Vivian L. Gadsden

William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education
Director, National Center on Fathers and Families
Associate Director, National Center on Adult Literacy

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-573-3528


Professional Biography

Dr. Gadsden began her career teaching developmental English, reading, and educational psychology at Oakland and Wayne State Universities in Michigan. From 1983 to 1985, she was a research analyst at Policy Studies Associates in Washington, D.C. In 1988, Dr. Gadsden joined Penn GSE’s Literacy Research Center, where she became associate director in 1989. A former Spencer Foundation/National Academy of Education postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Gadsden served as associate director in the National Center on Adult Literacy for six years. In 1994, she became the director of the newly founded National Center on Fathers and Families, an interdisciplinary policy research center focused on child and family well-being. She also served as Education Graduate Group Chair from 1996 to 2004. In 2006, she was named the William T. Carter Professor in Child Development and Education.

She is an active member of the American Educational Research Association, serving as vice president of Division G, Social Contexts of Education from 2003 to 2006; the Society for Research in Child Development, serving as co-executive officer of the Black Caucus and program co-chair for the 2009 biennial meeting; the National Reading Conference; and the International Reading Association. She serves on the advisory boards of the Philadelphia United Way School Readiness Initiative and the Goodling Center for Family Literacy and has served on congressionally mandated review and advisory panels, including those of the Reading Excellence Program, Comprehensive School Reform, and the National Academy of Sciences. She also serves or has served on editorial boards of the Journal of Reading, the Journal of Reading Behavior, Fathering, and the National Head Start Association’s Dialog.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Gadsden’s research interests focus on cultural and social factors affecting learning and literacy across the life-course and within families, particularly those at the greatest risk for academic and social vulnerability. Her writing focuses on intergenerational learning, particularly on the relationships between literacy in families and issues of culture, race, gender, and poverty in diverse learning contexts. Her research studies examine the intergenerational and cross-cultural nature of learning, literacy, and identity within families and the relationship between family members' beliefs and practices around learning, educational access, and educational persistence. Her conceptual framework, family cultures, focuses on the interconnectedness among families' political, cultural, and social histories and racialized identities.

Her current projects include a longitudinal study on intergenerational learning within African-American and Latino families; a study of parent engagement in children’s early literacy; a study with young fathers in urban settings; a study on literacy, education, and health; a policy study on incarcerated parents and their families; and a study of children of incarcerated parents. She is participating in an NICHD-funded project (Dr. John Fantuzzo, principal investigator) on the development of an integrated Head Start curriculum.

She has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mott Foundation, Spencer Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and National Institutes for Health. She works with Penn colleagues in the medical school and the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Seminar on Health Disparities on health and educational disparities.

Selected Publications

Gadsden, V. L. & Genty, P. (eds.): Incarcerated Parents and Their Children. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, (in press).

Wortham, S. & Gadsden, V. L. : The complexities of “similarity” in research interviewing. Investigating classroom interaction: Methodologies in action. K. Kumpulainen & M. Cesar (eds.). 2009.

Gadsden, V. L., Davis, J. E., & Artiles, A. (eds.) : Risk, Equity, and Schooling. Review of Research in Education 33, 2009.

Gadsden, V. L.: The arts and education: Knowledge generation, pedagogy, and the discourse of learning. Review of Research in Education 2008.

Gadsden, V. L.: Family literacy. Encyclopedia of Language and Education. N. Hornberger & B. Street (eds.). New York: Springer, 2008.

Gadsden, V. L.: Critical Issues in Research and Practice on Fatherhood. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. W. Darity (eds.). Thomson/Macmillian Publishers, 2007.

Gadsden, V. L. & Fuhrman, S.: Reflections on educational equity in post-Katrina New Orleans. The children Hurricane Katrina left behind: Schooling context, Professional preparation, and community politics. Publication for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. S. P. Robinson & M. C. Brown (eds.). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2007.

Gadsden, V. L. : African American families: Culture and literacies in life-course perspective. February 2006, (in revision) Notes: Booklength volume to be submitted to Teachers College Press.

Gadsden, V. L. : The adult learner in family literacy: Gender and its intersections with role and context. Defining and improving quality in adult basic education: Issues and challenges. A. Belzer & H. Beder (eds.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006.

Gadsden, V. L. , Ray, A., Jacobs, C. Y., Gwak, S. : Parents’ expectations of their children’s early literacy. Race, ethnicity, and education: Language, literacy, and schooling. R. T. Jimenez & V. O. Pang (eds.). New York: Praeger, 2006.