Headshot of Dawn Witherspoon with curly dark hair wearing a white dress shirt.

Dawn Paula Witherspoon, Ph.D.

McCourtney Family Early Career Professor, Psychology
Associate Professor, Psychology


Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Developmental Area, at The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Witherspoon completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Developmental Science and in the Department of Psychology’s Black Child Training Grant Program. Dr. Witherspoon received her doctorate in Community Psychology from New York University. Broadly, her research focuses on the ways in which urban and rural families and youth are influenced by the contexts in which they are embedded, particularly focusing on how neighborhood, school, and family factors affect adolescent’s academic, psycho-social, and behavioral well-being. In addition, Dr. Witherspoon, examines the mechanisms (e.g., racial socialization and identity) by which race and/or ethnicity influence development in these various contexts. Dr. Witherspoon uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine her research questions with racially and socioeconomically diverse families.

Research Interests

Adolescent Development; Neighborhood, School and Family Factors that affect Adolescents' Academic Adjustments and beliefs; 


  • Ph.D., Community Psychology, New York University, 2008
  • M.A., Community Psychology, New York University, 2005
  • M.A., Pyschology, North Carolina Central University, 2001
  • B.A., Psychology and English, North Carolina Central University, 2000