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Lab Members Collaborate with Colleagues to Examine Social Connectedness Among African American and Caribbean Black Adolescents

Ashley McDonald, a grad student in the Context and Development Lab, and Dr. Witherspoon collaborated with colleagues at the University of Maryland and George Washington University on an investigation of social connections in African American and Caribbean Black adolescents. The paper was recently published in a top-tier journal,
Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Congrats to the team!

Using the National Survey of American Life-Adolescent, the study examined patterns of social connection and Black adolescents’ wellbeing. Latent profile analysis was used to identify profiles of adolescent connections across multiple settings (i.e., family, peer, school, religion, and neighborhood). Four profiles of social connection emerged: unconnected, minimal connection, high family connection, and well-connected. The profiles differed in life satisfaction, self-esteem, mastery, coping, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms. Differences by gender were observed for the association between connectedness and life satisfaction. The results support the critical need to examine connectedness across multiple settings and within group heterogeneity among Black youth to develop strategies to promote their psychosocial wellbeing.


Congratulations to Emily May on her first-authored paper being accepted in a top-tier journal!

Emily May, a sixth-year grad student working in the lab, co-authored a paper,
Maintaining and Attaining Educational Expectations: A Two-Cohort Longitudinal Study of Hispanic Youth with Dr. Witherspoon. The paper was recently accepted to publish in Developmental Psychology, a top-tier journal in the field of developmental psychology! Way to go, Emily!

The paper focuses on Hispanic youth's educational expectations (or how far they expect to go in school). Educational disparities exist between Hispanic youth and youth of other ethnicities. The goal of this study was to examine factors that may help Hispanic youth meet their own educational expectations. Emily and Dr. Witherspoon examined Hispanic youth's educational expectations in 10th grade and 12th grade, as well as their educational attainment in young adulthood. The results showed that higher academic achievement, more English proficiency, and higher parent education were associated with attaining expectations. They also found that family income and parents' aspirations became more important for attaining expectations in the more recent cohort. Additionally, the role of immigrant generation status changed over time. The study's findings inform efforts aimed at promoting the educational outcomes of Hispanic youth. 


The CDL participated in Girls summer program in Harrisburg and taught girls about race and ethnicity

The Context and Development Lab (CDL) participated in the KING Center Girls Summer Enrichment Program at Zion Lutheran Church, Harrisburg, PA. Over the two-day period, Dr. Witherspoon, along with postdoc, grad students and undergrad students from the Pennsylvania State University, taught young girls about race, ethnicity, and racial-ethnic identity, which culminates in them creating a family tree. The participating girls were engaged in activities such as creating their identity backpack which allowed them to explore personal and family characteristics, and creating a family tree. The family tree helped the girls to find similar characteristics between them and their family members, explored their family history, and connected to their racial-ethnic identity(s). The girls really enjoyed the activities. The CDL has worked with the KING Center and their summer program for three years.



Saskia Boggs successfully defended her dissertation! Congratulations, Dr.

Saskia Boggs!

Saskia successfully defended her dissertation, which focuses on identifying black students' racial-academic identities and exploring predictors and outcomes of their identities. Kudos Dr. Saskia Boggs!


Dr. Dawn Witherspoon is highlighted on the SRCD website for her contributions as the chair of the Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee.  

The Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) have implemented many initiatives in order to increase
diversity in developmental science. This is done by honing in on three specific areas such as
developing an academic pipeline where the key function is to increase ethnic minority scholars,
increasing research on minority children and adolescents, and facilitate communication between
other groups and organizations that deal with research on minority children and adolescents.

The members have seen some accomplishments recently, as Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D. along with the SRCD Leadership Staff led SRCD’s annual lecture series. The SRCD 2019 Biennial Meeting was also seen as a success and in the future, the committee will focus on launching the “Hidden Figures in Developmental Science” video series. For more information, please see


The CDL celebrated the end of 2019 Spring semester!



Saskia Boggs received Outstanding Teaching Award in Psychology!

Saskia Boggs, a sixth-year graduate student in the lab, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award in Psychology in recognition for her great achievement in and contributions to undergraduate teaching. Kudos, Saskia!

Dr. Dawn Witherspoon and the CDL graduate students participated and presented their research in the SRCD 2019 Biennial Meeting in Baltimore, MD. 

Congratulations to all of the lab members who participated and presented in this year’s SRCD biennial meeting in Baltimore!




Dr. Dawn Witherspoon was appointed as one of the two SRA Program Co-Chairs for the 2022 Biennial Conference, NOLA. 

Dr. Dawn Witherspoon has agreed to serve as one of the two SRA (Society for Research on Adolescence) Program Co-Chairs for the 2022 Biennial Conference, NOLA. Dr. Witherspoon has been actively involved in SRA for many years, including leadership roles on several SRA committees. This is well-deserved recognition for her important service to and involvement in SRA.

Dr. Dawn Witherspoon was named as McCourtney Early Career Professor.

This award honors a promising untenured or recently tenured faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and includes support for the faculty member’s research and teaching program. Congratulations to Dr. Witherspoon on this well-deserved award!