Debra J Pepler

Distinguished Research Professor

Locations / Contact Info:

Keele Campus
Phone: 416 736 2100 Ext. 66155

Email address(es):

Faculty & School/Dept.

Faculty of Health - Department of Psychology


BA-BPHE - 1973
Queen's University

BEd - 1974
Queen’s University

MSc - 1976
Dalhousie University

PhD - 1979
University of Waterloo



Professor Debra Pepler is a distinguised researcher and her 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. Dr. 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.

Professor Debra Pepler has been a member of the Department of Psychology at York since 1988. She was the Director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution from 1994 to 2002. Dr. Pepler has been a Senior Associate Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children since 2001. She received her PhD in 1979 from the University of Waterloo and is a Registered Psychologist in the Province of Ontario. She has co-authored four books, dozens of referred journal articles, book chapters, reviews and government reports. She has been the primary supervisor of 29 graduate PhD students. Dr. Pepler has served on the Ontario Minister of Education’s Safe Schools Action Team since 2004. She also serves on several other advisory committees related to parenting, antisocial behaviour, and school violence.

Professor Pepler was awarded a Network of Centres of Excellence: New Initiatives grant to establish PREVNet – Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, together with Dr. Wendy Craig, her first York Ph.D. student. This is a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative that brings together 62researchers 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 Professor Pepler, who has been tirelessly involved in community-based research and public policy development on pressing social issues related to children and youth.  

Dr. 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, Dr. Pepler developed an innovative methodology to observe children’s interactions which would normally be hidden from adults. Dr. Pepler 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), theUniversity of Waterloo Arts in Academia Award, and the Canadian Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service.


Selected Publications

A. Books

Craig, W., Pepler, D., & Cummings, J. (Eds.) (2009). Rise Up for Respectful Relationships: Prevent Bullying. PREVNet Series, Volume 2. Kingston, Canada: PREVNet Inc.

Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (Eds.) (2008). Understanding and Addressing Bullying: An International   Perspective. PREVNet Series, Volume 1. Kingston, Canada: PREVNet Inc.

B. Chapters

Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2009). Peer dynamics in bullying: Considerations for social  architecture in schools. In J. Lupart & A. McKeogh, Building capacity for diversity in Canadian schools. (pp. 285-303) Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2008). Moving forward from lessons learned. In D. Pepler & W. Craig (Eds.), Understanding and addressing bullying: An international perspective (pp. 311-320). PREVNet Series, Volume 1. Kingston, Canada: PREVNet Inc.

C. Papers Published in Refereed Journals

Lamb, J., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2009). Approach to Bullying and Victimization. Canadian Family Physician. 55, 356-60.

Racine, N.M., Motz, M.H., Leslie, M. & Pepler, D.J. (2009). Improving maternal-child health through engagement of substance-using pregnant women in a pregnancy outreach program. Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, 11(1), 279-290

Pepler, D., Craig, W., Jiang, D., & Connolly, J. (2008.) The development of bullying and considerations for intervention. International Journal of Adolescent Mental Health, 20, 3-9.

Blais, J., Craig, W., Pepler, D., & Connolly, J. (2008). Adolescents online: The importance of internet activity choices to salient relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 37, 522-536.

Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2008). Bullying, interventions, and the role of adults. (

Pepler, D., Jiang, D., Craig, W., & Connolly, J. (2008). Developmental trajectories of bullying and associated factors. Child Development, 79, 325-338.

Craig, W. M., & Pepler, D. J. (2007). Understanding bullying: From research to policy. Canadian Psychology, 48, 86-93.

Craig, Wendy, M., Pepler, D. J., & Blais, J. (2007). Responding to bullying: What works? International Journal of School Psychology, 28,15-24.

Cummings, J., Pepler, D. J., Mishna, F., & Craig, W. M. (2006). Bullying and victimization among children with exceptionalities. Exceptional Education Canada, 16, 193-222.

Pepler, D., Craig, W., Connolly, J., Yuile, A., McMaster, L., & Jiang, D. (2006). A developmental perspective on bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 376-384.

Other Research Outputs


Cappadocia, M. C., Cummings, J. G., & Pepler, D. (2009). Standing up to Bullying: What are Children and Youth Saying? Empirical research report prepared for Family Channel.

Cappadocia, M. C. (2009). Teacher’s Manual: The Bullying Issue. Bullying intervention manual prepared for Canadian school boards to be accessed at

Safe Schools Action Team (2008). Shaping A Culture Of Respect In Our Schools: Promoting Safe And Healthy Relationships. Safe Schools Action Team Report on Gender-based Violence, Homophobia, Sexual Harassment, and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour in Schools. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Government of Ontario.

Pepler, D., Craig, W., Cummings, J., Yamada, S., Cappadocia, M.C., Vaughan, A., Haner, D., & Ma, J. (2008).Foundations for bullying prevention: Evidence- based fact sheets and implications. Report prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), USA.


Pepler, D., Knoll, G., Josephson, W., Simkins-Strong., & Penn, H. (2008).The youth outreach worker program: Preliminary evaluation. Report prepared for the Youth Outreach Worker Program, Toronto, CA.

McKenney, K., Pepler, D., & McGrath, P. (2006). Elijah’s kite study guide. Teachers Guide for Tapestry New Opera Works.

Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2006). Kids Help Phone Training Manual for Bullying Problems.

Sandals, L., Pepler, D., Hughes, R., & Auty, S. Shaping safer schools: A bullying prevention action plan. Safe Schools Action Team (2005). Report of Safe Schools Action Team to Ontario Minister of Education.




Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment
Scientific Board Member

Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network
Co-founder and former Scientific Co-Director

Pine River Institute
Senior Research Advisor, Chair of the Research Advisory Committee

Service/Community Activities

Child Development Institute
Consultant and Evaluator for SNAP girls and boys programs

Family Channel
Consultant to Family Channel's Bullying Awareness Week

Youth Outreach Worker Program, East Metro Youth Services
Consultant and Evaluator


Arts in Academics - 2009
University of Waterloo

Distinguished Research Professor - 2007
York University

Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community - 2008
Canadian Psychological Association

Contribution to Knowledge Award - 1996
Psychology Foundation of Canada

Educator of the Year Award - 2001
Phi Delta Kappa, Toronto


Currently available to supervise graduate students: No

Currently taking on work-study students, Graduate Assistants or Volunteers: No

Available to supervise undergraduate thesis projects: No

Current Research

Early interventions for substance using women and their young children, interpersonal family violence prevention, Children in families at risk,  bullying prevention, wellbeing in Indigenous communities, human-robot interaction, prevention and intervention. For twenty years, Dr. Pepler focused on what went wrong in relationships. Her focus over the past 10 years has shifted to the importance of healthy relationships for healthy development. 

Research Projects

Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women: A Focus on Relationships
This project is an evaluation of "Breaking the Cycle" a comprehensive program for substance using women and their young children.
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount funded: $$815,000
Year Funded: 2005
Duration: 5
Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Promoting Healthy Relationships for Healthy Development: Creating a Community of Evidence-Based Practice.
This program is to enhance the evidence-based practice within three of PREVNet's partner organizations
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount funded: $$600,000
Year Funded: 2009
Duration: 3
Funded by: Other...
Other funding: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network
This is a new initiative of the Networks of Centres of Excellence federal granting program. PREVNet currently comprises 50 national organizations and 65 researchers working together to promote safe and healthy relationships for children and youth.
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount funded: $$2,000,000
Year Funded: 2006
Duration: 5
Funded by: Networks of Centres of Excellence