & Rodgers, C. (March, 2015). Continuity in Observed Adolescent Behavior During Conflict and Social Support Interactions with Romantic Partners. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Child Development Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

      Kajula, L., Kaaya, S., Darling, N. De Vries, H. (March, 2015). Parenting practices and styles associated with adolescent sexual health in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Child Development Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    • Nancy Darling Appointed Editor-in-Chief

      February 18, 2015

      Nancy Darling, William and Jeannette Smith chair of psychology, has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Adolescence, a leading journal in developmental psychology that focuses on age-related change in the second decade of life.

      The Journal is unique in its international perspective. It is operated by the Foundation for Professionals in Services to Adolescents, a UK based organization, and publishes research related in adolescent health and development from researchers in psychology, biology, sociology, epidemiology, economics, medicine, and related fields. Darling had served as an associate editor for the Journal for the past eight years.

    • Nancy Darling Continues Her Work Internationally

      November 19, 2014

      She will be traveling to the Netherlands to attend a course on computational modeling in adolescent development and to present work on the Nova software platform at the University of Grotenburg. She was interviewed for a piece on Les Racines de L'Obeissance in the November/December issue of the magazine, Le Monde de L'intelligence. In addition, a new version of her measure of parenting style was published in the Chilean journal Psykhe.

    • Nancy Darling Advisor to Consortium of Prevention Researchers

      May 16, 2014

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling recently was in Bergen, Norway, to work with a consortium of European and African prevention researchers. Darling was invited to serve as a scientific advisor to Prepare, a European Union funded program to prevent HIV and sexual risk behaviors in adolescents. The program has fielded prevention efforts in Limpopo and Capetown, South Africa, Dar Salaam, Tanzania, and Kampala, Uganda. It includes researchers from each of those countries, as well as a team of European researchers from the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. Pilot programs developed by Prepare have involved more than 5,000 adolescents as well as teachers and parents. The Kampala program is aimed at increasing knowledge of sexuality and safe sex practices and fostering positive parent-adolescent communication around physical safety and sexuality. The theoretical basis for this research is rooted in Darling's work in the US, Philippines, and Chile.

    • Nancy Darling Quoted in Chicago Tribune

      April 30, 2014

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling was quoted in the Chicago Tribune article, “Creating support when you're raising kids away from family.”

    • Nancy Darling Coauthors Award Winning Paper

      March 18, 2014

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling is a coauthor of a paper that was awarded the Albert Bandura Award For Excellence for graduate research by Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, and the American Psychological Society. The award was given for the paper “Rejection sensitivity and (mis)perceptions of romantic ” which will be presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence’s biennial meeting, taking place March 20 to 22 in Austin, Texas. A collaborative research project with Jerika Norika, Joe Salvatore (a graduate student at the University of Tennessee), Deborah Welsh, and Nancy Darling, the paper began as Jerika’s master's thesis project. Jerika traveled to Oberlin last spring to learn some advanced statistical techniques and consult on the project, completing the work over the summer.

    • Nancy Darling Cited in New York Magazine

      February 12, 2014

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling’s work was cited in the January 12, 2014, New York Magazine feature article, “The Collateral Damage of a Teenager.” Exploring the idea that what adolescence does to teens is nowhere near as brutal as what it does to their parents, the author cited Darling’s “nuanced analysis of what, precisely, makes the adolescent struggle for autonomy so contentious. Most kids, she notes, have no objections when their parents try to enforce moral standards or societal conventions. ... What children object to are attempts to regulate more personal preferences, matters of taste: the music they listen to, the entertainments they pursue, the company they keep. ... The problem, says Darling, is that during adolescence questions of preference start to bleed into questions of morality and safety, and it often becomes impossible to discern where the line is.”

    • Nancy Darling Recognized, Published

      January 29, 2014

      Professor of Psychology Nancy Darling has received two recent honors. She was elected to the executive council of the Society for Research in Adolescence, an international, multidisciplinary society fostering the study of youth during the second decade of life. She also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Orebro University in Sweden for lifetime achievement. Darling’s most recent paper, “What’s in a name? Distinguishing between routine disclosure and self-disclosure,” was published in October in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.