Research Lab







Sara R. Berzenski, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Psychology

California State University, Northridge

Northridge, CA 91330

(818) 677-2814


Office: Sierra Tower 331


Office Hours (Spring 2022): Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4PM ZOOM ONLY


My research investigates emotional development in the context of adversity, from a developmental psychopathology perspective. I am interested in the ways that emotional development is altered in the context of child maltreatment, as well as the ways in which emotion competence skills may mitigate the negative impact of adversity on adaptation. In addition, I am interested in approaching these questions using diverse quantitative analytic techniques and measurement approaches, as well as applying a developmental perspective to quantitative issues. My program of research is composed of the following three interrelated areas of study:


Child Maltreatment

This line of research explores development in contexts of adversity, particularly child maltreatment, to clarify specific mechanisms by which adversity eventuates in negative adjustment and/or resilience. In particular, this research focuses on the importance of specific features (e.g., severity, chronicity) and subtypes (e.g., physical abuse, emotional abuse) of child maltreatment.


The Development of Emotion Competence

My second line of research investigates the development of emotion competence in contexts of both adversity and typical experience. Emotion competence is characterized by capabilities in emotion knowledge (understanding one’s own emotions and perceiving emotions in others), emotion expression (displaying appropriate levels and valences of emotions), and emotion regulation (the ability to control emotions during a challenging situation).


Domains of Self-Regulation

My third line of research seeks to understand the complexity of an individual’s response to a challenging situation, which involves physiological arousal, felt emotion, expressed emotion, and often a behavioral response. In investigating these capabilities, I draw heavily on observational data of children’s responses to challenging situations in the laboratory (e.g., a disappointing gift task, a frustrating building task). With regard to dynamic systems of regulation, I am investigating the predictive value of concordance among domains, specific profiles of activation, as well as the interrelations between domains of regulation across development.


Current CV