Meet Ryan Meldrum

New Faculty Spotlight: Meet Ryan Meldrum

New Associate Dean and Professor Studies Self-Control and Development in Youth

When it comes to youth committing crimes, conflict within families matters, according to Ryan Meldrum, Ph.D., new associate dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services and professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, both in FAU’s College of Social Work and Criminal Justice.

Meldrum studies why kids fail to develop self-control, meaning they don’t consider the consequences of their actions and become involved with violence, gangs and drugs. Several different factors contribute to self-control, including family context, peers, environmental toxins, head injuries, and even sleep, he said. Currently, his research is examining the impact of family conflict, such as the amount of yelling and intense arguments that occur in households.

To study this possibility, Meldrum and his collaborators are analyzing data collected from surveys completed by more than 125,000 middle-school and high-school students who recently participated in the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

“Negative social experiences during childhood and adolescence, especially those that involve verbal and physical abuse, are linked to changes in the brain,” Meldrum said. “While there is considerable research on a lack of parental monitoring and inconsistent discipline by parents, my interest goes beyond lax parenting practices to see how negative family interactions may also impact adolescents’ self-control.”

Meldrum spent nearly 15 years working in the department of criminology and criminal justice at FIU before coming to Florida Atlantic. “I felt getting into administration was one way for me to challenge myself and evolve as an academic,” Meldrum said. The College of Social Work and Criminal Justice is fairly new and still developing, he said, adding he’s particularly excited about engaging in program building and curriculum development, as well as the opportunity to help junior faculty advance in their own careers.

Meldrum began his education studying biochemistry at Oregon State University, before changing his major to sociology. It was a general elective class in juvenile delinquency that piqued his interest, he said. “It fascinated me. I grew up in a very rural farming community where everyone knew each other, where things were generally safe, and drug problems and violent crime were largely non-existent,” he said. Spring boarding his interest from that initial class, Meldrum went on to earn a master’s degree and doctoral degree in criminology from Florida State University.

His more than 80 peer-reviewed studies have been featured in news and media outlets, including The Health Channel, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and the Miami Herald. He was also the 2016 recipient of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences New Scholar Award and is co-author of the book Self-Control and Crime Over the Life Course (Sage Publications).

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Meldrum is proud of the student researchers he has mentored. He emphasized the importance of students getting involved in research projects outside of course curricula – to garner meaningful experience, create important connections with faculty, and broaden their horizons for future success.

“There’s a whole world of opportunities,” he said. “Sometimes all it takes is stepping outside of your comfort zone to make valuable doors open.”

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