Our History

The Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience (C-StARR) was initially funded in 2003 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as one of several exploratory research centers. Like its sister centers across the country, the Duke center was, during this initial period of funding, called the Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center (TPRC). The goal of the C-StARR during this period was to support new interdisciplinary research on the role of regulation, broadly construed, in problem behavior and its prevention. In particular, Center leadership worked to bring together the perspectives and research of behavioral scientists, social scientists, biological scientists (particularly in neuroscience and genetics), developmental scientists, and policy scientists in an effort to pinpoint regulatory processes ranging from internally emergent cognitive and biological processes, to the socialization influences of parents and peers, to the influence of broad social and educational policies, that might account for the emergence of undercontrolled behaviors in adolescents. The Center supported the work of interdisciplinary teams of investigators through the provision of funding and hands-on support provided through three “cores,” which are collections of expertise, support personnel, equipment, and facilities designed to support multiple research projects. The Administrative Core and Data Core, which are still part of the C-StARR, were complemented by a Practice Core, which was directed at beginning to examine the translational efforts that might spring from the Center’s scientific endeavors and to connect it with the public institutions (like schools and social services for examples) that might best deploy the translated science of the Center. Although the Center was, at this time, only a beginning effort to spur Duke’s efforts in these pursuits, it was a successful one that met and exceeded its stated aims. In short it did promote the very collaborations that augured well for the development of novel multidisciplinary research approaches. And it was successful in beginning to target a number of essential factors at play in undercontrolled behavior among developing adolescents.

The Center received an additional five years of funding in 2008, transitioning from an exploratory center to a mature “cores-only” center. Although translational efforts focused on prevention continued, the primary focus of the C-StARR shifted from prevention to etiology, though the commitment to a multidisciplinary, multilevel approach continued. This shift reflected significant strengths among funded researchers at Duke in genetic, biological, and contextual factors that predispose or cause individuals engage in drug and alcohol use and other health-risk behaviors. The Center was “leaner” during this period of funding, operating with only two cores, an Administrative Core and a Methodology and Statistics Core. The latter focused on new methods, measurement strategies, and statistical approaches for the multidisciplinary study of problem behavior. As during the first period of funding, the primary activity of the C-StARR was the funding and support of cutting-edge, integrative science on the regulatory processes implicated in problem behavior and its prevention. Through its funding of small pilot studies, the Center helped lay the groundwork for a number of federally funded projects involving faculty members and early-career scholars affiliated with the Center. During this funding period, the focus of the C-StARR narrowed and its identity became clearer. Rather than attempting to study the full array of regulatory processes implicated in problem behavior, the focus converged on self-regulation—the mechanisms by which people manage their own thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Although Center-supported research continues on development from childhood through emerging adulthood, the primary focus is now late adolescence, the period during which the capacity for effective self-regulation emerges.

The C-StARR received a new round of funding—this time as a National Institute on Drug Abuse “Center of Excellence”—in 2013. The Center continues its focus on the etiology of problem behavior, with a particular focus on late adolescence and a sharper focus on genetic and neurobiological causes and consequences of self-regulation failure as evidence in health risk behavior. In addition to the Administrative and Data Cores, the Center now offers project support through a Biological Methods Core, which aims to support the integration of biological and behavioral data in studies of self-regulation and problem behavior. We remain interested in translating research findings in order to influence policies and practices aimed at curbing problem behavior during adolescence and emerging adulthood.


The Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience (C-StARR) supports interdisciplinary research that translates theories to practices and policies, with the overarching aim of reducing the risk of substance abuse and developing effective preventive interventions for adolescents. The C-StARR, which is part of Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy is a continuing core center, initially funded in 2003 by a center grant (P20) awarded by NIDA in 2003 and subsequently by another center grant (P30) in 2008 .

The mission of the C-StARR is to facilitate the translation of basic-science knowledge about regulatory processes and peer influences into innovative research efforts to prevent substance use and related problems in adolescence. These themes have unified and catalyzed C-StARR investigators, who study the development and prevention of substance use at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional levels. The C-StARR seeks to enhance multidisciplinary funded projects, foster the innovative translation of theories across disciplines and projects, and implement and disseminate evidence-based interventions by influencing policy makers, practitioners, school leaders, and agency directors. The C-StARR represents collaborations across multiple disciplines among faculty and researchers in the Center for Child and Family Policy, the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, the Social Science Research Institute, and other departments at Duke and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Disciplines represented include psychology, neuroscience, epidemiology, public policy, sociology, economics, pharmacology, and genetics.

The C-StARR has three Cores that serve the research projects of the Center: (1) the Administrative Core; (2) the Data Core and (3) the Biological Methods Core.

Administrative Core

The main aim of this Core, directed by Kenneth Dodge, is to support and advance an intellectual community and to advance research collaboration among Center affiliates, from multiple disciplines, to develop new transdisciplinary research projects. This Core helps faculty members place their prevention research in school and other community settings, acquire access to large data bases, and translate their research into policies and practices that prevent substance use. The Core is also responsible for the budget management of both Cores and direction of the research training of postdoctoral fellows and junior investigators.

This Core supports the governance of the C-StARR through an Executive Committee that meets every other month to direct research activities of the Center and discuss other matters such as progress of the pilot projects, seminars, retreats, and future direction of the Center.

In June 2011 a new behavioral science sub-core was created under the Administrative, Theory, and Prevention Core that will focus on multilevel regulatory processes during adolescence. Rick Hoyle, Director of the Methodology and Statistics Core, will direct this sub-core. Findings from completed pilot projects funded by the C-StARR will be the catalyst for developing an integrated multidisciplinary theme on self regulation and addiction for this sub center and for the application for the renewal of the P30, to be submitted in October 2012. Educational data will be leveraged, including data from the North Carolina Education Research Center (NCERC), housed at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, and data to be collected from a representative sample of schools in North Carolina.

Data Core

The primary aim of this Core is the development, application, and dissemination of innovative methodological and statistical strategies for use in collaborative, transdisciplinary research on the etiology and prevention of substance use among adolescents. The Core aims to ensure state-of-the-science methodological and statistical consultation and collaborative opportunities. It seeks to provide resources and expertise that contribute to the development, execution, analysis, and publication of high quality prevention science focused on adolescent substance abuse.

Along with the aim of providing statistical support to Center investigators, an important aim of the Core is to evolve strategies and novel multilevel quantitative research to create dimensions relevant to substance use that incorporate the contributions of estimates from neuroscience, genome science, personality measurement, and socio-environmental science.

Members of the Core provide statistical consultation and, when appropriate, collaborate with C-StARR investigators to ensure that measurement, design, and analysis concerns are addressed in a rigorous and innovative manner. The Core provides the full complement of services needed for research projects, including:

  • development of IRB and data safety and monitoring protocols;
  • sampling design and procedure;
  • measurement choice and/or development;
  • codebook development;
  • data warehousing;
  • data analysis; and
  • manuscript writing.

Consultation is provided by a multidisciplinary team of experts who are experienced providers of methodological and statistical support for complex, large-scale, funded research projects. Statistical support is coordinated by Core director Kenneth Dodge and Associate Director Madeline Carrig. Services of a data technician, a programmer, and a database specialist are available.

Biological Methods Core

The primary aim of the Biological Methods Core is to expand the capacity of projects in the research base by developing genomics, imaging, and other biomarker resources. The Biological Methods Core works with individual C-StARR projects to assess their biological resources and develop a plan for enhancing their resources. Staff in the Biological Methods Core provide training and mentoring to enable researchers to gain the skills needed to test biologically-informed hypotheses about self-regulation and substance use disorders. In addition, the Biological Methods Core aims to identify areas of overlap between projects in the research base and to facilitate collaboration through augmenting biological resources. Through training and collaborative efforts, the Biological Methods Core supports maximizing shared biological resources and enables harmonization across studies.

Along with the aims of expanding the capacity of projects in the research bases and facilitating collaborating, another aim of the Biological Methods Core is to prepare datasets for a public database of biologically-informed studies of adolescent substance use. This aim serves a long-term goal of the C-StARR to go beyond the boundaries of Duke to create a resource of studies on biological mechanisms that affect the development of substance use disorders.

Resources and services provided by the Core are described in more detail under the Services & Resources section of this website.