Dr. Sara Harkness is a professor of human development, pediatrics, and public health at the University of Connecticut, where she also serves as director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Health, and Human Development. She earned a B.A. magna cum laude and with high honors in Comparative Literature from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University; subsequently, she was an NIMH post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Harvard, and earned a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focuses on how the culturally structured environments of children and families, in interaction with biological factors, shape children’s health and development; major projects include a three-year study of child development and family life in a rural Kipsigis community of Kenya, an international collaborative study of parents, children and schools in seven Western countries, and a study of parenting and the development of self-regulation and reactivity among infants in four countries. She has been editor of Ethos (the journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology) and is on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Behavioral Development and Child Studies in Diverse Contexts, as well as being editor of the Temperament Newsletter. In 2009, she received (jointly with Charles Super) an award from the Society for Research in Child Development for Distinguished Contributions to Cultural and Contextual Factors in Child Development. In addition to her cross-cultural research, she has also been involved with intervention programs to help disadvantaged families and youth in Connecticut, and has served on review panels for NICHD, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and the Agency for Health Research and Quality.
Latin American and Caribbean Bureau
Sara Harkness was a senior advisor to the Health and Education teams in the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau (LAC) at USAID, where she participated in planning for a regional summit meeting on Child Survival in the Americas, and worked with colleagues on the development and oversight of projects to promote early grade reading, especially for indigenous areas in Guatemala and Peru. She gave several seminars at USAID on applying cultural perspectives to interventions for child health and development, and is wrote a review of research on “best practices” to promote early grade reading. In addition to her work with the LAC bureau, Sara also worked with colleagues in Global Health, where she contributed to an “evidence summit” on population-level behavior change, and in the Education Sector, where she was involved in planning a state-of-the-art workshop for USAID Education officers based in missions worldwide as well as in Washington DC. Sara also served on a USAID committee to renew research policies within the organization. Sara’s work took her to Guatemala for a site visit to the education project, as well as to a conference on educational interventions, held in Uganda.