Monthly Archives: March 2016

Got a Question About Your Kid? Get an Answer Based on Good Science


By Efua Andoh (APA Public Interest Communications Staff)

What keeps you up at night? For many parents or caregivers, 9 times out of 10 it’s something to do with your kids. Have you ever found yourself surfing the web at an ungodly hour searching for answers to questions about your child’s health and wellbeing?

  • How can you get them to sleep better?
  • How can you help them deal with stress?
  • What do they need to adjust to a new school?

The Internet is teeming with websites offering solutions, but are they backed by evidence? Well, here’s something that might help you sleep better at night. is a new web-based clearinghouse created to disseminate the latest research and evidence-based guidance on raising a family and helping children. The site is designed for three major audiences (parents, educators and health professionals) and was funded by a grant from the American Psychological Association (APA) Committee on Division/APA Relations.

Put together by seven APA divisions, the website boasts information on children’s healthy development in four broad, overlapping areas: body, mind, emotions, and relationships.

  • Body looks at health in general, typical physical development milestones, and common health conditions.
  • Mind focuses on the development of thinking, language, and problem solving, learning problems and school-related topics.
  • Emotions tackles how children and adolescents develop emotional well-being, some of the challenges they face in doing so and common mental health issues.
  • Relationships refers to how family and peer relationships develop at home, in schools, and in the community. has got you covered – from common parenting concerns such as addressing sleep difficulties, preventing drug and alcohol use, and dealing with puberty to more fine-grained issues like disaster-related stress or managing screen time.

“With so much information on the Internet, it’s really difficult to know whether what you’re reading is legitimate, effective, or backed by good science or best practices,” says University of Tennessee psychology professor Kristina Coop Gordon, PhD, of APA’s Division 43 (Society for Couple and Family Psychology). “We wanted to offer one-stop shopping and direct people to information that has already been vetted by the experts.”

The creators of the website, the Consortium for Science-Based Information on Children, Youth and Families, vet their content rigorously to ensure it’s based on quality research and free of bias. The website is also translatable into other languages for non-English speakers and complies with ADA accessibility guidelines for those with disabilities.

They also understand that information on kids’ health is a two-way street. That’s why they encourage users to submit feedback, recommend websites to be included in the clearinghouse, and suggest blog topics. Your input is important.

So next time, you’re up Googling frantically for info on your kid, do yourself a favor. Check out first.

Image source: Flickr user Swaminathan via Creative Commons

Filed under: Children and Youth, Health and Wellness Tagged: brain development, child development, Children, children's health, children's mental health, development, emotional health, evidence-based,, parenting, physical health, relationships

Ageism Alert – Get the Facts on Aging

iStock_000081536221_Medium (1) (2)By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, Ashley Lytle, and Jamie L. Macdonald (Stony Brook University, Psychology Department)

Most people hope to live long lives, yet American culture is filled with negative images of getting older. Older adulthood is thought of as a time marked by deteriorating health, poor memory, low levels of activity, loneliness, and a sense of uselessness.  The truth is that these characterizations are inaccurate and they can make us anxious about growing old. They also make us feel and behave in surprisingly negative ways toward older people – we tolerate ageist jokes, age discrimination in the workplace, as well as financial and physical abuse toward older adults.

Those negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviors are what is known as AGEISM.  Did you know that ageism can harm your own mental, cognitive, and physical health as you age?

What can you do? Get the facts on aging. People who know more about aging are less ageist and may be on the path to living longer and more carefree lives.


Fact or Fiction: Test your knowledge on aging 

True or False?


  1. The majority of old people (past 65 years) have Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. As people grow older, their intelligence declines significantly.
  3. It is very difficult for older adults to learn new things.
  4. Most older people live in nursing homes.
  5. Older workers cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
  6. Most old people are set in their ways and unable to change.
  7. The majority of old people are bored.
  8. Participation in volunteering through organizations (e.g., churches and clubs) tends to decline among older adults.
  9. Abuse of older adults is not a significant problem in the U.S.
  10. Grandparents today take less responsibility for rearing grandchildren than ever before.


If you answered “false” to all these questions, you have a perfect score – congratulations! If you missed some questions, you are not alone. Most people including high school students, college students, teachers, and health care professionals in training score poorly on these tests. We learn very little accurate knowledge about aging at any stage in our schools, even those of us entering professions in which we will work with older adults.


So, what can you do?


When knowledge about aging increases, ageist attitudes decrease.

Educating yourself about aging can take the form of a one-hour lecture, several lectures, a multi-month course, or through reading more about aging in academic books or scientific journals.


Ageism is a societal problem that touches all of us. It creates anxiety and conflict between younger and older generations. It restricts the lives and livelihood of older adults, damaging their support systems, work opportunities, health care, their thoughts about themselves, and even their physical health – some studies show that people who buy into negative ageist stereotypes live shorter lives.


Isn’t it time to get educated about aging?


All of the knowledge of aging questions are from this 50-item measure:


Breytspraak, L. & Badura, L. (2015). Facts on Aging Quiz (revised; based on Palmore (1977; 1981)). Retrieved from


If you would like to learn more about ageism, the following might be of interest to you:


Carstensen, L. (2011). Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier. Retrieved from


Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.261


Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 1-22. doi:10.1111/josi.12153


McGuire, S. L., Klein, D. A., & Couper, D. (2005). Aging Education: A National Imperative. Educational Gerontology, 31(6), 443-460. doi:10.1080/03601270590928170


Ng, R., Allore, H.G., Trentalange, M., Monin, J.K., & Levy., B.R. (2015).  Increasing negativity of age stereotypes across 200 years: Evidence from a database of 400 million words.  PLoS ONE, 10, e0117086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117086


Wurtele, S. K. (2009). Activities of Older Adults survey: Tapping into student views of the elderly. Educational Gerontology, 35, 1026–1031. doi:10.1080/03601270902973557





Sheri R. Levy, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, USA. She earned her PhD at Columbia University in New York City, USA. Levy studies factors that cause and maintain prejudice, stigmatization, and negative intergroup relations and that can be harnessed to reduce bias, marginalization, and discrimination. Her research focuses on bias based on age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  With Jamie L. Macdonald and Todd D. Nelson, Levy co-Edited a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016). Levy’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and Levy publishes her research in journals such as Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Child Development, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Social Issues and Policy Review. Levy was Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Social Issues from 2010-2013 and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of American Psychological Association).


Ashley Lytle is a 5th year PhD candidate at Stony Brook University working with Sheri R. Levy. Ashley received her BA from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, USA and her MA from Stony Brook University, New York, USA.  Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact social and health outcomes among marginalized groups. For example, much of Ashley’s research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults and sexual minorities, with the ultimate goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice. She also examines how intergroup contact and beliefs systems relate to prejudice as well as the more applied focus of understanding factors that are involved in the reduction of prejudice and stigmatization.


Jamie L. Macdonald is graduate student at Stony Brook University working with Sheri R. Levy. Jamie received her BA and MA in Psychology from Stony Brook University, New York, USA. Her research investigates prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination with a focus on ageism in different contexts, like the workplace. She was a Co-Editor, with Sheri R. Levy and Todd D. Nelson, on a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016).

Image courtesy of


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, aging, discrimination, prejudice

Three Year Olds Defending Themselves in Immigration Court: Absurd Joke or Sad Reality?

Immigration Rally in Washington

By Jodi A. Quas, PhD (Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine)

Recently , an amazing statement was made by a high-level federal immigration judge who not only oversees hundreds of immigration hearings each year, but is also responsible for training other immigration judges. The statement was made during a deposition hearing regarding a class action lawsuit, J.E.F.M. v. Holder. The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by immigration rights groups against the federal government for failing to provide counsel to unaccompanied children during immigration court proceedings.

 “I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” Honorable Jack H. Weil, Assistant Chief Immigration Judge said. “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.”

Weil, re-iterated this point a second time, stating again that young children, with enough time, can learn immigration law sufficiently well to represent themselves in deportation hearings without the aid of assigned counsel.

Having spent a large portion of my career studying children’s involvement in the legal system, the statement baffled me. I asked myself:

  • Does he really think that young children can learn immigration law and be sufficiently articulate and compelling when arguing for why they should be allowed to remain in this country?
  • And, does he think children can do this just as well as the trained federal prosecutor arguing for their deportation?

Maybe the judge has never read any of the research showing how difficult it is for individuals (including children, teens, and many adults) to understand the legal system.

  • Children involved in dependency hearings following substantiated maltreatment, for example, often fail to understand decisions made in court, even when they are present in the courtroom and when the judge talks directly to them.
  • Parents whose children have been removed fare only slightly better. Despite having legal representation, they often do not adequately comprehend their situation, the judge’s orders, the role of different attorneys, and the purpose of many of the hearings.
  • Likewise, teens suspected of having committed a crime rarely fully comprehend proceedings in juvenile court, even though they also have an attorney representing them.

I could go on and on about the science. Findings are clear and consistent. Children, teens and even some adults rarely fully understand legal proceedings, even when those proceedings are tailored for them, and even when they are represented by attorneys who (though often overworked) have considerable experience working with these age groups.

But, do we really need science to recognize the absurdity in Judge Weil’s comments? Just spend an afternoon in a preschool classroom. Ask children what they know, what time things happened, and what they want in the future. Their answers are precious, precisely because of the children’s naiveté, innocence, and simplicity.  Furthermore, the cognitive ability of a 3 or 4 year old child to fully comprehend complex immigration law is simply not fully developed.

Where does the sun go at night?  (“to sleep”).

What does court mean? (“somewhere to play basketball”).

Where do you want to live when you grow up? (“in a castle with my mom”).

Try narrowing down their concept of time: Next week means anytime in the future, and last week means anytime in the past. After just one afternoon, it is painfully clear that children of this age should never be expected to understand complex ideas about immigration, deportation, evidence, hearings, consequences, or justice. Just like they should never, without some help, be allowed to make potentially legally binding arguments about their future.

It is shocking that children are allowed to represent themselves in deportation hearings. It is truly a disgrace to learn that at least one of the individuals responsible for overseeing those hearings and for training others who oversee those hearings feels that self-representation by children is fair and just. Maybe we should expand judicial training to include child development 101.


Jodi A. Quas, PhD is a Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC, Irvine. Her research interests include memory development in early childhood, effects of stress and trauma on children’s development, and children’s involvement in the legal system. Her specific interests include strategies to improve children’s narrative productivity and accuracy; the effects of stress on children’s memory; emotional regulation and physiological reactivity as predictors of children’s coping with and memory for stressful events; jurors’ perceptions of child witnesses; and consequences of legal involvement on child witnesses and victims. Dr. Quas is also the 2016 Chair of APA’s Committee on Children, Youth, and Families.

Image courtesy of

Filed under: Children and Youth, Human Rights and Social Justice, Public Policy Tagged: deportation, deportation hearings, immigrant families, immigration, immigration court, immigration proceedings, immigration reform, undocumented children, undocumented immigrants, undocumented youth

What Do We Need to Know About the Health of Older LGBT Adults? NIH Greenlights New Research

Gay Marriages NYC

By Mark Brennan-Ing, PhD (Director for Research and Evaluation at ACRIA, Center on HIV and Aging )

When we talk about fully including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in society, marriage equality and broader civil rights protections dominate our discourse. However, equally important are the numerous health disparities they experience in later life compared to heterosexuals. Older LGBT adults are not a small population. In 2015, the U.S. Administration for Community Living estimated that there were 1.8 to 4.0 million LGBT adults age 60 and older. A number that will grow to 7 million by 2030.

Healthy People 2020, a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2011) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), identified addressing the health status of LGBT individuals, including older adults, as a priority. Healthy People 2020 and the IOM both note that the lack of representative, population-based data to inform policy and programs targeted at older LGBT adults hampers this goal. Most available evidence derives from studies using convenience samples, so the true extent of health disparities among this community is unknown.

With this caveat in mind, here is what existing research tells us about health disparities among older LGBT adults compared to heterosexuals:

  • Older gay and bisexual men and transgender women are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for the majority of people over age 50 with HIV/AIDS (CDC, 2013)
  • Higher rates of tobacco use, disability and poorer self-reported health are reported by older LGBT individuals (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2011; Wallace et al., 2011)
  • There are higher obesity rates for older lesbian and bisexual women (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2011)
  • Older LGBT adults report increased levels of depressive symptoms, alcohol consumption, and use of other substances (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2011)

To address this knowledge gap, the National Institute on Aging, part of NIH, approved funding to Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen at the University of Washington in 2015 to study health disparities in older LGBT adults. Her multiyear study is entitled, “Older Adults in Vulnerable Communities: Health and Quality of Life Over Time.”

This research builds and extends upon Fredriksen-Goldsen’s earlier seminal study, “Caring and Aging with Pride (CAP)” (2011), one of the first large-scale studies of older LGBT aging and health. Incorporating 2,000 individuals from the CAP study, the new effort will follow 4,550 LGBT adults age 50 and older. [Disclaimer: I was/am a research participant in both of these studies].

Fredriksen-Goldsen’s study will also examine barriers to health care in the special context of LGBT aging. It is understandable that after facing a lifetime of discrimination and marginalization that many LGBT older adults distrust the mainstream institutions and service providers that most heterosexual older adults count on as resources for growing older. The vital data that Fredriksen-Goldsen and colleagues produce will be an important tool for reducing health disparities in older LGBT adults, by helping them to lead fuller and healthier lives and achieve greater equality in our society.




Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Kim, H. J., Emlet, C. A., Muraco, A., & Erosheva, E. (2011). The aging and health report: Disparities and resilience among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults. Seattle: Institutional for Multigenerational Health.


Wallace, S. P., Cochran, S. D., Durazo, E. M., & Ford, C. L. (2011). The health of aging lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in California. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.




Mark Brennan-Ing, PhD is the Director for Research and Evaluation at ACRIA, Center on HIV and Aging and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the New York University College of Nursing. He is the 2016 Chair of the APA Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

For more on this topic, check out APA’s resource page on LGBT Aging.

Image source: Flickr user Jose Antonio Navas via Creative Commons

Filed under: Aging, LGBT Issues, Public Policy Tagged: discrimination, gay, health disparities, health policy, healthy aging, homophobia, lesbian, LGBT, LGBT health, prejudice, transgender, transgender older adults, transphobia