Caitlin Cavanagh

Caitlin  Cavanagh
  • Associate Professor | Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • School of Criminal Justice
  • PhD 2016, University of California Irvine
  • MA 2013, University of California Irvine
  • BA 2011, University of Rochester


Curriculum Vitae

Office Hours

The Adjust Lab

Department of Psychology


Caitlin Cavanagh is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. Broadly, her research focuses on the intersections of psychology and the law, and how social contexts shape adolescent behavior. A developmental psychologist by training, she is particularly interested in the dynamic parent-child relationship. Her program of research seeks to produce developmentally sound research that can improve how the juvenile justice system interfaces with youth and their families.

Current Research

The Crossroads Mothers Study

Crossroads is a multi-site, longitudinal study of first-time adolescent offenders investigating the long-term impacts of formal versus informal processing. The Crossroads Mothers study augments the Crossroads study with interviews with the female guardians of Crossroads youth, as well as official records from Child Welfare Services and the Department of Probation.

The Juvenile Risk Assessment Study

In cooperation with the Ingham County Juvenile Court and Child Protective Services, the Juvenile Risk Assessment Study investigates the predictive validity of risk assessments associated with drug relapse, sexual offending, human trafficking, and more. Longitudinal data on juvenile offending and risk are collected for all youthful offenders in Ingham County.

The Short-Term Detention Study

In cooperation with the Ingham County Youth Center, this study examines the efficacy of various programs within short-term detention in terms of facility safety and youth recidivism. Longitudinal data are collected for every youth who enters the facility, and are linked to risk and recidivism scores collected by the county.

The Adolescent Sleep & Social Development Study

The AS&SD Study examines the extent to which normative adolescent social development and sleep patterns are disrupted by incarceration. The study compares markers of social development and healthy sleep in matched samples of incarcerated youth, youth on probation, and non-arrested youth over the course of three years, and track how social development and sleep corresponds to mental health and re-offending.

Areas of Expertise

  • Adolescent Development
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Families and Social Policy
  • Legal Socialization
  • Callous-Unemotional Traits



The Developmental Reform in Juvenile Justice: Its Progress and Vulnerability

Year: In Press Authors: Cavanagh, C., Paruk, J., & Grisso, T. Journal: Psychology, Public Policy, and Law

The Concentric Diagram of Legitimacy: An organizing tool for the literature

Year: In Press Authors: Hamm, J., Wolfe, S., Cavanagh, C., & Lee, S. Journal: Legal and Criminological Psychology


Adolescents’ Perceptions of Physical Development Relative to Peers and Antisocial Behaviors

Year: 2021 Authors: Dalzell, E. & Cavanagh, C. Journal: Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology


Attitudes toward legal actors among dual system youth

Year: 2021 Authors: Cavanagh, C., LaBerge, A., & Cauffman, E. Journal: Journal of Social Issues


Parental incarceration and the mental health of youth in the justice system: The moderating role of neighborhood disorder

Year: 2020 Authors: Kitzmiller, M.K., Cavanagh, C., Cauffman, E., Frick, P., & Steinberg, L. Journal: Psychology, Public Policy, and Law

How do adolescents develop legal cynicism? A test of legal socialization mechanisms among youth involved in the justice system

Year: 2020 Authors: Cavanagh, C., Fine, A., & Cauffman, E. Journal: Justice Quarterly