Carolyn Zahn-Waxler is a Research Scientist in the departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and is affiliated with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center. She has conducted longitudinal studies following children from their first years of life to adolescence, focusing on the role of genes, temperament, family life and socialization experiences in fostering or impeding altruism and compassion. She has also researched the biological and environmental processes that contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, and conduct problems from the preschool period through adolescence, and has written about the intergenerational transmission of depression, from both personal and scientific perspectives. Currently, she is interested in how scientific advances and folk wisdom can inform practices that encourage empathy, kindness, and compassion in children and help to alleviate psychological suffering.
Before moving to Madison, Dr. Zahn-Waxler was a research psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD, where she headed the Section on Development and Psychopathology. She has also served on the American Psychological Association’s Council of Editors, as President of the Developmental Division, and as a member of the Governing Council for the Society for Research in Child Development. Recently, she served on the Task Force on women and depression for the Lt. Governor of Wisconsin, where she works to de-stigmatize mental illness.