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Kirby Summit IV: Supporting Healthy Adolescent Relationships

Kirby Summit IV: Supporting Healthy Adolescent Relationships

By Pamela Anderson, PhD | October 11, 2018
Senior Research Associate, ETR

The Kirby Summit is one of the highlights of ETR’s year. Today, we embark on the fourth occurrence of this remarkable convening.

While we know a lot about adolescent development from our own professional perspective, people with deep expertise from other perspectives know things we do not. When we bring these different groups together, amazing things can happen. This is what the Kirby Summit is about.

The Summit is named after Dr. Doug Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR. Doug’s untimely death in 2012 left us with a sense of obligation to pursue one of the things he did best—bringing together people who think differently, engaging in spirited and civil debate, staying curious and open-minded, and coming up with some powerful, paradigm-shifting new ideas.

Spirited Engagement

The conveners of this invited Summit put a good deal of effort into creating a space that supports deep engagement among the participants. The goal is for everyone to let their thinking move in new directions. Building on previous Summits, Summit IV will focus on creating guidance for parents, caregivers and youth-serving professionals to help scaffold young people's romantic relationships.

During the adolescent years, romantic relationships engage a range of vital developmental processes. Adults often ask for more meaningful assistance during the ups, downs, successes, challenges, heartbreaks and soul-lifting exuberance youth are likely to experience as they enter into, navigate through and cycle out of intimate relationships.

We’ll be reporting back on the best ideas that emerge from Summit IV. In the meantime, I hope you’ll delve into wisdom from previous Summits. We have a series of free briefs that explore different aspects of adolescent neurodevelopment and positive sexual health.

Kirby Summit Briefs

  • Sex and the Teen Brain: Disrupting What We Think We Know
  • Developmental Neuroscience and Adolescent Sexual Health: Emotion
  • Developmental Neuroscience and Adolescent Sexual Health: Social Status and Autonomy
  • Developmental Neuroscience and Adolescent Sexual Health: Peer Presence

You can access all Kirby Summit briefs here.

I hope you’ll also think about interactions with young people you know. What type of guidance or information would be most useful for you as you support their experiences with romantic relationships? Let us know by leaving your comments below.


Pamela Anderson, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at ETR. She is an applied developmental psychologist whose research focuses on understanding the processes by which adolescent romantic relationships develop, and related behaviors that may affect HIV/STI and pregnancy risk. She can be reached at


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