In Memoriam: Sandra Scarr (1936-2021)


We are sad to report that SRCD Past President, Sandra Wood Scarr, Ph.D., a leader in the field of child development and a pioneer in the field of behavioral genetics, died on October 6th shortly after a fall in her home.

Dr. Scarr served many important roles at SRCD, culminating in the role of President of SRCD from 1989-1991. She sat on the editorial boards of Child Development (1974-1976) and Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (1973), and served as a Governing Council Member (1977-1983).

Dr. Scarr was the first woman to earn the promotion to full professor in psychology at Yale University. In addition to SRCD, she served as President the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, and the Behavior Genetics Association. She was Chief Executive Officer of KinderCare Learning Centers, , from 1995-1997.

During the course of her career, Dr. Scarr’s research on heritability and family contexts resulted in the  establishment enduring resources for the study of development, including the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study and the Minnesota Adolescent Adoption Study.

Her work, focusing on delineating the roles of genes and the environment on intelligence and other child outcomes, catalyzed numerous research studies and theories focused on a deeper specification and measurement of environmental influences and an understanding of the interaction of the individual and context.  Further, her interest on understanding the context led her to focus on early childcare settings.  Because of her deep focus on the role of science in improving child development, she was invited to join the board of KinderCare Learning Centers, where she ultimately served as Board Chair and CEO.

Scarr received numerous awards from her colleagues, including: Distinguished Contributions to Research on Public Policy (American Psychological Association), James McKeen Cattell Award (Association for Psychological Science), and the Dobzhansky Award for Lifetime Achievement (Behavior Genetics Association). She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other scientific societies.

Read Dr. Scarr's Oral History