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Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Christine McWayne

Director of Early Childhood Education
Director of EXCELS Lab

Christine McWayne

Director of Early Childhood Education
Director of EXCELS Lab

Phone 617-627-0478
105 College Avenue, Medford, MA

I am an applied developmental scientist and community-based early childhood educational researcher whose career has been focused upon fostering better understandings of the early social and learning successes of young children growing up in urban poverty. The existence of seeming intractable achievement gaps between children growing up in poverty and their more affluent peers represents, arguably, the most important educational concern of our time. In my research, I seek to illuminate something about these gaps by understanding more about the nature of children's school readiness, as well as about the supports available to children in their homes and classrooms (i.e., peers, parents, teachers), within socioculturally and linguistically diverse communities and contexts.

My work involves four main themes, which underpin my research and reflect my overarching commitment to researching, creating and sustaining strong systems of support for young, low-income, urban-residing and dual language learning children. First, I am interested in how children growing up in urban poverty succeed within the context of their families, schools, and communities. Therefore, my research seeks to document and understand strengths in context. I believe this approach has the greatest potential for informing intervention, because it leverages the positive elements in children's lives while also acknowledging the challenges that exist for many children.

Second, because much of our research has tended to view children and families through the lens of the dominant U.S. culture, the uniqueness of the experience of many children and families has been missed. By obscuring within-group variability that exists, researchers have failed to document the, perhaps, culturally-nuanced forms of support that could be leveraged within the lives of young children to promote well-being and engagement in school. We know that economic, linguistic, and cultural differences often translate into significant discontinuities between home and school contexts for many young children. Therefore, through my research, I seek to understand the nature of supports that exist within socioculturally diverse families, and to document within-group variation. In essence, I seek to document the ways in which families from non-dominant groups are supporting their children and how, by having more culturally-grounded information, we can bridge the divides that often exist between the primary helpers in children's lives (i.e., parents and teachers).

A third theme of my research is grounded in the notion that what we measure and how we measure it matters. There is a need for better understanding of the cultural-contextual realities of families and of the specific family and community resources that can be leveraged to foster young children's success. Such understanding relies on solid, empirically-validated measurement. Consistent with the commitments described above, I focus on measurement development from a within-group and strengths-based perspective. I employ community-collaborative, mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) approaches in my measurement development and validation work. By doing so, I hope to provide the field with critical information for enhancing the lived experiences (at home and at school) of our nation's increasingly diverse student population by conducting research with new measures that reflect their lived experiences.

Finally, as an applied developmentalist, my scholarship is deeply integrated with considerations for practice. I joined the faculty in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University in 2010, where I have served as the Director of Early Childhood Education. In my role, I have led a new vision centering on equity in education for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs, which prepare undergraduate and graduate students seeking initial PreK-2nd grade licensure in the state of Massachusetts (learn more about the ECE programs). This departmental administrative service fits well with my growing research focus on preschool STEM curriculum development and in-service professional development support. Consistent with the themes above, through my most recent research (see more below about the RISE project), I seek to develop and refine early childhood curriculum that is responsive to and inclusive of children's home context and cultural communities.

Ph.D., School, Community, and Clinical-Child Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
M.S.Ed., Psychological Services, University of Pennsylvania
B.S., Psychology (Minors in Public Service and English), Abilene Christian University

School success of low-income, urban-residing children; family engagement in education; parenting young children within ethnically, socioculturally, and linguistically diverse families in the U.S.; community-based research collaborations

Selected Professional Activities: 
  • Associate Editor, Educational Researcher (2013-2017)
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2012-2017)
  • Associate Editor, Journal of School Psychology (2008-2011)
Selected Publications and Presentations: 

(* asterisk indicates student coauthor)

McWayne, C.M., Mattis, J., & *Hyun, S. (In Press). Profiles of positive parenting among low-income, Black families of preschool children and their relation to school readiness competencies. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

McWayne, C. M., Mattis, J, S., *Wright Green, L., & *Limlingan, M. C., & *Harris. E. (2016). An emic, mixed-methods approach to defining and measuring positive parenting among low-income Black families. Early Education and Development, 28, 182-206.

McWayne, C. M., Melzi, G., *Limlingan, M. C., & Schick, A. (2016). Ecocultural patterns of family engagement among low-income Latino families of preschool children. Developmental Psychology, 52 (7), 1088-1102.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., McWayne, C. M., Mendez, J. L., & Manz, P. H. (2016). Preschool peer play interactions - a developmental context for learning for ALL children: Rethinking issues of equity and opportunity. In K. E. Sanders, & A W. Guerra (Eds.), The culture of child care: Attachment, peers, & quality in diverse communities (pp. 179-202). In honor of Dr. Carollee Howes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McWayne, C. M. (2015). Family-school partnerships in a context of urgent engagement: Rethinking models, measurement, and meaningfulness. In S. Sheridan (Ed.), Research on Family-School Partnerships: An Interdisciplinary Examination of State of the Science and Critical Needs (pp. 105-124). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

McWayne, C. M., Manz, P. H., & Ginsburg-Block, M. D. (2015). Examination of the Family Involvement Questionnaire-Early Childhood (FIQ-EC) with Low-Income, Latino Families of Young Children: An Application of Rasch Modeling. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 3(2), 1-18.

McWayne, C. M., & Melzi, G. (2014). Validation of a culture-contextualized measure of family engagement in the early learning of low-income Latino children. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 260-266.

McWayne, C. M., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J. (2013). Identifying family and classroom practices associated with stability and change of social-emotional readiness for a national sample of low-income children. Special Issue: Familial and Nonfamilial relationships as ecological sources of health and positive development across the lifespan. Research in Human Development, 10, 116-140.

McWayne, C., Melzi, G., *Schick, A. R., *Kennedy, J. L., & *Mundt, K. (2013). Defining family engagement among Latino Head Start parents: A mixed-methods measurement development study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 593-607.

McWayne, C., Downer, J., Campos, R., & *Harris, R. (2013). Father involvement during early childhood and its association with children’s school readiness: A meta-analysis. Early Education and Development, 24, 898-922.

McWayne, C., *Cheung, K., Green, L., & Hahs-Vaughn, D. (2012). Patterns of school readiness among Head Start children: Meaningful within-group variability during the transition to kindergarten. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 862-878.

McWayne, C., Hahs-Vaughn, D., *Cheung, K., & Green, L. (2012). National profiles of school readiness skills for Head Start children: An investigation of stability and change. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 668-683.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Manz, P. H., Mendez, J. L., McWayne, C. M., Sekino, Y., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (2012). Peer Play Interactions and Readiness to Learn: A Protective Influence for African American Preschool Children from Low-income Households. Child Development Perspectives Special Issue on Positive Development in Minority Children, 6(3), 225-231.

Ginsburg-Block, M., Manz, P. H., & McWayne, C. (2010). Partnering with families to foster early achievement in reading and mathematics. In A. L. Reschly & S. Christenson (Eds.). The handbook on school family partnerships for promoting student competence (pp. 176-203). Oxford, UK: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.

McWayne, C.M., & *Cheung, K. (2009). A picture of strength: Preschool competencies mediate the effects of early behavior problems on later academic and social adjustment for Head Start children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 273-285.

McWayne, C., *Green, L., & Fantuzzo, J. (2009). A variable- and person-oriented investigation of preschool competencies and Head Start children’s transition to kindergarten and first grade. Applied Developmental Science, 13, 1-15.

McWayne, C., *Campos, R., & *Owsianik, M. (2008). A multidimensional, multi-level examination of mother and father involvement among culturally diverse Head Start families. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 551-573.

McWayne, C., *Owsianik, M., *Green, L., & Fantuzzo, J. (2008). Parenting behaviors and preschool children's social and emotional skills: A question of the consequential validity of traditional parenting constructs for low-income African Americans. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 173-192.

Downer, J., *Campos, R., McWayne, C., & *Gartner, T. (2010). Father involvement and children's early learning: A critical review of published empirical work from the past 15 years. Marriage & Family Review, 43, 67-108.

McWayne, C., McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J., & Culhane, D. (2007). Employing community data to investigate social and structural dimensions of urban neighborhoods: An early childhood example. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39, 47-60.

Fantuzzo, J., McWayne, C., & Childs, S. (2006). Scientist-community collaborations: A dynamic tension between rights and responsibilities. In J. E. Trimble & C. B. Fisher (Eds.), Handbook of ethical research involving ethnocultural populations and communities, (pp. 27-49). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.