Ellie D. Brown, Ph.d.

Ellie D. Brown
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Ph.D., University of Delaware
  • Office: Wayne Hall 540
  • Phone: 610-436-3153
  • Email: EBrown@wcupa.edu 

 Office Hours: Spring 2024

  • Monday/Wednesday: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM (in-person or Zoom) 
  • Thursday: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM (in-person or Zoom)
Please email to reserve an appointment.

Courses Typically Taught

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Psychology of Women
  • Field Experience in Psychology: Diverse Communities
  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Intelligence testing
  • Liberation Psychology
  • Ecological Contexts of Trauma

Description of Research Interests

I am a clinical psychologist, with interest in children's academic, social-emotional, and neurophysiological development, stress and trauma related to poverty and racism, strengths of marginalized groups, and models of individual and social change. My current research projects focused on positive effects of Head Start preschool, arts and mindfulness interventions, and anti-racism training and support. I welcome students to contact me about opportunities for assisting with research. 

Representative Publications

  • Brown, E.D., Garnett, M., Velazquez-Martin, B., & Mellor, T. (2018). The art of Head Start: Intensive arts integration associated with advantage in school readiness for economically disadvantaged children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
  • Brown, E.D., Garnett, M., Anderson, K., & Laurenceau, J.P. (2017). Can the arts get under the skin? Arts and cortisol for economically disadvantaged children. Child Development, 88, 1368-1381.
  • Brown, E.D., Seyler, M.D., & Knorr, A.M., Garnett, M.L., & Laurenceau, J.P. (2016). Daily poverty-related stress and parents’ efforts to help children cope: Associations with child learned helplessness. Journal of Family Relations, 65, 591-602.
  • Brown, E.D., Ackerman, B.P., & Moore, C. (2013). Poverty-related instability and chaos in relation to executive functioning for young children. Journal of Family Psychology 27, 443-452.
  • Brown, E.D., & Sax, K. (2013). Arts enrichment and emotion expression and regulation for young children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 28, 337-346.
  • Brown, E.D., & Ackerman, B.P. (2011). Contextual risk, maternal negative emotionality, and the negative emotion dysregulation of preschool children from economically disadvantaged families. Early Education and Development, 22, 931-944.
  • Brown, E.D., Benedett, B., & Armistead, M.E. (2010). Preschool arts enrichment and school readiness for children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25, 112-124.
  • Brown, E.D., & Lynn, T.K. (2010). Daily poverty-related stress and mood for low-income parents, as a function of the presence of a cohabiting partner relationship. Individual Differences Research, 8, 204-213.
  • Brown, E.D. (2009). Persistence in the face of academic challenge for economically disadvantaged preschool children. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 7, 173-184.
  • Brown, E.D., & Low, C. (2008). Chaotic living conditions and sleep problems associated with children’s responses to academic challenge. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 920-923.
  • Brown, E.D., Weaver, Z., Streich, M., Shivde, G., & Garnett, M.L. (2023). Cortisol across preschool day relates to teacher ratings of executive functioning for children facing economic hardship. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 62, 31-40. 
  • Brown, E.D., Blumenthal, M.A., & Allen, A.A. (2022). The sound of self-regulation: Music program relates to an advantage for children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2022.01.002 
  • Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S.J., Laurenceau, J.P., Garnett, M.L., Anderson, K.E. (2021). Deconstructing cumulative risk: Poverty and aspects of instability relate uniquely to young children’s basal cortisol. Child Development, 92, 1067-1082. https://doi.org/10.1111/CDEV.13512 
  • Brown, E.D., Anderson, K., Garnett, M.L., & Hill, E. (2019). Economic instability and household  chaos relate to cortisol for children in poverty. Journal of Family Psychology 33(6), 629–639. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000545 

Teaching Philosophy

I remember when I first realized the impact of beliefs and emotions on student learning. As a grad student psychology intern, I administered a test to a child who had lived with several different foster families before arriving at his present residential facility for boys. I realized that he did not believe he could control anything in his life, including academic outcomes, and that his hopelessness interfered with his persistence in the face of challenge. This experience motivated my research on how poverty-related instability influences children's approaches to learning; and grounded my philosophy of undergraduate teaching. I focus on the students. How will they respond to academic challenges? How will my course prepare them for future challenges they will face? How can I instill in them belief and passion enough to carry them through these challenges? My answers to these questions lead me to a focus on learning process, and a daily schedule that begins at a bustling Head Start preschool where I supervise undergraduate students to serve low-income children, and ends in a university classroom where I stay with students after class talking about psychological theories and daily realities for families facing economic stress.

Research on responses to academic challenges suggests that focus on process and effort encourages persistence in the face of challenge, whereas focus on ability alone, may lead students to disengage. This idea shapes the process-oriented approach I take in all of my courses, and influenced my decision to develop a new course: Field Experience in Psychology: Diverse Communities. In this course, students use psychological tools to serve low-income children and families in collaboration with Head Start preschools, and I have the chance to focus on process and reinforce students' efforts by working with them one-to-one as they apply theory to practice. This course also reflects what research tells us about the influence of motivation on persistence in the face of academic challenge. The sense of fulfillment students achieve, through helping children and families, motivates them to pursue future scholarship and civic engagement.

I feel encouraged when students extend themselves beyond their assigned work. After conducting interviews with low-income parents, the students often go to great lengths to connect these parents with needed resources. One student helped to organize a support group for immigrant families at a Head Start preschool we work with, and another organized a food drive to provide Thanksgiving meals. Other students have joined community groups that address issues of racism and related intolerance. I know I'm not the only instructor who is making a difference in a way that carries beyond the classroom. That's why I've invested time in helping to develop assessment measures for the Service Learning and Women's Studies committees I serve on. I know that, by collaborating, we can promote teaching methods that give students the knowledge, tools, and passion to engage effectively with the challenges of our 21st century world.

The present era brings new challenges for education, including those related to economic and racial/ethnic disparities. We need scholars who can engage thoughtfully with these issues and conduct rigorous research to inform policy and practice. The students who work with me at the Head Start preschools conduct research on questions like how poverty-related stress influences children's approach to learning, and how parents' efforts to help children cope might matter. Poverty stress may influence responses to challenge via disruptions to sleep, and one student recently examined how parent-child talk time before bed might promote children's sleep. These studies bring us small steps closer to understanding how we might close the achievement gap.

Today, one of my students told me that a four-year-old girl came to preschool in tears. Her mom disappeared last week and is now incarcerated. My students will give her extra support through this difficult time. Interestingly, this child reminds me of the one who sparked my interest in how emotions influence learning. Maybe we will reach this child in time to help her stay hopeful in the face of learning challenges. I know my students will try. I know they will feel satisfaction for the ways they help, and that, in the places their efforts fall short, they'll be motivated to continue their studies and civic engagement. My undergraduate students don't face the same challenges as our preschoolers. But, these undergraduates, too, have life stressors. They, too, are learners who benefit when teachers take the time to engage them and encourage them to take on challenges.

More Detailed Description of Research Interests

Eleanor D. Brown, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at West Chester University, where she directs the Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab (ECCEL) and co-directs the Research on Equity via the Arts in Childhood or REACH Lab. Dr. Brown is internationally recognized for her scholarship on children facing poverty and racism, as well as her research on arts programming. Her scholarship has highlighted diversity among families facing adversity and opportunities for building on family and community strengths to promote children's flourishing. For the past 15 years, Dr. Brown has worked with community partners such as Settlement Music School to study how music and the arts might help to advance equity. 

Dr. Brown served as the Early Childhood Research Expert for the NEA/HHS Joint Convening on the Arts and Human Development and her work was highlighted as model research in the associated white paper that framed a federal research agenda for the arts. The NEA supported her 2017 study “Can the Arts Get Under the Skin?” which demonstrated the potential for music and arts programming to alleviate the impact of poverty on the stress hormone cortisol for young children and her 2018 study, “The Art of Head Start” which demonstrated a school readiness advantage for children receiving arts-integrated Head Start preschool. Dr. Brown serves as an advisor for arts policy, practice, and funding initiatives as well as for PBS Kids® and for Sesame Workshop and PNC’s Grow Up Great® initiative.   


Why I became involved in Psychology

Growing up, I saw how income poverty and related factors like violence and substance abuse influenced my relatives' lives. It was clear to me that solving problems of poverty, and creating a better world, would mean working to end oppressions like classism and racism, and helping individuals of all backgrounds tackle emotional distress and irrational behavior patterns. I pursued psychology because it offered useful tools for the challenge.


  • I lead social activism work and teach people how to put peer counseling tools to use in ending racism and related forms of intolerance.
  • I like running, hiking, basketball, horseback riding, camping, taking the dog to the park, and spending time outdoors.
  • My children are passionate about music, and we have fun attending festivals and concerts together.
  • I love spending time with my family and friends.

One thing I would like to see happen in my lifetime

For all children to have the chance to develop to their full potential.

The theorist/approach I most agree with

I agree with Urie Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory. This theory frames child development in terms of interactions between a child's own biology, their family and community, and the broader society they live in. I believe we must address all levels of the ecological system–from individual to societal–to promote children's positive development.

My advice to students

If you're here, you're smart enough for the challenges you will face. Take charge, and always assume more is possible for you than you can tell.

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