UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Susan McHale has been named a Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Studies.
McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), has been a faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) since 1980. She held the position of interim department head of HDFS from 2002 to 2003.
“Susan McHale is an extraordinary colleague who does it all well,” said Ann C. Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Shultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “She is an exemplary researcher, a gifted teacher and mentor, and a person who gives her all to the University through her work as director of the Social Science Research Center. She is so deserving of this important recognition.”
McHale’s areas of study encompass the social ecologies of child and adolescent. She is one of a handful of researchers to illuminate the importance of sibling relationships and dynamics in families, Crouter said.
“As she has pointed out, the sibling bond is often the most enduring relationship a person has in his or her life, but, compared with marital and parent-child relationships, it is the family relationship that has gotten the least attention,” Crouter said. “Susan has helped correct that situation by conducting longitudinal studies of families from childhood to young adulthood that gather detailed data from mothers, fathers and two children in each family. And she built on what she has learned in her longitudinal work to develop innovative intervention programs to strengthen sibling relations. We are so lucky to have a family scholar of her caliber at Penn State.”
Douglas Teti, head of HDFS and professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics, said McHale is among the world’s most renowned scholars in the broad area of family relationships, studying families from multiple vantage points and levels of analysis.
“Much of Susan’s focus has been on determinants of sibling relationships in childhood and adolescence, but her scholarship includes the study of macro-forces on parenting and other subsystems within families, how gender structures relationships with families, and how daily experiences shape family relationships and family well-being in majority and minority cultures,” Teti said. “Her research incorporates state-of-the-art, time-intensive measurement approaches to discover family complexities and interdependencies and how they develop and change over time. It is methodologically sophisticated, theoretically rich and highly funded.”
With Crouter, McHale co-directs the Penn State Family Relationships Project, a longitudinal study of families that has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development since 1995.
“Perhaps one of the most significant and very recent ‘products’ emerging from Susan’s work at the SSRI is the Penn State Network for Child Protection and Well-Being, a growing group of faculty scholars, nested under the SSRI, dedicated to the study, treatment, and prevention of child maltreatment,” Teti said. “Susan took the lead, along with (College of Medicine Dean) Craig Hillemeier, to develop the initial proposal that led to the network’s establishment.”
McHale earned her master of arts and doctorate degrees in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1979, and her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Bucknell University in 1975.