York Professor Debra Pepler honoured for her contributions to psychology

Debra Pepler

Debra Pepler

Bullying expert Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor of psychology at York University, is the recipient of the 2015 Donald O. Hebb Award for Distinguished Contributors to Psychology as a Science from the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).

Pepler's research has changed the way we think about bullying, aggression and other forms of violence, especially among marginalized and alienated young people. She speaks widely to professional and community audiences about children at risk. Pepler has a strong publication record and has edited four volumes in the past four years on understanding and addressing children’s aggression, bullying, and victimization.

A member of the Department of Psychology at York University since 1988, Pepler served as the director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution from 1994 to 2002. She has been a Senior Associate Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children since 2001.

She was awarded a Network of Centres of Excellence: New Initiatives grant to establish PREVNet – Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, together with Queen's University Professor Wendy Craig, who was Pepler's first PhD student at York University. This is a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative brings together 62 researchers from 27 Canadian universities and 49 national organizations. The grant, the first stage of Canada’s largest funding mechanism, is the culmination of many years of work for Pepler, who has been involved in community-based research and public policy development on pressing social issues related to children and youth.

Pepler has conducted two major research programs on children at risk within the context of peer relationships at school and in context of the family. To study aggression and bullying, Pepler developed an innovative methodology to observe children’s interactions, which would normally be hidden from adults. She has been honoured for this research with the Contribution to Knowledge Award from the Psychology Foundation of Canada, the Educator of the Year Award from Phi Delta Kappa (Toronto), the University of Waterloo Arts in Academia Award, and the CPA's Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service.

The Donald O. Hebb award is given to a CPA member or Fellow who has made a significant contribution to Canadian psychology as a scientific discipline. Donald O. Hebb award recipients are psychologists who have enhanced the knowledge base of psychology through their research; exerted influence through leadership as teachers, theorists, spokespeople for the discipline, and/or developers of public policy; and/or substantially influenced the development of psychology through their work.

Pepler received her award at CPA’s 76th Annual Convention, which took place in Ottawa June 4 through 6.