Sarah BraatenGraduate Student

Sarah is interested in the development of social and emotional skills in early childhood, particularly how these skills are affected by early childhood intervention programs (e.g., Early Head Start), parenting behaviors, and other environmental factors such as socioeconomic status. Her research aims to address inequity by studying the effectiveness of early childhood intervention programs in promoting children’s social-emotional competence with the goal of improving these programs over time. She hopes to continue in research in this field and eventually establish an evidence-based program supporting low-income children and their families to create a more equitable society.

Education and Relevant Experience

In 2018, Sarah received her B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences with a double option in Child Development and Human Services along with a minor in Psychology from Oregon State University. While attending Oregon State, Sarah was a research assistant in the SEARCH Research Lab where she examined the effectiveness of a ten-week parent education program under supervision of Dr. Bridget Hatfield. She presented a research poster on this project at the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2018.

After graduating, Sarah worked as an Early Head Start Home Visitor through Community Action Organization. She gained valuable insight about how children and families are best supported through home visiting services. However, she also learned there was a gap between the research on evidence-based practices and the actual implementation of early intervention programs. This encouraged her to become a researcher, to help mend that gap so early childhood intervention programs can be as beneficial as possible for the children and families enrolled.

Currently, Sarah is the Leola Culver Graduate Fellow in Early Childhood Development at the School of Human Ecology’s Child Development Lab. She is also engaged in the ‘Promoting Self-Regulation Skills and Healthy Eating Habits in Early Head Start’ intervention project under supervision of Dr. Robert Nix.  For her master’s thesis, she is using audio recorded home visit data from this project to examine which therapeutic mechanisms mediate the relationship between families receiving the intervention and study outcomes. Sarah also assists in the Pandemic Parenting Study (See Wisconsin specific research brief: Kerr Lab WI Research Brief), exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on parent and child outcomes under supervision of Dr. Margaret Kerr.

Awards and Recognition

2021 – Summer Time Academic Research (STAR) Award, School of Human Ecology

2020 – Outstanding First Year Student Award, Human Development and Family Studies

2019 – 2020 Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Selected Publications & Presentations

Kerr, M. L., Rasmussen, H. F., Fanning, K. A., & Braaten, S. M. (2021). Parenting During COVID-19: A Study of Parents’ Experiences Across Gender and Income Levels. Family Relations.

Braaten, S., Fanning, K., & Kerr, M. (2021, April 8). COVID-19, Poverty, and Increased Child Stress: Associations to Parental Depression, Coping, and Parenting Behavior Changes [Virtual Poster Session]. Society for Research in Child Development.

Teaching Experience

2020-2021 – Teaching Assistant, HDFS 650, Parent Education and Support Programs

Portrait of Sarah Braaten, a white woman smiling, with long blonde hair, wearing a purple blouse and black pants.


  • Human Development & Family Studies

Degree Program

  • PhD Human Ecology: Human Development and Family Studies