Dr. Pamela Ebstyne King

Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science, Clinical Psychology Department and Executive Director, Thrive Center for Human Development

“Our invitation to thrive is understood as an invitation to a new order: one set forth and defined by the pattern—the logos—of Christ’s life.” Dr. King, in her installation address as the Peter L. Benson Associate Professor of Applied Developmental Science on May 5, 2016.

BA, Stanford University
MDiv, Fuller Theological Seminary
PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary

Thrive Center for Human Development
School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy
Fuller Theological Seminary

Human thriving and flourishing, telos, religious and spiritual development, virtue, joy, positive youth development, theological perspectives on development.


As the Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science and the executive director of the Thrive Center for Human Development, Pamela King’s academic and applied efforts aim to promote a movement of human thriving that contributes to flourishing societies.

Her primary research interests lie at the intersection of thriving and spiritual development. She is passionate about understanding what individual strengths and environments enable diverse humans to grow individually, relationally, and aspirationally. She holds particular interest in understanding the role of faith, spirituality, religion, and virtue 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 science perspective of spiritual formation.

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, virtue, vocation, and joy. Her work combines theology, empirical research, and community engagement to further understand what contexts and settings enable people to thrive for the greater good. She has conducted research funded by Biologos Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, and Tyndale House. In addition to her scholarship, she finds deep joy in teaching and mentoring students at Fuller.

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, 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, Brad, and their three children.

Download King’s CV, which includes a list of her current publications, here.

Featured Publications

On the basis of a theologically grounded understanding of the nature of persons and the self, Jack O. Balswick, Pamela Ebstyne King and Kevin S. Reimer present a model of human development that ranges across all of life's stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood and elder adulthood. They do this by drawing on a biblical model of relationality, where the created goal or purpose of human development is to become a reciprocating self―fully and securely related to others and to God...

What does God's creation of humanity through the process of evolution mean for human flourishing? The emerging field of evolutionary psychology remains controversial, perhaps especially among Christians. Yet according to Justin Barrett and Pamela Ebstyne King it can be a powerful tool for understanding human nature and our distinctively human purpose.

Thriving with Stone Age Minds provides an introduction to evolutionary psychology, explaining key concepts like hyper-sociality, information gathering, and self-control...