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Dr. Gwen Pursell

Associate Professor of Psychology

Why I Teach

When I teach, I have a unique role in shaping the foundation of a young mind with the hope of sending a critical thinker, a productive citizen, and a positive influence into the world. Seeing this transformation unfold is one of the wonders of teaching.

Professional Activities

As a developmental psychologist, my teaching expertise is in physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development across the lifespan. Specifically, my teaching focuses on developmental trends and normative outcomes as well as individual differences in human development. In addition, I am very interested in the real-world application of developmental research. My courses typically emphasize discussion of commonly debated questions surrounding development, risk and protective factors associated with developmental outcomes, the role of culture and context in development, and associations between developmental research and public policy.

My research interests include middle childhood, adolescent, and young adult peer relationships. During my time in graduate school, my research examined 1) associations between childhood peer relations and young adult interpersonal competence, 2) associations between quality of friendship and emotional adjustment in childhood and adolescence, and 3) differences in conflict between adolescent relationships with parents and friends. Currently, my research involves collaborating with undergraduate students. Two projects that I have recently worked on with students are 1) the role of friendships in transitioning to college and the experience of homesickness, and 2) the influence of social media on young adult romantic relationships.

As an active member of the Wesley College community, I serve on committees such as the Scholar’s Day committee and the Evening and Off-Campus Committee. Within the academic community, I regularly attend conferences such as the Society for Research on Child Development, the Society for Research on Adolescence, and the University of Notre Dame Center for Children and Families Symposia.


  • B.A., University of Delaware
  • M.A., University of Richmond
  • Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Psychological Science
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Psychology of Adolescence
  • Psychology of Human Development
  • Developmental Psychopathology
  • Child Adversity & Social Justice in a Global Society
  • Psychology Senior Seminar

Contact Information