Directory Page Title

Thomas W. Farmer

Professor and Associate Dean for Research

Office: 2121
Phone: (757) 221-1810
Email: [[twfarmer]]
Areas of Expertise: Bullying and Peer Victimization, School Social Networks, Middle School, Professional Development, Rural Education


Tom Farmer is Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the School of Education. Trained as an applied developmental scientist, his research focuses on the interplay between the classroom social ecology and students' school adjustment and achievement. Building on a person-in-context theoretical framework and using social network and person-oriented analytic approaches, he has examined a range of topics including: developmental pathways of bullying and victimization; the heterogeneity of aggression and popularity in childhood and adolescence; the management of classroom social dynamics; the social inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms; the prevention of school violence; and the development and evaluation of professional development programs to promote teachers' efforts to create supportive classroom contexts for struggling students.

Dr. Farmer has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator of over 15 federally funded studies (Institute for Education Sciences, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Mental Health, Office of Special Education Programs) that focus on social processes, school adjustment, and patterns of behavioral adaptation. He served as the Associate Director of the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he also supervised the Carolina Consortium on Human Development pre- and post-doctoral training program in developmental science. In addition, along with Karen Bierman, he founded and directed the Training Interdisciplinary Educational Scientists Program at Penn State. He also directed the National Research Center on Rural Education Support, a research and development center funded by the Institute of Education Sciences.


Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a focus in Special Education and Developmental Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1993
M.A. in Special Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1989
B.A. in Philosophy, College of William & Mary, 1983

Activities and Honors

Co-Editor, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 2012 – present

Selected Publications

Farmer, T. W., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Lee, D. L., Dawes, M., & Talbott, E. (2016). Research and policy on disability: Linking special education to developmental science. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3, 138-145.

Farmer, T.W., Sutherland, K.S., Talbott, E., Brooks, D., Norwalk, K., & Huneke, M. (2016). Special educators as intervention specialists: Dynamic systems and the complexity of intensifying intervention for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 24, 173-186.

Farmer, T.W., Irvin, M.J., Motoca, L.M., Brooks, D.S., Leung, M-C., & Hutchins, B.C. (2015). Externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, peer affiliations, and bullying involvement across the transition to middle school. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 23, 3-16.

Hamm, J.V., Farmer, T.W., Lambert, K., & Gravelle, M. (2014). Enhancing peer cultures of academic effort and achievement in early adolescence: Promotive effects of the SEALS intervention. Developmental Psychology, 50, 216-228.

Farmer, T.W., Hamm, J.V., Leung, M-C., Lambert, K., & Gravelle, M. (2011). Early adolescent peer ecologies in rural communities: Bullying in schools that do and do not have a transition during the middle grades. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 1106-1117.

Farmer, T.W., Lines, M.M. & Hamm, J.V. (2011). Revealing the invisible hand: The role of teachers in children's peer experiences. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 32, 247-256.

Farmer, T. W., Estell, D. B., Bishop, J. L., O'Neal, K., & Cairns, B. D. (2003). Rejected bullies or popular leaders? The social relations of aggressive subtypes of rural African-American early adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 39, 992-1004.

Rodkin, P., Farmer, T. W., Pearl, R., & Van Acker, R. (2000). Heterogeneity of popular boys: Antisocial and prosocial configurations. Developmental Psychology, 36, 14-24.