Christopher M. Napolitano, Ph.D.

Senior teaching and research associate



cnapol 120

Christopher M. Napolitano, Ph.D.
University of Zurich
Department of Psychology
Developmental Psychology: Adulthood
Binzmuehlestrasse 14/11
CH-8050 Zurich / Switzerland
BIN 3.A.12

Current Research Interests

  • Self-regulation
  • Backup plans
  • Serendiptity and serendiptious actions
  • Life-span developmental psychology

Brief Research Statement

I am a life-span developmental psychologist. My primary research interest is in the development of adaptive self-regulatory action across the life span, and how to best translate this research into programs that promote positive development. My work explores how people produce their development through striving for dynamic, unpredictable goals, and is now particularly focused on the self-regulatory actions that maximize gains from unexpected, positive events (which I term serendipitous actions) and the actions that often minimize losses from expected shortcomings (which I term backup plans).

Selected Key Publications

  • Napolitano, C. M., & Freund, A. M. (in press). On the use and usefulness of backup plans. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
  • Napolitano, C. M., Bowers, E. P., Arbeit, M. L., Chase, P., Geldhof, J. G., Lerner, J. V., & Lerner, R. M. (2014). The GPS to Success growth grids: Measurement properties of a tool to promote intentional self-regulation in mentoring programs. Applied Developmental Science, 18.
  • Napolitano, C. M. (2013). More than just a simple twist of fate: Serendipitous relations in developmental science. Human Development, 56 (5), 291-318.
  • Napolitano, C. M., Mueller, M. K., & Callina, K. S. (2013). Comparing alternate approaches to calculating reliability for dichotomous data: The sample case of adolescent selection, optimization, and compensation. Applied Developmental Science, 17(3), 148-151.
  • Napolitano, C. M., Bowers, E. P., Gestsdóttir, S., & Chase, P. (2011). The development of intentional self-regulation in adolescence: Describing, explaining, and optimizing its link to Positive Youth Development. In R. M. Lerner, J. V. Lerner, & J. B Benson (Eds.) Advances in Child Development and Behavior (41), 19-38.
  • Napolitano, C. M., Bowers, E. P., Gestsdóttir, S, Depping, M., von Eye, A., & Chase, P. (2011). The role of parenting and intentional self-regulation in Positive Youth Development: Taking a person-centered approach. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 1137-1149.

Education, awards and leadership


Ph.D., 2013 Tufts University – Medford, MA
Thesis - More than just a simple twist of fate: Serendipitous relations in adolescence (Richard M. Lerner, Marina U. Bers, Jon Zaff, Todd Little, & Alexandra M. Freund)
M.A., 2010 Tufts University – Medford, MA
Thesis - Context and adolescent intentional self-regulation: Testing the Positive Youth Development model (Richard M. Lerner, Marina U. Bers, Jon Zaff)
B.A., 2008 Boston College – Chestnut Hill, MA (Summa cum Laude)
BA: Child Development; BA: History
Thesis - Mobile Phone Usage Patterns, Emotional Interdependence, and Self-Perception in Undergraduate Romantic Couples (Jacqueline V. Lerner)

Awards and leadership

2012 - present Chair of the Emerging Scholars Committee for the Society for the Study of Human Development (SSHD)
2012 EARA / SRA Summer School Junior Scholar – Spetses, Greece
2008 Rev. Edward H. Finnegan, S.J., Award Finalist (top undergraduate award)
2008 Alpha Sigma Nu (Jesuit) Honors Society
2008 Pi Lambda Theta (Education) Honors Society
2008 Phi Alpha Theta (History) Honors Society