Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Dawn P. Witherspoon

Dawn P. Witherspoon

Professor, Developmental Area
Former McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology
Department of Psychology
Director of PACT (Parents And Children Together)
(814) 867-3112 / (814) 867-2352



Headshot of Dawn P. Witherspoon


Dr. Witherspoon’s research focuses on how multiple contexts impact development, primarily among adolescents and families of color. Her work focuses on place, school, and family factors that affect adolescents’ socioemotional and academic adjustment. She also examines how race, ethnicity, and other cultural attributes interact with contextual characteristics to influence adolescent outcomes. Her current work examines adolescent development from middle to high school to understand how aspects of place (e.g., neighborhood and other places youth spend their time) and family contexts are related to adolescents’ academic adjustment and beliefs as well as their deviant behaviors, racial identity, and discrimination experiences. She also examines how the neighborhood context is associated with parenting behaviors and strategies. Dr. Witherspoon’s lab, The Context and Development Lab, explores these processes across adolescence and young adulthood. Through her collaborations at PSU and other universities she examines similar developmental processes among diverse school children (e.g., BRAVE – Kristin Buss (PI)) and expands her research to other developmental periods using varying research designs and approaches (e.g., EGDS/ECHO – Jenae Neiderhiser). A goal of her research is to elucidate the development of urban and rural adolescents and their families, with particular attention to contextual supports.