Sara Schmitt, PhD

Research Interests

Early childhood development, school readiness, self-regulation, executive function, socio-emotional learning, language development, poverty, rural communities, residential mobility, at risk youth, intervention and prevention, early care and education


I joined the Human Development and Family Studies faculty at Purdue in the fall of 2013 after receiving my Ph.D. from Oregon State University. My research is broadly focused on optimizing young children’s development in multiple contexts. This focus stems from my interdisciplinary training in Human Development and Family Sciences, Public Health, and Developmental Psychology, which promoted an ecological and dynamic systems perspective. This perspective has given me an appreciation that behavior and learning occur within a dynamic and interactive framework, and my research interests have evolved within this context.

Specifically, I study factors that support children’s school readiness, with an emphasis on self-regulation, executive function, social competence, and early academic skills. In addition, I am interested in exploring the mechanisms that drive the relations between socio-demographic risk and behavioral and academic outcomes. I am particularly interested in the role of poverty, residential mobility, and child welfare involvement and how family and home factors can protect children against the adverse outcomes related to these risks. This basic research informs my second line of inquiry: developing and evaluating interventions that strengthen school readiness skills prior to kindergarten entry for children from disadvantaged families.

Selected Publications

  • Schmitt, S. A., Geldhof, G. J., Purpura, D. J., Duncan, R., & McClelland, M. M. (in press) Examining the relations between executive function, math, and literacy during the transition to kindergarten: A multi-analytic approach. Journal of Educational Psychology.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Jones, B., Korucu, I., Snyder, F., Evich, C., & Purpura, D. J. (in press). Self-regulation and Body Mass Index in preschoolers. Early Child Development and Care.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Lewis, K., Duncan, R., Korucu, I., & Napoli, A. (in press). The effects of Positive Action on preschoolers’ social-emotional competence and health behaviors. Early Childhood Education Journal.

  • Schmitt, S. A., & Korucu, I. (in press). Self-regulation. In E. Braaton (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of intellectual and developmental disorders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Pratt, M. E., & Lipscomb, S. T. (in press). Residential mobility predicts behavioral problems for children living in non-parental care during the transition to kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review.

  • Purpura, D. J., Schmitt, S. A., & Ganley, C. M. (2017). Foundations of mathematics and literacy: The role of executive functioning components. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 153, 15-34.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Korucu, I., Jones, B. L., Snyder, F., Evich, C. D., & Purpura, D. J. (2017). Self-regulation as a correlate of weight status in preschool children. Early Child Development and Care. doi:10.1080/03004430.2017.1299715

  • Powell, D. R., & Schmitt, S. A. (2016). What teachers need to know: Family-centered practice. In L. J. Couse & S. L. Recchia (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood teacher education (pp. 135-147). Routledge: New York, NY.

  • Schmitt, S. A., & Lipscomb, S. T. (2016). Longitudinal effects of residential mobility on early academic skills for children living in poverty. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 190-200.

  • Pratt, M. E., Lipscomb, S. T., & Schmitt, S. A. (2015). The effect of Head Start on parenting outcomes for children living in non-parental care. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 2944-2956. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-0098-y

  • Lipscomb, S. T., Schmitt, S. A., & Pratt, M. (2015). Professional development scholarships increase qualifications of diverse providers. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 36, 232-249. doi:10.1080/10901027.2015.1062829

  • Schmitt, S. A., Finders, J., & McClelland, M. M. (2015). Residential mobility, inhibitory control and academic achievement in preschool. Early Education and Development, 26(2), 189-208. doi:10.1080/10409289.2015.975033

  • Schmitt, S. A., McClelland, M. M., Tominey, S., & Acock, A. C. (2015). Strengthening school readiness for Head Start children: An evaluation of a self-regulation intervention. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 30(A), 20-31. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.08.001

  • Lipscomb, S. T., Schmitt, S. A., Pratt, M., Pears, K., & Acock, A. (2014). Living in non-parental care moderates effects of prekindergarten experiences on externalizing problems in school. Children and Youth Services Review, 40, 41-50. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.02.006

  • Schmitt, S. A., Flay, B. R., & Lewis, K. (2014). A pilot evaluation of the Positive Action prekindergarten lessons. Early Child Development and Care, 184(12), 1978-1991. doi:10.1080/03004430.2014.903942

  • Schmitt, S. A., Pratt, M., & McClelland, M. M. (2014). Examining the validity of behavioral self-regulation tools in predicting preschoolers’ academic achievement. Early Education and Development, 25, 641-660.

  • Lipscomb, S. T., Pratt, M., Schmitt, S. A., Pears, K., & Kim, H. (2013). School readiness in children living in non-parental care: Impacts of Head Start. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 28-37.

  • Friend, M., Schmitt, S. A, & Simpson, A. M. (2012). Evaluating the predictive validity of the Computerized Comprehension Task: Comprehension predicts production. Developmental Psychology, 40, 136-148.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Simpson, A. M., & Friend, M (2011). A longitudinal assessment of the home literacy environment and early language. Infant and Child Development, 20, 409-431.

  • McClelland, M. M., & Schmitt, S. A. (2010). Social cognition: Comments on Hughes and Lecce. In R. E. Tremblay, R. G. Barr, R. DeV. Peters, M. Boivin (Eds.). Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. Montreal, Quebec: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development, 1-5. Available at:


  • PhD, Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University, June 2013

  • MA, Developmental Psychology, San Diego State University, August 2009

  • BA, Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, December 2003

Courses recently taught

  • HDFS 310: Guidance in Early Childhood

  • HDFS 341: Working with Parents


  • 2017-2019, ISTAR-KR Enhancement Project. State of Indiana and Early Learning Indiana ($733,011). Role: Co-Investigator (PI: Purpura)

  • 2016-2020, Engaging Children in Math Language at Home: The Development and Evaluation of a Family-Implemented Storybook Intervention. Heising-Simons Foundation ($858,000). Role: Co-Principal Investigator (PI: Purpura)

  • 2016-2017, Developing On-Site Food Gardens at Early Childhood Education Centers. Agricultural Science and Extension for Economic Development ($50,000). Role: Principal Investigator

  • 2014-2020, Evaluation of the Indiana Early Learning Pilot grant program. State of Indiana ($1,000,000). Role: Co-Principal Investigator (PI: Elicker)

  • 2015-2019, Red light, purple light! Developing a self-regulation intervention for children at-risk for school difficulty. U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences. Role: Co-Investigator (PI: McClelland)

  • 2015-2016, Evaluation of a Mind in the Making-based intervention targeting 4-year-old children. Families and Work Institute/Kellogg Foundation. Role: Co-Investigator (PI: McClelland)

  • 2015–2016, Using technology to promote executive function in young children. Bezos Family Foundation. Role: Consultant (PI: McClelland)

  • 2014-2016, Disparities in school readiness: The role of geographic region, family, community, and preschool experiences. Food and Agriculture Research Assistantship Program, Purdue University. Role: Principal Investigator

  • 2014-2015, A randomized trial evaluating the Positive Action prekindergarten program. Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, Pediatric Project Development Team. Role: Principal Investigator

Professional Service

  • Ad hoc reviewer for Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Infant and Child Development, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Children and Poverty, Child and Youth Services, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Learning and Individual Differences

  • Head Start Research Conference Review Panel

  • Society for Prevention Research Conference Review Panel

  • Society for Research in Child Development Conference Review Panel

Sara Schmitt

Assistant Professor

Faculty Associate:
   Center for Families  
   Center on Poverty and Health

(PhD, Oregon State University)

Hanley Hall, Room 235
Purdue University
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West Lafayette, Indiana  47907-2055

Phone: 765-494-4139
Fax: 765-496-1144

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