Pamela Ebstyne King

Executive Director, Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science

About Dr. King

Dr. Pamela Ebstyne King joined Fuller Theological Seminary as Assistant Professor of Marital and Family Studies in 2008, after serving in the School of Psychology for eight years as Adjunct and Research Professor. She was installed in 2014 with a professorship named for her mentor, Peter L. Benson, and in 2021 she was promoted to the position of Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science. Dr. King is the Executive Director of the Thrive Center for Human Development.

Dr. King’s primary academic interests are applied research at the intersection of human thriving and spiritual development. She is passionate about understanding what individual strengths and environments enable humans to thrive and become all God created them to be. She holds particular interest in understanding the role of faith, spirituality, and religion in this process. To this end she has led in building an empirical field of study of religious and spiritual development within developmental psychology that provides a psychological scientific perspective of spiritual formation.

Her current research includes studies that examine determinants of human thriving, and particularly she examines the roles spirituality and virtues play in promoting individual and communal flourishing. She has extensively studied and written on conceptualizations of thriving and positive youth development. Her work on telos is noted to provide an interdisciplinary framework for human thriving and flourishing from different philosophical, theological, and cultural perspectives and to provide a structure for understanding practical concepts like purpose, vocation, and joy. Her work combines theology, empirical research, and community engagement to further understand what contexts and settings enable people to thrive. She has conducted research funded by Biologos Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, and Tyndale House. 

Dr. King is coauthor of The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective and Thriving with Stone Age Minds: Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Theology & Human Flourishing, coeditor of The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence, and coauthor of the inaugural chapter on research on religious and spiritual development in the seventh edition of the Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science. She has served on the editorial boards of Developmental PsychologyJournal of Positive PsychologyApplied Developmental Science, the Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science, and the Encyclopedia of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. She has also published articles in the Journal on Adolescent ResearchJournal of Early AdolescenceNew Directions for Child and Adolescent DevelopmentPsychology of Religion and Spirituality, and Journal of Psychology and Christianity. King is a member of the Society for Research on Adolescents, Society for Research on Child Development, and Division 36 of the American Psychological Association.

In addition to her studies at Fuller, Dr. King completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Center on Adolescence; she was a visiting scholar under the divinity faculty at Cambridge University. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she has led high school and college ministries and regularly speaks, preaches, and consults for various community organizations and churches. She lives in Pasadena with her husband and three children.


+ View a list of her current publications and speaking engagements.

Read Posts by Dr. King

The Wows and Woes of Graduation: Traversing Transition with Hope

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Jun 9, 2021

Dr. Pamela King reflects on her hopes for her son as he graduates high school and her new role as a partner in this next phase of their lives.

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Breaking Open: The Joys and Laments of Vaccinated Living

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Apr 30, 2021

As our country slowly begins to re-open, Dr. Pamela King calls us to re-orient our lives towards what matters most and brings us joy.

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Bouncing Back or Bouncing Beyond? Shifting from Structures to Systems

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Jan 12, 2021

Dr. Pam King discusses the importance of creating transformative systems that will enable human thriving.

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While We Wait

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Nov 6, 2020

As Americans await the results of the 2020 elections, Dr. Pam King reflects on the importance of holding onto hope.

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Finding Agility through the 5 A’s

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Sep 30, 2020

Part of our journey towards thriving involves agility. Dr. Pam King explains how we can be agile through this 5-step process.

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All Bets are Off: Rethinking the Basics Amid COVID-19

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Sep 7, 2020

How can we carry out our basic needs and still thrive during COVID-19? Dr. Pam King shares 8 ways we can do this.

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Thriving over the Long Haul this Fall

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Sep 3, 2020

Dr. Pamela King reviews the elements of a thriving mindset, providing tips on how we can pursue each as we approach the fall of 2020.

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Lament and Hope in Times of Injustice and Racism

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Jun 5, 2020

Dr. Pam King reflects on injustice and racism, the importance of attuning to our emotions, and coming together as a community.

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A Quarantine Mother’s Day: Finding Purpose in the Middle of Crisis

By Pamela Ebstyne King | May 9, 2020

In an unprecedented Mother’s Day, Dr. Pamela King invites all mothers to focus on their purpose in order to live more fulfilling lives.

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Staying Grounded, Connected, and Directed through Disruption

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Apr 23, 2020

Dr. Pam King discusses how spirituality can help us stay grounded, connected, and directed throughout challenges.

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Light in Darkness: Not a Wholly Unprecedented Holy Week

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Apr 9, 2020

Dr. Pam King explores how our beliefs can bring hope and light to our lives during dark times like COVID-19.

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Changing Our Focus from Surviving to Thriving During COVID-19

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Mar 12, 2020

Dr. Pamela King reflects on the importance of contemplative practices as the key to thriving during the unprecedented times.

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Thriving on the Road to Joy

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Jan 22, 2020

How can caring adults equip youth for a journey of long-lasting joy? Dr. Pam King highlights the 3 essentials needed.

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Orienting Ourselves through the Holi-daze

By Pamela Ebstyne King | Dec 18, 2019

Are we thriving during the pre-holiday craze? Dr. Pam King reminds us about the importance of being mindful and orieinting our lives to what matters.

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Selected Publications