Scott D. Gest 

photo of Scott Gest

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and Professor-in-Charge of the HDFS Undergraduate Program

Contact Information

110 Health and Human Development Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-7963

Research Interests

My research focuses on the developmental processes linking children’s school-based peer experiences with their academic competence and problem behaviors. I am especially interested in how teaching practices and intervention efforts may promote positive peer experiences and better school adjustment. This work is centered on children in the elementary grades, but I am involved in research that extends from pre-Kindergarten through high school. I draw upon theories from developmental, educational and social psychology and methods from social network analysis to explore these issues in both non-intervention and intervention studies.

In the Classroom Peer Ecologies Project, we are studying teaching practices, peer social networks and student adjustment in a sample of 3,500 youth attending 207 1st, 3rd and 5th grade classrooms. One goal of this project is to identify features of classroom peer networks (e.g., status hierarchies, behavioral norms) that are related to academic and behavioral adjustment (e.g., achievement-related beliefs, perceptions of school, peer victimization). Another goal is to identify ways in which teachers may influence peer network processes through generally supportive interactions with students and through specific practices such as seating arrangements and direct attempts to manage students’ peer relationships. Results from this project will inform our efforts to develop of a professional development program for teachers that will support their use of more effective strategies for managing classroom social dynamics. (Funding from the William T. Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundations, 2008-2010; and Institute of Educational Sciences, 2010-2014.)

Since 2003, I have been a collaborating investigator on the Head Start REDI project. The first phase of this project implemented a randomized control trial examining the impact of a pre-kindergarten classroom intervention designed to enhance children's school readiness by promoting both language-literacy and social-emotional competence. A second randomized trial tested whether the addition of a home-visiting component to the REDI classroom program enhanced intervention effects. Children in both intervention trials are now being followed through the elementary and secondary school years to identify long-term program impact and clarify mediating processes. (PI, Karen Bierman; Funding from National Institute of Child Health and Development)

Since 2006 I have also been a collaborating investigator on the PROSPER Peers project, which examines the role of friendship networks in the emergence of substance use and problem behavior across Grades 6-9, and the impact of school-based intervention programs on those processes (PI, Wayne Osgood. Funding from William T. Grant Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse).


B.A., 1987, Interdisciplinary Studies, UNC- Chapel Hill
1994-1995, Medical Psychology Intern, Duke University Medical Center
Ph.D., 1995, Developmental-Clinical, University of Minnesota
Postdoctoral Fellow, 1995-1997, Center for Developmental Science, UNC-Chapel Hill

Professional Experience

  • 2014-Present: Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2006-2014 : Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2000-2006: Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University.
  • 1997-2000: Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.  

Selected Publications

Bierman, K. L., Heinrichs, B. S., Welsh, J. A., Nix, R. L., & Gest, S. D. (2017). Enriching preschool classrooms and home visits with evidence‐based programming: sustained benefits for low‐income children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(2), 129-137.

Serdiouk, M., Rodkin, P., Madill, R., Logis, H., & Gest, S. (2015). Rejection and victimization among elementary school children: The buffering role of classroom-level predictors. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 43(1), 5-17.

Gest, S. D., Madill, R. A., Zadzora, K., Miller, A., Rodkin, P. C. (2014). Teacher management of classroom social network dynamics: Associations with trajectories of student adjustment. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(2), 107-118.

Madill, R. A., Gest, S. D., & Rodkin, P. C. (2014). Students' perceptions of relatedness in the classroom: The roles of emotionally supportive teacher-child interactions, children's aggressive-disruptive behaviors, and peer social preference. School Psychology Review, 43(1).

Gest, S. D., & Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Teaching practices and elementary classroom peer ecologies. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32, 288-296.

Domitrovich, C. E., Gest, S. D., Gill, S., Bierman, K. L., Welsh, J. A., & Jones, D. (2009). Fostering High-Quality Teaching With an Enriched Curriculum and Professional Development Support: The Head Start REDI Program. American Educational Research Journal, 46(2), 567-597.

Bierman, K. L., Domitrovich, C. E., Nix, R., Gest, S. D., Welsh, J. A., Greenberg, M. T., Blair, C., Nelson, K., & Gill, S. (2008). Promoting academic and social-emotional school readiness: The Head Start REDI program. Child Development, 79(6), 1802-1817.

Gest, S. D., Domitrovich, C. E., & Welsh, J. A. (2005). Peer Academic Reputation in Elementary School: Associations With Changes in Self-Concept and Academic Skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(3), 337.

Gest, S. D., Freeman, N. R., Domitrovich, C. E., & Welsh, J. A. (2004). Shared book reading and children’s language comprehension skills: the moderating role of parental discipline practices. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19(2), 319-336.

Gest, S. D., Graham-Bermann, S. A., & Hartup, W. W. (2001). Peer experience: Common and unique features of number of friendships, social network centrality, and sociometric status. Social development, 10(1), 23-40.

Center Affiliations

  • Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Contexts and Social Institutions