Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology
Daphne Henry is enhancing our understanding of America’s persistent black-white achievement gaps.
Henry, who studies how race and socioeconomic status shape children’s academic development and well-being, says black and white children both benefit academically from growing up in higher-income, better-educated households. They have access to resources and protections that socioeconomic advantage provides, such as safer neighborhoods and privileged social networks.
The new Lynch School professor, who earned a 2017 doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and completed a postdoctoral fellowship there before moving to Boston, has also uncovered racial achievement disparities within socioeconomic groups. Her dissertation research found, for example, that black children from low- and middle-income families consistently trail their white peers in academic skills as measured by standardized test scores in elementary and middle schools. However, the black-white achievement gap appears to narrow or close as household income rises, with black students from higher-income families gaining ground on, or doing better than, their white counterparts as family income levels increase.
“I think about the range of factors that can help explain why socioeconomic status at the family level may not translate similarly for black and white children,” says Henry. Overall, her findings suggest that “race—and the structural and social disadvantages of being a black American—are at play,” she explains.
As she builds her Lynch research agenda, Henry looks forward to expanding her quantitative and qualitative doctoral work to shed light on African-American parental coping skills, mining data from interviews she conducted with 56 parents of preschool-aged children in Pittsburgh. She hopes to eventually explore ways in which race and socioeconomic status affect other ethnic and racial groups, such as Latina/o and Asian families.
This semester, she is teaching courses on family, school, and society, and on quantitative research design.
Henry’s scholarly interests and expertise grew out of heartbreak. She was planning a career in journalism when her mother died suddenly, leaving her (then in her 20s) as primary caretaker for her two younger brothers. Raising them piqued her interest in psychology, early child development, and achievement disparities for African-American children, she says.
Henry hopes her work will help ensure that “every child, no matter their circumstances or natural gifts, has an opportunity to develop in healthy ways.”
“I think about the range of factors that can help explain why socioeconomic status at the family level may not translate similarly for black and white children.”
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
B.A., University of Pittsburgh
Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement
Contextual influences on child and adolescent development
Intersectionality and child development
Socioeconomic and cultural determinants of parenting beliefs and practices
Academic resilience among socioeconomically-disadvantaged youth
Henry, D. A., Miller, P., & Votruba-Drzal, E. (Eds.). (2019).
Advances in child development and behavior: Child development at the intersection of race and SES, (Vol. 57).
Cambridge, MA: Elsevier, an imprint of Academic Press imprint.
Henry, D. A., Votruba-Drzal, E., & Miller, P. (2019).
An overview In In D. A. Henry, P. Miller, & E. Votruba-Drzal (Eds.)
Advances in child development and behavior: Child development at the intersection of race and SES (Vol. 57) (pp. 1-25).
Henry, D. A., Miller, P., Votruba-Drzal, E., & Parr, A. K. (2019).
Safe and sound? Exploring parents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety at the nexus of race and socioeconomic status.
In D. A. Henry, P. Miller, & E. Votruba-Drzal (Eds.) Advances in child development and behavior: Child development at the intersection of race and SES (Vol. 57).
Series Editor: J. B. Benson. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier (Academic Press imprint). DOI: 10.1016/bs.acdb.2019.05.001
Wang, M.-T., Henry, D. A., Smith, L. V., Huguley, J. P., & Guo, J. (2019).
Parental ethnic-racial socialization practices and children of color’s psychosocial and behavioral adjustment: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
American Psychologist. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1037/amp0000464