Vivian L. Gadsden (inducted 2020)

Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania


viviang [at]

Mailing Address: 

Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-1812



Biographical Statement

Vivian L. Gadsden is the William T. Carter Professor of Child Development, Professor of Education, and Director of the National Center on Fathers and Families at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also a professor of Africana Studies and of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. She is Faculty Co-Director of the Penn Futures Initiative, a cross-school (education, social policy, and nursing) effort focused on increasing well-being among children and families in marginalized communities in Philadelphia. 


Gadsden’s research and scholarly interests focus on literacy, learning, and the elimination of risk to children, parents, and families across the life-course. Her work spans early childhood through the aging process, particularly academic and social vulnerability associated with race, gender, ethnicity, poverty, and immigrant status. Gadsden’s conceptual framework, family cultures, has been used widely to examine the interconnectedness among families’ literacy processes, their political histories, their cultural and social practices, and their racialized identities. As director of the National Center on Fathers and Families and former associate director of the National Center on Adult Literacy, she has been at the forefront of reconceptualizing research across families, school, and early childhood to focus on father engagement and instrumental in building research and national policy initiatives.  Her collaborative research projects draw upon interdisciplinary frameworks that examine early childhood development, parenting, and, families; father engagement in urban settings; social determinants of health and literacy; children of incarcerated parents; and intergenerational learning within African American and Latino families.  


Gadsden most recently served as Vice Chair of the Board of the Foundation for Child Development and has served or serves on numerous other foundation and Congressionally mandated review committees, including the Foundation for Child Development’s Young Scholars Program, the Spencer Foundation where she was a Resident Fellow, and White House initiatives. She served as Chair of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Supporting Parents of Young Children and as lead author of the Committee’s report, Parenting Matters, released in July 2016.  She has held leadership positions in the Society for Research in Child Development and is a member of several editorial boards. Gadsden was Co-Editor-in-Chief of Educational Researcher and of Review of Research in Education, published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA); and has published numerous journal articles, book chapters, texts, and reports, including books on literacy and African American youth; re-entry of incarcerated parents in the lives of children, families, and communities; and risk, equity, and schooling as well as a forthcoming works on children of incarcerated parents and on risk, equity, and young children. She is co-editor (with Beth Graue, Sharon Ryan, and Felice Levine) of a forthcoming volume (2021) on early childhood education and early childhood development.  


Gadsden is a former President of AERA. She is a Fellow of AERA and a member of the National Academy of Education.  She earned her doctorate from the University of Michigan.