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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

  • Lipscomb, S. T., Schmitt, S. A., & Pratt, M. (in press). Professional development scholarships increase qualifications of diverse providers. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.
  • Powell, D. R., & Schmitt, S. A. (in press). What teachers need to know: Family-centered practice. In L. J. Couse & S. L. Recchia (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood teacher education.
  • Pratt, M. E., Lipscomb, S. T., & Schmitt, S. A. (in press). The effect of Head Start on parenting outcomes for children living in non-parental care. Journal of Child and Family Studies.
  • Schmitt, S. A., Finders, J., & McClelland, M. M. (2015). Residential mobility, inhibitory control and academic achievement in preschool. Early Education and Development, 26, 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, 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.
  • Schmitt, S. A., Flay, B. R., & Lewis, K. (2014). A pilot evaluation of the Positive Action prekindergarten lessons. Early Child Development and Care, 184, 1978-1991.
  • 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: http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/documents/McClelland-SchmittANGxp.pdf


  • 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


  • 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, Early Education and Development, Infant and Child Development, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, and Journal of Children and Poverty
  • Head Start Research Conference Review Panel
  • Society for Prevention Research Conference Review Panel
  • Society for Research in Child Development Conference Review Panel