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Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Theo Klimstra


Theo Klimstra


105 College Avenue, Medford, MA

I see teaching and mentoring as collaborative efforts between teachers and students. I believe that teaching entails more than transferring knowledge; it also involves making course content relatable to make sure student are able to identify, understand, and apply what they learned. Furthermore, I believe that teaching is about educating the whole person, and should therefore also facilitate student’s self-reflection and character development.

My research focuses on personality development and identity formation and their linkages to adjustment, as I’m interested in why people are who they are, how they choose their life paths, and why some flourish and others struggle. I mainly focus on the periods of adolescence and young adulthood, but I am interested in development across the lifespan. In my research, I apply advanced quantitative developmental methods that I supplement with qualitative methods to implement a mixed-method approach. I study individual development in context by accounting for classroom-level effects and examining my constructs of interest in different national contexts (e.g., the U.S. and various European and Asian countries) and different groups in society (e.g., young adult workers, students, non-clinical, and clinical samples).

Ph.D., Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 2010

Adolescence and young adulthood; identity development; personality development; narrative identity; quantitative methods (including structure equation models)

Selected Publications and Presentations: 

See, A. Y., Klimstra, T., Shiner, R. L., & Denissen, J. (in press). Linking narrative identity with schizotypal personality disorder features in adolescents. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment.

Klimstra, T. A., Jeronimus, B. F., Sijtsema, J. J., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2020). The unfolding dark side: Age trends in dark personality features. Journal of Research in Personality, 85, 103915.

Van Doeselaar, L., McLean, K. C., Meeus, W., Denissen, J. J. A., & Klimstra, T. A. (2020). Adolescents' identity formation: Linking the narrative and the dual-cycle approach. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 49, 818–835.

Hadiwijaya, H., Klimstra, T. A., Darling, N., Vermunt, J. K., Branje, S., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2020). The family context as a foundation for romantic relationships: A person-centered multi-informant longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology, 34, 46-56.

Klimstra, T. A., Noftle, E. E., Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., & Robins, R.W. (2018). Personality development and adjustment in college: A multifaceted, cross-national view. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115, 338-361.

Van Doeselaar, L., Becht, A., Klimstra, T. A., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2018). A review and integration of three key components of identity development: Distinctiveness, coherence, and continuity. European Psychologist, 23, 278-288.

Klimstra, T. A., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2017). A theoretical framework for the associations between identity and psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 53, 2052-2065.

Klimstra, T. A., & Van Doeselaar, L. (2017). Identity Formation in Adolescence and Young Adulthood. In: J. Specht (Ed.), Personality Development Across the Lifespan, Elsevier: San Diego, CA.