Claremont McKenna College

Welcome to The Berger Institute for Individual and Social Development

The Berger Institute at Claremont McKenna College provides the intellectual and experiential home for research and programming focused on contemporary social issues. The Berger Institute produces and disseminates high quality research with implications for policy, practical applications, and theory.

The central theme for our research and programming is How We Thrive. Our research focuses on understanding risk and resilience factors, while our programming emphasizes the development and cultivation of skills that are necessary for successful adaptation in a rapidly changing society. We focus on individual and social factors that impact how children develop, how families thrive, and how people navigate major transitions and milestones. Examples of our work include understanding how to nurture the well-being of individuals from a wide range of social-economic and demographic backgrounds (including gender, culture, race, age), the changing nature of gender and family roles, and understanding the demographic, technological, financial, and political changes impacting our society today.


The Institute offers stellar behavioral science research training for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as funding for faculty and student research collaborations.


Our programs includes retreats, workshops and a lecture series designed to educate and empower students, with the goal of cultivating practical skills for successful development.

Latest Research Briefs

Current Pandemic Research

Changes in Maternal Depression and Children’s Behavior Problems: Investigating the Role of COVID-19 Related Stressors, Hair Cortisol, and Dehydroepiandrosterone

In collaboration with Dr. Smiley (Pomona College) and Dr. Liu (Brigham and Women’s Hospital), researchers from the Berger Institute collected data on COVID-19-related life stressors, mothers’ depressive symptoms, children’s behavioral problems, hair cortisol (a measure of chronic stress exposure), and hair dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA, a hormone which can act as a stress regulator). Through hair samples and questionnaires one and a half years before the pandemic and online questionnaires during the first few months of the pandemic, the researchers found that pandemic-related stressors were linked to increases in mothers’ depression. They also found that chronic stress exposure prior to the pandemic (measured through hair cortisol) also predicted mothers’ depression in relation to the current chronic stress of the pandemic. This relationship between chronic stress and mothers’ depression also impacts children’s behavioral problems.

A Relational Savoring Intervention Predicts Higher Levels of Health Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Berger Institute researchers collaborated with Dr. Smiley (Pomona College), Dr. Kerr (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Dr. Borelli (University of California-Irvine) to look at the effects of a pre-pandemic positive emotion intervention on health behaviors during the pandemic. 3-5 years before the pandemic, the researchers had mothers perform relational savoring, a type of positive emotion intervention in which the mother recalls times of positive connection with their child and expands on the memory by finding meaning in it. A control group of mothers recalled a positive memory that did not involve another person. The exercise was performed once per week for 4 weeks. During the later pandemic, many of these mothers volunteered to fill out an online questionnaire about their health behavior (such as how much they washed their hands), their anxiety, and the perceived threat they felt during the pandemic. The researchers found that those who had participated in the relational savoring intervention years earlier engaged in more health behavior during the pandemic, regardless of their education level, their perceived threat, and their anxiety.

Talking about Open Science with Roman Briker

On February 8, 2022, amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the Berger Institute invited Dr. Roman Briker to give an Open Science Zoom talk to members of the Claremont community. Dr. Briker is an Assistant Professor in Organizational Behavior & Human Resource...

Life After Psychology

On October 29th, 2021, the Berger Institute for Individual and Social Development, hosted three panelists who pursued non-traditional career paths after earning degrees in Psychology: Faye Sahai, Haley Umans, and Matt Wallaert. Ms. Sahai is now a partner at Mirai...

Resilience and Connections with Sleep and Health

Despite the fact that many children grow up in poverty, many exhibit resilience, or successful adaptation and competence. Recent data, however, has also shown that adaptation in the face of adversity often comes at a health cost. At the same time, there is much we do...