Professor Carter studies associations between pubertal development and patterns of adjustment (psychological, behavioral, and health), with particular attention to how pubertal processes, social-cultural contextual factors (family, peers, teachers, romantic partners), and wider social systems (culture, ethnicity) interact to contribute to girls’ adjustment problems from late childhood to young adulthood. Within the above context, her work focuses on three interrelated lines of research:
1. Racial and cultural contextual factors that influence pubertal processes
2. Social-cultural contextual factors and wider social systems that promote or hinder adjustment
3. Measurement development and evaluation as it relates to race, ethnicity, and gender.
She draws upon both secondary data analysis and original data collection. Her research has importance for understanding the relational and social contexts of girls’ development and health outcomes such as how girls negotiate aspects of their interpersonal relationships (family, peers, teachers, and romantic partners) when making their sexual decisions. Guiding her research are the central tenets of social development theory which emphasize that individual development occurs within a social and cultural context, which itself develops, and furthermore, perpetually interacts with the developing individual.