Sarah BraatenGraduate Studentshe/her/hers

I am 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 home visiting), parenting behaviors, and other environmental factors such as socioeconomic status. My research aims to address inequity by studying the effectiveness of early childhood intervention programs in promoting positive parenting behaviors and children’s social-emotional competence. I hope to continue in research in this field with the goal of improving these programs over time so that they can better support children and families who face socioeconomic disadvantages.

In 2018, I received my BS in Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. During my time there, I was a research assistant in the SEARCH Research Lab where I examined the effectiveness of a 10-week parent education program under supervision of Dr. Bridget Hatfield.

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

In 2022, I received my MS in Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. For my master’s thesis, I used audio-recorded home visit data from the “Promoting Self-Regulation Skills and Healthy Eating Habits in Early Head Start” intervention project under supervision of Dr. Robert Nix to examine which therapeutic mechanisms mediated the relationship between family intervention status and study outcomes. I continue to utilize data collected from this project for my dissertation, which is tentatively titled, “Understanding Quality in Early Head Start Home Visits: Effects of the Recipe 4 Success Preventive Intervention.”

In addition to my own research, I am currently the Early Care and Education project assistant within the Family Engagement and Relationships program at the UW–Madison Division of Extension, under supervision of Dr. Lindsay Weymouth. Previously, I held the position of the Leola Culver Graduate Fellow in Early Childhood Development at the School of Human Ecology’s Child Development Lab. I also assist in the Pandemic Parenting Study, exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on parent and child outcomes under supervision of Dr. Margaret Kerr.

I worked as a teaching assistant for HDFS 662: Advanced Study of the Young Child from 2021-2022 and for HDFS 650: Parent Education and Support Programs from 2020-2021.

Awards and Recognition

  • 2023 Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2022
  • Summer Time Academic Research (STAR) Award, School of Human Ecology, 2021
  • Outstanding First Year Student Award, Human Development & Family Studies, 2020
  • Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2019-2020

Selected Publications and Presentations

Nix, R., Gill, S., Hostetler, M. L., Feinberg, M. E., Francis, L. A., Stifter, C. A., McNeil, C. B., Kidder, S., Jones, D. E., Park, Y., Kim, C., Engbretson, A. G., Braaten, S. M., & Tamkin, V. L. (In press). Promoting toddlers’ self-regulation and healthy eating habits among families living in poverty: A randomized controlled trial of Recipe 4 Success. Child Development.

Braaten, S. M. (2022, April 22). What Makes Home Visits Effective? An Examination of Therapeutic Mechanisms in the Recipe 4 Success Preventive Intervention [Poster presentation]. School of Human Ecology Graduate Poster Session, Madison, WI, United States.

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, 70(5), 1327-1342.

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.

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 & Family Studies


  • MS, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • BS, Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University