Patrick H. Tolan

Charles S. Robb Professor Emeritus of Education; Founding Director Emeritus, Youth-Nex | The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development

  • Ph.D., University of Tennessee, 1983
  • M.A., University of Tennessee, 1980
  • B.A., Temple University, 1978

Patrick H. Tolan is the Charles S. Robb Professor of Education at the University of Virginia in the School of Education and Human Development and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine.

He is Director Emeritus of the cross-university multidisciplinary center, Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development. Tolan championed the Center's mission since inception in 2009 through the summer of 2017, to promote healthy youth development, to enhance the potential of youth as productive citizens and to reduce developmental risk, through focused research, training, and service. Youth-Nex continues as a transdisciplinary, nexus, focusing on the capabilities of young people in connection to health, communities, schools, and relationships engaging over 30 faculty across Grounds.


Over the past 34 years Professor Tolan has conducted research studies and programs promoting youth development, preventing problems, and understanding and affecting youth violence. His studies have provided insights and innovations for how families managed the challenges of under-resourced schools and unsafe neighborhoods, the complex determinants of violence, and how neighborhoods affect risk for school failure, delinquency, and mental health problems. At present, he heads up the 7-year $11.75 million group randomized trial, the Compassionate Schools Project, a collaboration with the City of Louisville and the Jefferson County Public Schools. The Compassionate Schools Project is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of a 21st century health and wellness curriculum in an elementary or secondary school setting. Facilitating the integrated development of mind and body, the project interweaves support in academic achievement, mental fitness, health, and compassionate character. The research aims to have a major impact on children’s education Nationwide in terms of academic performance, physical education, character development, and child health policies­ due to its extraordinary scale of 50 schools and 20,000 children over the project’s seven years.

Professor Tolan is a frequent contributor to the scientific literature. His latest book is, Gene-Environment Transactions in Developmental Psychopathology: The Role in Intervention Research, a volume in the Brain Research Foundation Symposium Series he edits. (Springer, 2017). He also was the lead editor on Preventing Youth Substance Abuse: Science-based Programs for Children and Adolescents (American Psychological Association, 2007). His 200 plus articles include, "Children's mental health as a primary care and concern: A system for comprehensive support and service," published in 2005 in American Psychologist and “Future directions for positive development intervention research” published in 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

Among the recognitions for his contributions are the Presidential Award, a “lifetime achievement” award in recognition of a major specific contribution to prevention science research which has had a broad impact on the field from the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) (2018), the Nicholas Hobbs Award from the Society for Child and Family Practice and Policy (APA) (2016); the American Psychological Association Presidential Citation (2008) for his contributions to theory and empirical understanding of youth violence; and the Star of Science Award, from the Children’s Brain Research Foundation (2007) for his contributions to theory and empirical understanding of youth violence.