Skip to main content
Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Sara K. Johnson

Evans Family Assistant Professor

Sara K. Johnson

Evans Family Assistant Professor

Phone 617-627-4449
Room 164
105 College Avenue, Medford, MA
Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut, 2012
Certificate in Quantitative Research Methods in Psychology, University of Connecticut, 2012

Adolescence and young adulthood; identity development; civic development and engagement; youth contribution; critical consciousness; quantitative methods (including mixture models such as latent class and latent profile analyses); positive youth development

Research Interests: 

My research is based on two premises: 1. People are active contributors to their own development as well as to the development and functioning of the societies in which they live, and 2. Contemporary Western societies have pervasive and persistent social inequalities that are based on historical and current systems (e.g., racism, sexism) that give advantages to some members of society and marginalize others based on their memberships in various groups.

My research brings these two ideas together to assert that people can do something about these inequalities. I am most curious about young people (adolescents and young adults), and how and why they participate in contribution behaviors that promote equity among all members of society. What kinds of knowledge about themselves (e.g., identity development) and their society (e.g., civic development) promotes young people’s engagement in justice-oriented contribution behaviors? What kinds of life experiences facilitate these identity and civic development processes (e.g., relationships with adults and peers who might be role models)? And, lastly, how might these behaviors, processes, and associated life experiences be different for youth who benefit from at least some of the systems of power and privilege that operate in the societies where they live (e.g., White youth, and young men)? For more information about my current research projects, please visit the website of my lab, DICE (Development of Identity and Community Engagement.)

Selected Publications and Presentations: 

Scott, J. C., Pinderhughes, E. E., & Johnson, S. K. (in press). Preparing Black youth for bias: Understanding family socialization messages related to racially hostile situations. Child Development.

Hershberg, R. M., &Johnson, S. K. (2019). Exploring critical reflection about socioeconomic inequalities among young white men from low income and working-class backgrounds. Developmental Psychology, 55(3), 562 - 573. DOI: 10.1037/dev0000587 (authors share first authorship)

Johnson, S. K., Weiner, M. B., Callina, K. S., & Tirrell, J. M. (2018). Configurations of important life goals from early adolescents to young adulthood and their associations with thriving. Research in Human Development, 15(2), 139 - 166. DOI: 10.1080/15427609.2018.1441576

Hershberg, R. M., Larsen, S., Diaz, A., Boguk, S., & Johnson, S. K. (2019, June). Critical consciousness in college students? Longitudinal and mixed methods findings from the Social Issues Study. In M. Kornbluh (Chair), Investigating contexts and constraints in critical consciousness development. Symposium conducted at the biennial meeting of the Society for Community Research and Action, Chicago, IL, USA.

Morris, S. L., Suzuki, S., & Johnson, S. K. (2018, August). White adolescents' critical reflection: intersectional variations on perceptions of social inequality. In R. M. Hershberg (Chair), Examining critical consciousness in diverse settings and through multiple methodologies. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Johnson, S. K. (2018, September). Characteristics of White American adolescents who make commitments to social justice. In F. Albarello & K. Ekstein (Chairs), Towards promotion of social inclusiveness and reduction of prejudice in adolescence. Symposium to be conducted at the biennial meeting of the European Association of Research on Adolescence, Ghent, Belgium.

Johnson, S. K., & Weiner, M. B. (Chairs) (2017, April). Youth contributions to reducing societal inequality: Diverse predictors of contribution ideology and behaviors. Symposium conducted at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development, Austin, TX, USA.

Related Links