College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Susanne A Denham

Susanne A Denham

Susanne A Denham

University Professor


Applied Developmental Psychology: Social and emotional development of children

Dr. Susanne Denham is an applied developmental psychologist with particular expertise in the social and emotional development of children.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Western Maryland College, Dr. Denham went on to receive her MA from the Johns Hopkins University and her doctorate from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Prior to coming to George Mason University in 1985, Dr. Denham was an instructor at the University of Maryland, College Park and has been a Guest Scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health Developmental Psychology Laboratory. Apart from using her experience as a mother, which helped motivate her to initiate and explore her research on emotion and development in children, Dr. Denham has also used her 11 years of hands-on experience as a school psychologist to aid in her research

She has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (in partnership with Head Start and the Administration for Children and Families), the W.T. Grant Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. She has served on numerous editorial boards, and is past co-editor of the journal Social Development, as well as current editor of Early Education and Development.

Current Research

Her teaching and research interests include basic processes of social-emotional development, social cognition, and social competence, particularly in young children, as well as developmental psychopathology (i.e., primary and secondary prevention of deviations from normal social-emotional development). Recently, her research has focused on the development of forgiveness in children, the measurement and assessment of social emotional skills, and the role of teachers in the socialization of a child’s emotions.

Selected Publications

Denham, S. A. (2015).  Assessment of social-emotional learning in educational contexts.  In The handbook of social and emotional learning, J. Durlak, R. W. Weissberg, and T. P. Gullotta (Eds.). New York: Guilford Press.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Sirotkin, Y. S., Brown, C. A., & Morris, C.A.S. (2015). “No-o-o-o peeking”: Preschoolers’ executive control, social competence, and classroom adjustment. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 29, 212-215.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Wyatt, T. (2015). The socialization of emotional competence. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings (Eds.), The handbook of socialization (2ndedition, pp. 590-613)New York: Guilford Press.

vonSalisch, M., Haenel, M., & Denham, S. A. (2015). Self-Regulation, language skills, and emotion knowledge in young children from Northern Germany. Early Education and Development, 26, DOI: 10.1080/10409289.2015.994465

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Way, E., Kalb, S. C., Warren-Khot, H. K., & Zinsser, K.  (2014). How would you feel? What would you do?” Development and underpinnings of preschoolers’ social information processing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 28, 182-202. 

Denham S.A., Bassett H. H., Zinsser K., & Wyatt T. M. (2014).  How preschoolers’ social-emotional learning (SEL) predicts their early school success: Developing theory-promoting, competency-based assessments. Infant and Child Development. DOI: 10.1002/icd.1840

Expanded Publication List

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Kalb, S. C., Mincic, M., Segal, Y., & Zinsser, K.  (in press).  Observing preschoolers’ social-emotional behavior: Structure, foundations, and prediction of early school success.  Journal of Genetic Psychology.

 Denham, S. A. Bassett, H. H., Mincic, M.M., Kalb, S. C., Way, E., Wyatt, T., & Segal, Y. (in press). Social-emotional learning profiles of preschoolers' early school success: A person-centered approach. Learning and Individual Differences. Special issue on Emotions in the Classroom.

 Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Way, E., Mincic, M., Zinsser, K., & Graling, K.  (in press).  Preschoolers’ emotion knowledge: Self-regulatory foundations, and predictions of early school success. Cognition and Emotion.

 Denham, S. A., & Brown, C. A., & Domitrovich, C. E.  (2010). “Plays nice with others”: Social-emotional learning and academic success.  In special issue, H. Teglasi (Ed.), Overlaps between socio-emotional and academic development, Early Education and Development, 21, 652-680.

Root, A. K., & Denham, S. A. (2010). The role of parent and child gender in the socialization of emotional competence. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Denham, S. A., Wyatt, T., Bassett, H. H., Echeverria, D., & Knox, S. (2009). Assessing social-emotional development in children from a longitudinal perspective. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 63, 37-52.

Denham, S. A. (2006). Social-emotional competence as support for school readiness: What is it and how do we assess it? Early Education and Development, Special Issue: Measurement of School Readiness, 17, 57-89.

Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., DeMulder, E., Levitas, J., Sawyer, K. S., Auerbach-Major, S. T., & Queenan, P. (2003). Preschoolers’ emotional competence: Pathway to mental health? Child Development, 74, 238-256.

Denham, S. A., Zoller, D. & Couchoud, E. A. (1994). Socialization of preschoolers' emotion understanding. Developmental Psychology, 30, 928-936.

Courses Taught

PSYC 669 Social Emotional Development;

PSYC 654 Naturalistic Observation

Recent Presentations

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Kalb, S. C., Way, E., & Perna, A. (2010, June). Focusing on getting along with others: Self-regulation and social problem-solving. In Symposium, "Self-Regulation and Social Success: Understanding and Promoting It", David Schultz, Chair, at the 10th Annual Head Start National Research Conference, Washington, D.C

Denham, S. A. (2009, October). Emotionally competent, self-regulated preschoolers and getting ready for school: What matters and in what context? Invited address Psychology and Education Departments, Virginia Tech.

Denham, S. A. (2009, July). Dealing with feelings: Foundations and consequences of young children’s emotional competence. Invited address given at Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal.

Denham, S. A. (2008, October). Assessing and promoting emotional competence in preschoolers. Keynote Speech, Observing and Assessing the Preschool Learner, Conference held at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City.

In the Media

Has been interviewed several times in the past 3 years by Parents Magazine for articles on young children’s emotional development and parenting.

Dissertations Supervised

Todd M. Wyatt, Self-regulation in Preschool Children: Hot and Cool Executive Control as Predictors of Later Classroom Learning Behaviors (2013)

Claire Elizabeth Cole, Attention Biases to Threat Link Components of Temperament to Social Withdrawal in Very Young Children (2011)

Sara Kalb, Early Social-Emotional Competence: Preschool and Kindergarten Predictors (2012)

Katherine M. Zinsser, Early Childhood Education Directors’ Impact on Social-Emotional Teaching and Learning (2013)

Grace Howarth, Temperament and Reactions to Frustration in Preschool Classrooms: An Exploration of the Moderating Effects of Emotion Knowledge (2014)

Craig Bailey, The Socialization of Emotion Regulation in Preschool Classrooms (2014)

Nicole B. Fettig, Temperament and Emotion Regulation: Predicting Social Competence, Internalizing, and Externalizing Behavioral Outcomes (2015)

Naomi Watanabe, Parental Socialization of Emotion in Japan: Contribution to Preschoolers' Emotion Knowledge (2015)

Samantha Plourde Karalus, Creating a Structural Measurement Model of Socialization of Social-Emotional Competence: The Contribution of CLASS and FOCAL-T (2016)

David Eric Ferrier, The Contribution of Cognitive Self-Regulation to Social Competence: A Latent Change Score Analysis (2016)

Kristina Herndon Liverette, Do Teachers Observe the Same Social-Emotional Exchanges in the Classroom as Researchers? (2016)