College of Education *
College of Education *
Melanie Killen (HDQM)
Melanie Killen
Contact Information:
Room: 3304L Benjamin Building
Phone: (301) 405-3176

Melanie Killen (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley)
Professor; Developmental Science Program
Human Development and Quantitative Methodology (HDQM)

Research Labs, Centers, Affiliations and Special Appointments:
Professor of Psychology (Affiliate)
Honorary Professor of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K.
Director, NICHD Graduate Training Program in Social Development
Associate Director, Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture
Social and Moral Development Lab




Research Interests | Bio | Fellowships | Honors & Awards | Grants & Projects | Publications | Curriculum Vitae |

Research Interests

Social cognitive development, morality, intergroup relationships, social reasoning, and prejudice; Peer exclusion, rejection, and victimization; Morality and Theory of Mind; Intergroup contact, implicit biases; Culture and social exclusion, intergroup relationships, morality and theory of mind.


Professional Biography

Melanie Killen is Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, Professor of Psychology (Affiliate), and the Associate Director for the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the University of Maryland. She has received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research on children’s and adolescents’ development. She was awarded the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award by the Provost from the University of Maryland for 2008-2009, 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.

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), and has published 2 monographs. She has published over 150 empirical journal articles and book chapters, and 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. Dr. Killen serves on the expert advisory panel for the new National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C., and 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,,, Parenting, Parent–Wise Magazine, Redbook, Baby Journal, as well as featured on CNN AC360 with Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien for a show on children and racial bias, which won an Emmy Award.

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


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Melanie Killen is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, a Fellow of Division 7 (Developmental) of the American Psychological Association, and a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.


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Honors & Awards

  • 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

  • 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

  • Fellow, Association for Psychological Science, 2003

  • 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.


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Grants & Projects

2011–2016 — Graduate Training Program in Social Development. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Director and P.I. (Co–P.I., A. Wigfield),. $1.4M.

2009–2012 — Social Reasoning, Subjective Group Dynamics, and Children’s and Adolescents’ Evaluations of Exclusion. National Science Foundation. PI. $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 — International Travel Faculty Grant, College of Education, University of Maryland, for invited presentation at the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich, $1,500.

2009 — School Bullies and Victims: Influence of Children’s Groups. Australian Research Council. Drew Nesdale, P.I; Co–PI. Collaborative project with Dr. Drew Nesdale on aggression, School Bullies and Victims: Influence of Children’s Groups. Australian Research exclusion, and bullying at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. $137,000.

2003–2008 — Graduate Training Program in Social Development. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Director and P.I. (Co–PI, K. Rubin) $863,458.

2002–05 — Social Reasoning about Exclusion and Rights. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). P.I. (Subcontractors: David Crystal and Martin Ruck.) P.I. $918,000.

2004–2007 — Children’s and Adolescents Intergroup Biases about Peer Relationships. National Science Foundation (NSF), P.I. $150,000.

2005 — Understanding People as Normative Agents: The Intersection of Morality and Theory of Mind. National Science Foundation (NSF), Co–P.I. (C. Kalish, P.I.; A. Leslie, J. G. Smetana, & C. Wainryb, Co–P.I.s). Workshop held at Rutgers University. $20,000.

2002–2003 — Korean–American Adolescents’ Evaluations of Parental Gender Expectations. P.I. Research Support Award, Graduate Research Board, University of Maryland, College Park. $3,100.

1999 — Children’s and Adolescents’ Judgments about Exclusion and Rights in Different Contexts. P.I. Research Support Award, Graduate Research Board, University of Maryland, College Park. $2,400.

1999 — Multidisciplinary Research on Stereotypes, Prejudice, Tolerance, and Rights: Educating Children for Living in Diverse Cultures. National Science Foundation (NSF) conference award. Co– P.I. (P.I., Charles Stangor). Bethesda, MD, November 4th–6th. $39,000.

1999 — Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Tolerance: Educating Children for Living in Diverse Cultures. National Science Foundation (NSF) conference award. P.I. (Co–P.I., Charles Stangor). Washington, D.C. June 24th–26th. $30,000.

1998–2001 — Social Reasoning about Group Inclusion and Exclusion, National Science Foundation (NSF), 3–year award: 1998–2001. Co–P.I. (P.I., Charles Stangor). $252,030.


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Selected Publications

Book chapters (2016 and 2015 only; see CV for complete list)

Killen, M., Rutland, A., Rizzo, M.T., & McGuire, L. (in press). Social exclusion in childhood and adolescence. In W. Bukowski, B. Laursen, & K. H. Rubin (Eds.), Handbook of peer relationships, interactions, and groups (2nd edition).  New York: Guilford Press.

Dahl, A., & Killen, M. (in press). The development of moral reasoning from infancy to adulthood. In J. Wixted (Ed.), The Steven’s handbook of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, Vol. 3: Developmental and social psychology (S. Ghetti, Vol. Ed.). New York: Wiley. 

Killen, M., Elenbaas, L., Rizzo, M. T., & Rutland, A. (in press). The role of group processes in social exclusion and resource allocation decisions. In A. Rutland, D. Nesdale, & C. Spears Brown (Eds.), Handbook of group processes in children and adolescents. New York, NY: Wiley.

Killen, M., & Dahl, A. (in press). Moral judgment: Reflective, interactive, spontaneous, challenging and always evolving. In K. Gray & J. Graham (Eds.), The atlas of moral psychology. NY: Guilford Press.

Elenbaas, L., & Killen, M. (2016). Research in developmental psychology: Social exclusion among children and adolescents. In P. Riva & J. Eck (Eds.), Social exclusion: Psychological approaches to understanding and reducing its impact (pp.89-108). NY: Springer Publishing Company. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33033-4

Mulvey, K.L., Hitti, A., Smetana, J., & Killen, M. (2016). Morality, context, and development. In L. Balter & C. Tamis-LaMonda (Eds.), Child psychology: A handbook of contemporary issues, 3rd edition (pp. 285-304). NY: Psychology Press. 

Killen, M., & Smetana, J.G. (2015). Origins and development of morality. In R.M. Lerner & M.E. Lamb (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science, Vol. 3, 7th edition (pp. 701-749).  Editor-in-Chief, R. M. Lerner. NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Killen, M., Hitti, A., Cooley, C., & Elenbaas, L. (2015). Morality, development, and culture. In M. Gelfand, C.Y.Chiu, & Y.Y. Hong (Eds.), Advances in culture and psychology (pp. 161-220). New York: Oxford University Press.

Journal articles (2016 only; see CV for complete list)

Lewis, K., Cowell, J., Killen, M., & Decety, J. (in press). A developmental neuroscience study of moral decision-making regarding resource allocation. Child Development

Rutland, A., & Killen, M. (in press). Fair resource allocation among children and adolescents: The role of group and developmental processes. Child Development Perspectives.

Killen, M., Rutland, A., & Yip, T. (2016). Discrimination, social exclusion, and intergroup attitudes: Equity and justice in developmental science. Child Development, 87, 1317-1336. Doi: 10.1111/cdev.12593.

Elenbaas, L., Rizzo, M.T., Cooley, S., & Killen, M. (2016). Rectifying or perpetuating resource disparities: Children’s responses to social inequalities based on race. Cognition, 155, 176-187.

Cooley, S., Elenbaas, L., & Killen, M. (2016). Social exclusion based on group membership is a form of prejudice. Advances in child development and behavior, 51, 103-129. doi:10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.04.004

Elenbaas, L., & Killen, M. (2016). Age-related changes in children’s associations of economic resources and race. Frontiers.

Rizzo, M.T., & Killen, M. (2016). Children’s understanding of equity in the context of inequality. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 34, 569-581. Doi.10.1111/bjdp.12150

Elenbaas, L., & Killen, M. (2016). Children rectify inequalities for disadvantaged groups. Developmental Psychology. doi: 10.1037/dev0000154.

Elenbaas, L., & Killen, M. (2016). How do young children expect others to address resource inequalities between groups? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 150, 72-86. Doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2016.05.002

Rizzo, M. T., Elenbaas, L., Cooley, S., & Killen, M. (2016). Children’s recognition of fairness and others’ welfare in a resource allocation task: Age related changes.  Developmental Psychology, 52, 1307-1317.

Sodian, B., Licata, M., Kristen, S., Paulus, M., Killen, M., & Woodward, A. (2016). Understanding of goals, beliefs, and desires predicts morally relevant theory of mind: A longitudinal investigation. Child Development, 87, 1221-1132. Doi: 10.1111/cdev.12533

Killen, M. (2016). Children’s values: Universality, conflict, and acquisition. Social Development, 25, 565-571. doi: 10.1111/sode.12189

Noh, J.Y., Elenbaas, L., Park, K.J., Chung, Y.S., & Killen, M. (2016). Opinion versus knowledge: The influence of testimony format on children’s judgments in morally relevant contexts. Early Education and Development. 10.1080/10409289.2016.1197013

Guerrero, S., Elenbaas, L., Enesco, I, & Killen, M. (2017). Preschoolers’ trust in social consensus varies by context: Conventional vs. moral domains. Anales de Psicología. Doi: 10.6018/anaalesps.33.1.230831

Mulvey, K.L., & Killen, M. (2016). Keeping quiet just wouldn't be right: Children and adolescents’ evaluations of challenges to peer relational and physical aggression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Doi 10.1007/s10964-016-0437-y


Killen, M., & Rutland, A. (2011). Children and social exclusion: Morality, prejudice, and group identity. New York: Wiley/Blackwell Publishers.

Killen, M., Lee–Kim, J., McGlothlin, H., & Stangor, C. (2002). How children and adolescents evaluate gender and racial exclusion. Monographs for the Society for Research in Child Development. Serial No. 271, Vol. 67, No. 4. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishers.

Edited Books (selected; see CV for complete list)

Killen, M., & Coplan, R. J. (Eds.). (2011). Social development in childhood and adolescence: A contemporary reader. NY: Wiley/Blackwell Publishers.

Levy, S.R., & Killen, M. (Eds.). (2008). Intergroup attitudes and relations in childhood through adulthood. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Honorable Mention, Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Prize, from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)


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Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae

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