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. The ultimate goal of my research is to optimize children’s development during the early childhood period. 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 individual and contextual factors that contribute to growth in self-regulation (e.g., executive function) and school readiness (e.g., social-emotional competence, early academic skills). In addition, I am interested in exploring mechanisms that drive relations between socio-demographic risk factors (e.g., residential mobility) and behavioral and academic outcomes. This basic research informs by applied and translational work. I am currently directing the evaluation of the state of Indiana’s public prekindergarten program. I am also interested in developing and evaluating more targeted intervention and prevention efforts designed to strengthen self-regulation and school readiness for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Selected Publications

(italics indicate student or post-doc)

  • Schmitt, S. A., Snyder, F., Korucu, I., Bryant, L. M., & Finders, J. K. (in press). A brief, pilot intervention enhances preschoolers’ self-regulation and food liking. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

  • Purpura, D. J., King, Y., Rolan, E., Hornburg, C. B., Schmitt, S. A., Hart, S. A., & Ganley, C. M. (in press). Examining the factor structure of the home mathematics environment to delineate its role in predicting preschool numeracy, mathematical language, and spatial skills. Frontiers Psychology.

  • Lin, J., Napoli, A., Schmitt, S. A., & Purpura, D. J. (in press). The relation between parent ratings and direct assessments of preschoolers’ numeracy skills. Learning and Instruction.

  • Bryant, L., Duncan, R. J., & Schmitt, S. A. (in press). Physical activity, structured sport participation, and executive function in preschoolers. Early Education and Development.

  • Kung, M., Stolz, K., Lin, J., Foster, M. E., Schmitt, S. A., Purpura, D. J. (in press). The home numeracy environment and measurement of numeracy performance in English and Spanish in dual language learners. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.

  • Litkowski, E., Finders, J., Borriello, G., Purpura, D. J., Schmitt, S.A. (in press). Emerging patterns of heterogeneity within kindergarten children’s executive function. Learning and Individual Differences.

  • Bryant, L., Eicher-Miller, H., Korucu, I., & Schmitt, S. A. (2020). Associations between subjective and objective measures of the community food environment and executive function in early childhood. Nutrients, 12, 1944. doi:10.3390/nu12071944

  • Korucu, I., & Schmitt, S. A. (2020). The continuity and change in the home environment and associations with school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 53, 97-107. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2020.03.002

  • Schmitt, S. A., Duncan, R., Budrevich, A., & Korucu, I. (2020). Behavioral self-regulation moderates the association between preschool classroom quality and mathematical skills. Early Education and Development, 31, 323, 324.

  • Duncan, R. J., King, Y., Finders, J. K., Elicker, J., Schmitt, S. A., & Purpura, D. J. (2020). Prekindergarten classroom language environments and children’s vocabulary skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,

  • Korucu, I., Litkowski, E., & Schmitt, S. A. (2020). Examining executive function as a mediator between the home literacy environment and academic and social-emotional school readiness. Early Education and Development. doi:10.1080/10409289.2020.1716287

  • Korucu, I., Litkowski, E., Purpura, D. J., & Schmitt, S. A. (2020). Parental executive function as a predictor of parenting practices and children’s executive function. Infant and Child Development, 29, e2152.

  • Serebrennikov, D., Katare, B., Kirkham, L., & Schmitt, S. A. (2020). Effects of classroom intervention on student food choice and plate waste: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. PLOS One, 15, e0226181.

  • Duncan, R., Schmitt, S. A., & Vandell, D. (2019). Stimulating-responsive interactions during the first three years and later vocabulary and mathematics skills. Developmental Psychology. 5(12), 2522-2533.

  • Evich, C. D., Jones, B. L., Schmitt, S. A., & Taylor, Z. E. (2019). Parental restrictive feeding with Latinx adolescents: Examining the role of adolescent effortful control. Appetite, 143. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2019.104406 

  • McClelland, M. M., Tominey, S. T., Schmitt, S. A., Hatfield, B., Purpura, D. J., Gonzales, C., & Tracy, A. (2019). Red Light, Purple Light! Results of an intervention to promote school readiness for children from low-income backgrounds. Frontiers Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02365

  • Zhang, C., Bingham, G. E., Xiao, Z., Schmitt, S. A., Purpura, D. J., & Yang, F. (2019) Untangling Chinese preschoolers’ early writing development: Associations among early reading, executive functioning, and early writing skills. Reading and Writing.

  • Kung, M., Schmitt, S. A., Zhang, C., Yang, F., Whiteman, S. D., & Purpura, D. J. (2019). The role of mathematical language in mathematics development in China and the US. International Journal of Education Research, 95, 131-142.

  • Lin, J., Litkowski, E., Schmerold, K., Elicker, J., Schmitt, S. A., & Purpura, D. J. (2019). Parent-educator communication linked to more frequent home learning activities for preschoolers. Child and Youth Care Forum.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Bryant, L., Korucu, I., Kirkham, L., Katare, B., & Benjamin, T. (2019). The effects of a nutrition education intervention for improving children’s nutrition knowledge and fruit and vegetable preferences.Public Health Nutrition, 22, 28-34.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Purpura, D. J., & Elicker, J. (2019). Predictive links between vocabulary, mathematical language, and executive functioning in preschoolers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 180, 55-68.

  • Duncan, R. J., Schmitt, S. A., Burke, M., & McClelland, M. M. (2018). Combining a kindergarten readiness summer program with a self-regulation intervention improves school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 42, 291-300. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.10.012

  • Hornburg, C. B., Schmitt, S. A., & Purpura, D. J. (2018). Relations between preschoolers’ mathematical language understanding and specific numeracy skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 176, 84-100.

  • Korucu, I., Rolan, E. P., Napoli, A. R., Purpura, D. J., & Schmitt, S. A. (2018). Development of the Home Executive Function Environment (HEFE) scale: Assessing its relation to preschoolers’ executive function. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 47, 9-19. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.09.001

  • Rolan, E. P., Schmitt, S. A., Purpura, D. J., & Nichols, D. (2018). Sibling presence, executive function and the role of parenting. Infant and Child Development, 27, e2091.

  • Schmitt, S. A., & Korucu, I. (2018). Self-regulation. In E. Braaton (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of intellectual and developmental disorders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi:

  • Schmitt, S. A., Korucu, I., Napoli, A. R., Bryant, L., & Purpura, D. J. (2018). Using block play to enhance preschool children’s mathematics and executive function: A randomized controlled trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44, 181-191. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.04.006

  • Schmitt, S. A., Korucu, I., Purpura, D. J., Whiteman, S., Zhang, C., & Yang, F. (2018). Exploring cross-cultural variations in the development of executive function for preschoolers from low and high socioeconomic families. International Journal of Behavioral Development. doi:10.1177/0165025418785469

  • Schmitt, S. A., Lewis, K. L., Duncan, R. J., Korucu, I., & Napoli, A. (2018). The effects of Positive Action on preschoolers’ social-emotional competence and health behaviors. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46, 141-151. doi:10.1007/s10643-017-0851-0

  • Schmitt, S. A., Mihalec-Adkins, B., Pratt, M., & Lipscomb, S. T. (2018). Teacher-child relationships as a protective factor for at-risk children experiencing residential mobility. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 58, 28-37.

  • Schmitt, S. A., Pratt, M., Schmerold, K., Korucu, I., & Napoli, A. (2018) Preschool classroom quality and social-emotional functioning: Findings across the urban-rural continuum. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 43, 11-22.

  • 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., Geldhof, G. J., Purpura, D. J., Duncan, R. J., & McClelland, M. M. (2017). Examining the relations between executive function, math, and literacy during the transition to kindergarten: A multi-analytic approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, 1120-1140. doi: 10.1037/edu0000193

  • 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

  • Schmitt, S. A., Pratt, M. E., & Lipscomb, S. T. (2017). Residential mobility predicts behavioral problems for children living in non-parental care during the transition to kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review, 77, 101-109. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.04.010

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


  • 2020-2023, Examining the causal connections and mechanisms between block play and mathematics. National Science Foundation ($1,347,369). Role: Principal Investigator

  • 2020-2024, Reading and Playing with Math: Promoting Preschoolers’ Math Language through Picture Books and Play Activities, Institute of Education Sciences ($1,399,800). Role: Co-Principal Investigator

  •  2020-2023, My Math Stories: Taking My Place in Our Mathematical World, NewSchools Venture Fund ($2,000,000). Role: Co-Principal Investigator 

  •  2019-2022, Early Learning Matters. Department of Defense ($3,233,102). Role: Co-Principal Investigator 

  •  2019-2021, The Acute Effects of Intense Interval and Continuous Moderate Exercise on Executive Function and Declarative Memory in Children. Clifford B. Kinley Award ($19,998). Role: Co-Principal Investigator 

  • 2018-2023, Evaluation of the On My Way Prekindergarten Expansion, State of Indiana ($1,193,243). Role: Principal Investigator

  • 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: Principal Investigator

  • 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 American Educational Research Journal, Applied Developmental Science, Child Development, Children and Youth Services Review, Developmental Psychology, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Early Education and Development, Educational Researcher, Health Education Journal, Infant and Child Development, International Journal of Behavioral Development, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Children and Poverty, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning and Individual Differences, Psychological Science, Research in Human Development

  • Head Start Research Conference Review Panel

  • Society for Prevention Research Conference Review Panel

  • Society for Research in Child Development Conference Review Panel

Sara Schmitt

Associate Professor

(Pronouns: she/her/hers)

  Center for Early Learning

Faculty Associate:
   Center for Families  
   Center on Poverty and Health

(PhD, Oregon State University)

Hanley Hall, Room 235
Purdue University
1202 West State St.
West Lafayette, Indiana  47907-2055

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

Curriculum Vitae

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

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