"Social cognitive development, morality, intergroup relationships, origins of prejudice, social exclusion, morality and theory of mind, implicit and explicit biases, and inclusive school environments"

Melanie Killen is Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, Professor of Psychology (Affiliate), and Program Director for Human Development at the University of Maryland. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her work on children’s and adolescents’ development. She is a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, and the Graduate Mentor of the Year Award as well as the Undergraduate Mentor of the Year Award from the Graduate School at the University of Maryland. She received the University of Maryland Board of Regents' Faculty Award in Mentoring. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for the Study of Psychological Issues.

Dr. Killen is the author of Children and Social Exclusion: Morality, Prejudice and Group Identity (2011) and co-editor of Social Development in Childhood and Adolescence: A Contemporary Reader (2011), and she has co–edited 6 books, including serving as the Editor of the Handbook on Moral Development (2006; 2014; 2022), and has written 2 monographs. She has over 240 publications, including empirical journal articles and book chapters. Her book on morality in everyday life won the outstanding book award from the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Killen served as an expert witness in a school desegregation case, and helped prepare two Supreme Court briefs regarding the impact of school desegregation on children’s social development. She has also served as a consultant for a federal initiative on interventions designed to reduce prejudice and to promote inclusion in U.S. elementary schools, and for Sesame Street, where she conducted an evaluation of their program in the Middle-East. Dr. Killen serves on the Brain Trust for Educational Initiatives at the National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Her research has been profiled in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Examiner, The American Scientist, The Chronicle of Higher Education, American School Board Journal, Teaching Tolerance Magazine, ABCNews.com, Newsweek.com, Parenting, Parent–Wise Magazine, Redbook, Baby Journal, as well as featured on CNN AC360 with Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien for a commissioned show that her team conducted called “Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture,” which won an Emmy Award. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  She is currently conducted a randomized control trial of school-based intervention program, Developing Inclusive Youth, designed to reduce prejudice in childhood.

Dr. Killen’s research areas of expertise include children’s and adolescents’ social and moral reasoning, peer relationships, social inclusion and exclusion, intergroup relationships and attitudes, the origins of prejudice and bias, gender roles, social development, social competence, theory of mind, and the inclusive school environments. 

Fellow, American Psychological Associtation; Fellow, Association for Psychological ScienceFellow, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

Honorary Professor of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K.

  • ADVANCE Professor, College of Education, University of Maryland. Invited by the Provost’s Office to serve as a mentor for junior faculty and to work the deans and department chairs to strengthen structures and cultures of support, 2017-2018.
  • Ronald B. Lippin Lecturer in Ethics, Rock Institute for Ethics, Pennsylvania State University, 2014.
  • Exceptional Research Award, College of Education, University of Maryland, 2014.
  • Selected as a feature for the National Science Foundation (NSF) “NSF Highlights” for research with a broader impact, Developmental and Learning Sciences (Peter Vishton, Program Officer), 2012
  • Commissioned to conduct a study for a CNN AC 360 show, called “Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture” aired April (5 nights), 2012
  • University System of Maryland Board of Regents' Faculty Award in Mentoring and Faculty Achievements.
  • Outstanding Director of Graduate Studies Award, Graduate School, 2012–2013
  • Graduate Mentor of the Year Award, Graduate School, 2010-2011
  • Invited by SRCD Policy office to present a poster at the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) on Capitol Hill meeting with senators and congressional staff on social science research funded projects (April 14, 2010, Washington, D.C.)
  • Distinguished Scholar –Teacher Award, Provost’s Office, University of Maryland, 2008–2009
  • Honorable Mention, Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Prize, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), for Intergroup attitudes and relations in childhood through adulthood (Eds. S. Levy & M. Killen), Oxford University Press, 2009
  • Allen Edwards Endowed Lecturer in Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2007
  • Assisted with two Amicus Briefs filed to the U.S. Supreme Court on school desegregation. No. 05–908, 05–915. Seattle School District no.1 v. Jefferson Board of Education. APA, Legal Counsel Office, Harvard Civil Rights Project, 2006
  • Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year Award, University of Maryland, 2004
  • Recipient, James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award from the James McKeen Cattell Foundation, Duke University, 2000
  • Expert Witness, Office of the Attorney General, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts for Richard Cole, Senior Council for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Assistant Attorney General. School desegregation case: Comfort v. Lynn School Committee v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Civil Action No. 99–cv–11811NG, 2000.
  • Winner, Outstanding Book Award, Moral Development and Education Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Morality in everyday life: Developmental Perspectives, Cambridge University Press (1995), 1997.

Please see CV for complete list.



2019-2024 National Institutes of Health. P.I. Killen, Co-I, Tracy Sweet. An Intervention Designed to Promote Intergroup Friendships and Reduce Prejudice and Bias in Childhood. $1.67M

2017- 2020      NSF/ Developmental Sciences.  P.I., Killen, Co-I, Laura Stapleton. Promoting Intergroup Relationships and Reducing Prejudice in Childhood. $617,725.
2011–2016 — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Director and P.I. (Co–P.I., A. Wigfield). Graduate Training Program in Social Development. $1.4M.
2009–2012 — National Science Foundation. PI. Social Reasoning, Subjective Group Dynamics, and Children’s and Adolescents’ Evaluations of Exclusion. $422,525.
2009–2010 — Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Diverse Students Initiative Award to create a teacher racial sensitivity and awareness measure for the Teaching Tolerance Program and website. $10,000.
2009 — Australian Research exclusion, and bullying at Griffith University, Queensland, Drew Nesdale, P.I; Co–PI. AustraliaSchool Bullies and Victims: Influence of Children’s Groups. Australian Research Cuncil. Collaborative project with Dr. Drew Nesdale on aggression, School Bullies and Victims: Influence of Children’s Groups. $137,000.
2003–2008 — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Director and P.I. (Co–PI, K. Rubin), Graduate Training Program in Social Development. $863,458.
2002–05 — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). P.I. (Subcontractors: David Crystal and Martin Ruck.) P.I.Social Reasoning about Exclusion and Rights. $918,000.
2004–2007 — National Science Foundation (NSF), P.I.Children’s and Adolescents Intergroup Biases about Peer Relationships. $175,000.
2005 — National Science Foundation (NSF), Co–P.I. (C. Kalish, P.I.; A. Leslie, J. G. Smetana, & C. Wainryb, Co–P.I.s). Understanding People as Normative Agents: The Intersection of Morality and Theory of Mind. Workshop held at Rutgers University. $20,000.
1999 — National Science Foundation (NSF) conference award. Co– P.I. (P.I., Charles Stangor). Multidisciplinary Research on Stereotypes, Prejudice, Tolerance, and Rights: Educating Children for Living in Diverse Cultures. Bethesda, MD, November 4th–6th. $39,000.
1999 — National Science Foundation (NSF) conference award. P.I. (Co–P.I., Charles Stangor). Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Tolerance: Educating Children for Living in Diverse Cultures. Washington, D.C. June 24th–26th. $30,000.
1998–2001 — National Science Foundation (NSF), 3–year award: 1998–2001. Co–P.I. (P.I., Charles Stangor). Social Reasoning about Group Inclusion and Exclusion, $252,030.

Graduate Courses:

Research Methods in Human Development (core doctoral course)

Social Development and Socialization Processes (core doctoral course)

History and Systems in Human Development (core doctoral course)

Morality, Intergroup Relationships, and Justice

Advanced Readings in Social Development

Social Cognition and Moral Development

Social Bases of Behavior

Social Exclusion and Social Justice   

Social Reasoning about Intergroup Relationships

Conceptions of Social Groups: Tolerance and Intolerance of “the Other”   

Conflict Resolution Seminar

Culture, Context, and Development

Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture Colloquium Weekly Seminar (convener)