Monthly Archives: April 2017

Grandparents as Foster Parents: The New Family on the Block


By Tonya Davis, PhD, Karen Ethridge, PhD, & Natasha Black, MS (Alabama A&M University)


“We thought we were done raising children. We love our grandchildren, but we are too old to raise more children.”

This statement was made by an African-American couple in their late sixties who we will call the Does. The Does assumed custody of their 8 and 12 year-old grandchildren after they were placed in foster care resulting from their mother’s arrest for child endangerment and drug possession. Later, authorities determined the mother had been arrested during a drug raid. Meanwhile, the children were left home alone for 3 days. While this story is a heartbreaking tale of woe, it is only one of the many scenarios associated with children in the child welfare system.


The phenomenon of grandparents serving as custodial parents is a persistent reality given the record numbers of children entering into the foster care system. Of the 427, 910 children in foster care in 2015, 30%, or 127, 821, are in the care of a relative according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. Family arrangements that include placements with a grandparent or a relative are referred to as kinship family placements. Evidence suggests that children who cannot live with their biological parents fare better overall when living with extended family than with non-related foster parents.


Research has shown that children raised by grandparents in kinship placements are at higher risk of a mental illness, as well as academic and behavioral difficulties. Compounding the difficulty is that most grandparent incomes consist of fixed or retirement incomes that are below poverty lines. Thus, grandparents’ serving as foster parents is a population trending towards an increased need of an array of counseling and case management services.


Treatment Issues Unique to Foster Grandchildren


The Triad Complication:

Kinship family arrangements usually involve a triangular dynamic that include the biological parent, grandparent, and the child. Implications associated with this dynamic often include:

  • increased stress levels,
  • anxiety,
  • embarrassment,
  • anger,
  • behavioral acting out by the child as well as feelings of guilt and shame.

When differences of opinion arise, this can serve as a major contributor of stress for caregivers (the grandparent).


Grandparent Anxiety/Stress Triggers:

As stressors and anxiety perpetuate, the foster grandparents are less inclined to maintain their own health and financial stability. Their anxiety is triggered by:

  1. role confusion
  2. limited financial support
  3. declining health issues, and
  4. school related concerns

In the child welfare system, social workers will assist with providing an array of services such as financial assistance as long as the children are still in the legal custody of the state system, but when granted full custody the financial burden is transferred to the foster grandparent.


Child Identity Crisis:

Social separation from the birth parent, according to Bowlby (1973), will create a variety of emotional and behavioral problems stemming from attachment to separation disorder. Subsequently, most foster grandchildren reside in the grandparents’ home, while maintaining interaction with their birth parents depending on their case. This connection to their birth parent can cause role confusion within the child. The child will begin to question: Who is my caregiver? Who do I obey? And most importantly, who do I trust? These inquiries result in a rise of conflict on rules and boundaries for the child, as well as discipline and a sense of permanency. This becomes the presenting problem that mental health professionals will devise a treatment plan to resolve.


How can mental health professionals assist intergenerational families?


Promoting proactive mental health…

By using various psychological interventions, the mental health professional can build family strengths while proactively delivering services that reduce adverse outcomes for grandparents and grandchildren. Aims of therapy should include techniques designed to reduce tensions between the resistant child and grandparent and improve coping for both grandparent and grandchild. Therapists should not neglect providing individual sessions for the grandparent to work through anxiety/stressors.


Connecting the school and grandparent partnership…

Research has indicated that family/school partnerships are important. More importantly, interventions should occur across home, school, and community settings. Schools are in a unique position to assist foster grandparents by serving as ecological contexts for reciprocal learning. Intergenerational learning activities may serve as one method for assisting with bridging the gap for foster grandparents. Specifically, schools may establish grandparent councils, grandparent support groups, and other services designed to assist grandparents with caring for the academic and behavioral needs of their grandchildren.


Integrating dynamic social workers in the child welfare system…

A dynamic social worker will educate foster grandparents on the resources available. Most foster grandparents are not aware of the financial, educational, medical and psychological services available to them. The social worker will use community resources to connect foster grandparents as social support for each other and accountability agents of healthier lifestyles. The psychological and medical treatment of both the grandparent and the grandchildren can be addressed by promoting awareness of access to insurance options and public health care options that contribute lower out-of-pocket costs of visits.




Bowlby, J. (1973). Separation. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Care and Custody: Summary & Analysis. Retrieved  from

US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). (2012). Report 19.  Retrieved from:




Tonya Davis, PhD, is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor working in private practice for over 15 years providing counseling and assessment services for families and children. She has an extensive history of working with families and children from diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as children who have experienced trauma. She currently serves on the faculty of Alabama A&M University as an Assistant Professor in the Psychology & Counseling Department. She completed her doctoral degree in School Psychology from the University of Alabama. She can be contacted at [email protected].

Karen Ethridge, PhD, currently serves as an assistant professor at Alabama A&M University. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Sociology from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. She earned her Master of Science in Psychology (with a concentration in Personnel Administration and Industrial Organizational Psychology) from Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama. She completed her doctoral degree in Educational Psychology from Capella University. Her research interests are academic self-efficacy and academic success in college students. She is currently the co-director of the Prevention and Learning Lab at Alabama A&M University where one of the goals is to focus on instructional learning and efficacy. She has worked with the Madison County Department of Human Resources as a Social Service Supervisor from 1998 to 2004. Since 2004, she initially served as an adjunct professor, then as an assistant professor at Alabama A&M University in the Psychology and Counseling Department. She can be contacted at [email protected].

Natasha R. Black is a current student at Alabama A&M University completing her second Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. She has completed her first Master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Human Development with Alabama A&M University as well. Her experience includes clinical mental health services, a history of work with at-risk youth and their families, and comprehensive work with the intellectually disabled. Her research interests include neuropsychology advancement, family and child psychology, and human psychological development.

Filed under: Children and Youth Tagged: foster care, foster parents, grandchildren, grandparenting, grandparents, parenting

How Black Boys Turn Blue: The Effects of Masculine Ideology on Same-Gender Loving Men


By Courtland Douglas (Psychology Graduate Student, Texas Southern University) & Erlanger Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown)


What Do We Mean by the Term “Same-Gender Loving”?


They say, “Black boys turn blue in the moonlight”. In the Oscar winning movie Moonlight, the story follows character Chiron as he develops into a man. What’s interesting about Chiron’s story is that it mirrors that of countless other African American men. Chiron is simply not allowed to “be” – he’s bullied for being “Little,” beaten because of his demeanor, and denied the opportunity to safely and freely explore his sexuality. It is indeed under this distress that Black boys turn blue.

Chiron is a same-gender loving man. “Same-gender loving” (SGL) was first coined by Dr. Cleo Manago to describe African Americans with same gender attractions1. It encompasses African Americans who experience exclusively homosexual or bisexual attractions and sexual interactions. Same-gender loving has been used to redefine the terms gay, lesbian, and bisexual. In doing this, Manago challenges the assumed link between sexual minority identities and the stereotypes that accompany them.


Masculinity and SGL

Pascoe (2003), in his study of heterosexual masculinity, called for greater examination of the complex ways that young men negotiate masculinity, rather than discussion of how to categorize the types of masculinity (e.g., jock, player, effeminate). According to various scholars2,3, in traditional masculine ideology, men exemplify certain characteristics and behaviors:

  • Men are aggressive and physically strong
  • Men are self-reliant and responsible heads of the household
  • Men are emotionally restricted
  • Men have non-relational attitudes towards sex
  • Men avoid femininity, which includes concealing their emotions
  • Men view heterosexuality as the normative sexual orientation
  • Men aspire to success and achievement

According to Levant and Majors (1997), African American men embrace traditional masculine ideology to a greater extent compared to other ethnic groups in the United States. Therefore, the heterosexism – negative attitudes toward homosexuality and gender non-conforming expression – pervades the African American community. A recent study4 in the Journal of Black Psychology notes that in the Black community, gender norms portrayed in popular music may increase ideals of hegemonic masculinity which is defined to include traits such as competitiveness, emotional restraint, risk taking, dominance, non-relational attitudes toward sexuality.

Research identifies the disdain of homosexuality and avoidance of femininity as beliefs of traditional masculine ideology. This influences the ability of SGL men to meet masculine standards. For some, their identity and gender non-conforming expression contradict traditional masculine ideology. SGL men who don’t conform to traditional masculinity may have their manhood questioned by their ethnic peers. Subsequent persecution may prompt some SGL men to forego exploration of their sexuality and gender expression. Pleck (1995) identified these patterns of persecution and trauma as trauma strain, which negatively affect the psychological well-being of SGL men.

Similarly, being able to perform masculinity successfully can harm the mental health of SGL men. Pleck asserts that the fulfillment of certain male gender role norms can have negative consequences such as being inherently dysfunctional—dysfunction strain. For example, SGL men who internalize traditional masculinity may have a reluctance to express emotions, which may prevent the development of intimate relationships. However, for some SGL men, adhering to traditional masculine norms may serve a protective function. Traditional masculine ideology has helped mold the expectation for how African American men should behave. So, adhering to male gender role norms increases their chances of successfully navigating social environments (e.g., work and school) without persecution.

Additionally, research finds that African American men are more likely to self-identify as bisexual than other ethnic minorities5. Identifying as bisexual may serve a dual protective function for African American SGL men. The identification arguably allows them to validate their same gender attractions, protecting them psychologically, while grounding themselves in their masculinity protects them socially. This further complicates our understanding of how individuals navigate social contexts as a result of their intersecting identities.


Mental Health and SGL Men

The literature often finds that attempts to adhere to traditional masculine ideologies are associated with decreased mental health functioning6,7. Ethnic minorities who identify as SGL frequently experience a sense of never being part of any group, which may leave them at greater risk for isolation, feelings of estrangement, and increased psychological vulnerability8.

In 2013, a meta-analysis of 25 studies5 revealed that the lifetime prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders was at least 1.5 times higher among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Furthermore, African American men who experienced homophobia from the heterosexual community and their friends reported more negative psychological effects5. Choi and colleagues reported that perceived homophobic disapproval and rejection by an immediate circle of heterosexual friends harmed psychological well-being for sexual minority men of color more than harassment related to sexual orientation.


What Helps with Coping for SGL Men?


  • Engage in healthy personal habits (e.g., eating, exercise).
  • Identify a safe space to discuss your identity and seek supportive relationships.
  • Avoid engaging in risky sexual behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex).
  • Avoid using substances to cope with negative thoughts as it could lead to more negative psychological and health outcomes.

Psychological interventions:

  • According to Greene (1994), individuals learn about negative stereotypes and homophobia before they know they are attracted to the same-sex. Therapy can help explore sexual identity and self-acceptance.
  • Group therapy for SGL men: Group therapy can provide a safe space to explore issues surrounding SLG men’s intersecting identities while fostering solidarity among group members. Here, members can negotiate their identities as African American and same-gender loving men.
  • Therapy goals to overcome internalized homonegativity: Homonegativity has been defined as negative societal attitudes about non-heterosexual attractions, behaviors, and identities that are internalized by homosexuals.10 Homonegative messages can be internalized, causing a decreased sense of self-worth. Therapy can deconstruct internalized homonegativity and expose its origin as the external attitudes of society. SGL men are then able to use their own values to shape their views of themselves and reframe their sexuality as a positive or neutral aspect of their identity rather than a negative one.




1Lassiter, J. (2016). Effective strategies used by African American same gender loving men in promoting health and well-being. In L. D. Follins & J. M. Lassiter (Eds.), Black LGBT Health in the United States: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation (pp. 169-184). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.


2Levant, R. F., Hirsch, L., Celentano, E., Cozza, T., Hill, S., MacEachern, et al. (1992). The male role: An investigation of norms and stereotypes. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 14(3), 325-337.


3Pascoe, C. J. (2003). Multiple masculinities? Teenage boys talk about jocks and gender. American Behavioral Scientist46(10), 1423-1438.


4Mahalik, J. R., Good, G. E., & Englar-Carlson, M. (2003). Masculinity scripts, presenting concerns, and help seeking: Implications for practice and training. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice34(2), 123-131.


5Levant, R. F., & Majors, R. G. (1997). An investigation into variations in the construction of the male gender role among young African American and European American women and men. Journal of Gender, Culture, and Health, 2(1), 33-43.


6Avery, L. R., Ward, L.M., Moss, L., & Uskup, D. (2017). Tuning gender: Representations of femininity, and masculinity in popular music by Black artists. Journal of Black Psychology, 43(2), 159-191.


7Choi, K. H., Paul, J., Ayala, G., Boylan, R., & Gregorich, S. E. (2013). Experiences of discrimination and their impact on the mental health among African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino men who have sex with men. American Journal of Public Health103(5), 868-874.


8Pleck, J. H. (1995). The gender role strain paradigm: An update. In R. F. Levant & W. S. Pollack (Eds.), A new psychology of men (pp. 11-32). New York: Basic Books.


9Wilson, B. D., Harper, G. W., Hidalgo, M. A., Jamil, O. B., Torres, R. S., Fernandez, M. I., & Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions. (2010). Negotiating dominant masculinity ideology: Strategies used by gay, bisexual and questioning male adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(1-2), 169-185.


10Greene, B. (1994). Ethnic-minority lesbians and gay men: mental health and treatment issues. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology62(2), 243.



Courtland Douglas earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Louisiana State University. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Art in Psychology at Texas Southern University. His interests include Black masculinity, LGBTQ issues, and mental health.

Erlanger A. Turner, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD). Dr. Turner’s research focuses on access to child mental health services, health inequity, help-seeking attitudes and behaviors, and cultural competency in clinical practice. He is the Director of the UHD Race, Culture, and Mental Health Research Lab and is also a blogger for The Race to Good Health. Dr. Turner has served in numerous leadership positions throughout APA and APA Divisions. He currently serves as Chair of the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (2017-2018) and as a member of the Behavioral Health National Project Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Black Psychologists.

Image source:

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, LGBT Issues, Men and Masculinity Tagged: african american, African American men, bisexuality, boys and men, gender norms, gender roles, homophobia, homosexuality, identity, identity development, masculine ideology, masculine norms, masculinity, same gender loving men

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child? The Unexpected Way Religious Beliefs Influence Parents’ Views of Discipline



This is the seventh in a series of weekly blog posts addressing discipline and parenting practices. In this series, we will explore reasons that parents choose among discipline approaches, the science behind those techniques, and alternative approaches to discipline.


By Cindy Miller-Perrin, PhD (Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University)


How do religious beliefs impact parents’ positions on the use of physical discipline with their children?


Parents’ support for using physical punishment with their children varies, to some degree, by religious affiliation. Both the United Methodist Church and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, for example, have passed resolutions encouraging parents to avoid the use of physical punishment in favor of other forms of discipline. Members of other faith traditions such as the Jewish, Catholic, and Mormon faiths appear to have also either discouraged or prohibited the use of physical punishment with children.

Conservative Protestants, on the other hand, represent one faith tradition where physical punishment of children is sometimes recommended and encouraged. Conservative Protestants are significantly more likely than parents of other religious backgrounds to support and practice corporal punishment. This support of corporal punishment is largely based on conservative beliefs that the Bible is inerrant and should be interpreted literally.

In addition, many Conservative Protestants believe that children are prone to egocentrism and sinfulness at birth and therefore the parent must shape the will of the inherently rebellious child. From this perspective, the child’s submission serves as a model for their future relationship with God.


Are Christian parents biblically mandated to spank their children?


Does the Bible teach parents to spank their children? The routinely repeated phrase ‘‘spare the rod, spoil the child’’ does not actually appear in the Bible. Instead, it is a popularized paraphrase of several verses in Proverbs. Four of the most commonly cited verses include the following from the New International Version:

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. (Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death. (Proverbs 23:13–14)

Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being. (Proverbs 20:30)

The important question, of course, is whether these passages should be interpreted as a mandate to spank, and whether the growing empirical research that spanking does more harm than good should contribute to the conversation.

For many progressive Christians and biblical scholars (including many Conservative Protestant scholars), the Bible should be read with an understanding of the cultural context in which its passages were written. Children in the ancient world were devalued, and often mistreated. Infanticide was not uncommon. They also lived in a world where violence was understood as the only disciplinary tool. The phrase “time out” does not appear in the Bible!

Given their lowly status in the ancient world, and the role of violence in that world, it is not surprising that the writer of Proverbs (presumably King Solomon) would have spoken of the “rod of discipline.” Once we understand this context, the passages take on new meaning. They are actually meant to place limits on violence in a world in which the weak and powerless, including children and slaves, were sometimes violently mistreated. It is also important to note that Jesus never advocated for physical discipline of children.

Both the Old and New Testaments clearly speak of disciplining children, but spanking and physical punishment are not synonymous with discipline. Today we know that there are other ways to discipline children, with many alternative methods empirically supported as more effective and less potentially harmful than spanking. Considering the Bible’s attempt to regulate and control physical violence during its time, it seems reasonable to argue that a modern day reading of the scriptures should not be interpreted as an endorsement of physical punishment.



So, what goes into positive Christian parenting?


There are many positive findings associated with Christian parenting that suggest that Christian beliefs and parenting can be combined to be effective without the use of physical discipline. The belief that the Bible is God’s true word and that it has answers to important human problems, for example, has been positively associated with praise and hugs.

Sanctification of parenting, or the belief that parenting holds spiritual significance, is associated with:

  • increased consistency in responding to child misbehavior,
  • less use of verbal aggression,
  • increased frequency of praising a child’s behavior and character,
  • greater emphasis on the importance of moral responsibility,
  • greater investment in parenting,
  • sharing more positive memories with one’s child, and
  • having a greater emotional tie with one’s child.

Key factors associated with favorable Christian parenting appear to relate to both parental faith-based actions and beliefs. For example, parents who identify their religious affiliation as Conservative Protestant report more frequent use of physical punishment than parents of other faiths. However, parents who attend religious services report less frequent physical punishment than parents who do not attend religious services, once religious affiliation has been accounted for statistically. 

In addition, interpreting religious content symbolically rather than literally has been associated with positive parenting qualities such as:

  • being supportive toward children and their independence,
  • exerting little psychological control over children, and
  • stressing the importance of the child developing a sense of self, contributing to the community, and building friendships.




Abelow, B. J. (2011). The shaping of New Testament narrative and salvation teachings by painful childhood experience. Archive for the Psychology of Religion, 33(1), 1-54.

Ellison, C. G., & Bradshaw, M. (2009). Religious beliefs, sociopolitical ideology, and attitudes toward corporal punishment. Journal of Family Issues, 30, 320-340.

Ellison, C. G., Musick, M. A., & Holden, G. W. (2011). Does Conservative Protestantism moderate the association between corporal punishment and child outcomes? Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 946-961.

Fréchette, S., & Romano, E. (2015). Change in corporal punishment over time in a representative sample of Canadian parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 29, 507-517.

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA. (2012, July 6). General Assembly adopts wide range of social justice issues. Retrieved from:

Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7(3), 2013, 133–137.

Gershoff, E. T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2016a). Corporal punishment by parents and its consequences for children: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 453-469.

Ingram, C. (n.d.). The biblical approach to spanking. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from

Gershoff, E. T., Miller, P. C., & Holden, G. W. (1999). Parenting influences from the pulpit: Religious affiliation as a determinant of parental corporal punishment. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 307-320.

Greven, P. (1991). Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Grogan-Kaylor, A., & Otis, M. D. (2007). The predictors of parental use of corporal punishment. Family Relations, 56, 80-91.

Miller-Perrin, C.L., & Krumrei Mancuso, E. (2015). Why faith matters: A positive psychology perspective. Dordrecht: Springer.

Nolan, B. (2011, Feb 27). Corporal punishment at St. Augustine is morally troubling, New Orleans archbishop says. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from

Perrin, R., Miller-Perrin, C., & Song, J. (in press). Changing attitudes about spanking using alternative biblical interpretations. International Journal of Behavioral Development.

Petts, R. J. (2012). Single mothers’ religious participation and early childhood behavior. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 251-268.

Swan, R. (2007). Corporal punishment, religious attitudes toward. In N. A. Jackson (Ed.), The encyclopedia of domestic violence (pp. 205- 208). New York, NY: Routledge.

Taylor, C. A., Lee, S. J., Guterman, N. B., & Rice, J. C. (2010). Use of spanking for 3-year-old children and associated intimate partner aggression or violence. Pediatrics, 126, 415-424.

United Methodist Church. (2008). Discipline children without corporal punishment (Social Principles, 162C).

The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church – 2008. Retrieved from:



Dr. Cindy Miller-Perrin earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Washington State University and is currently Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University. She enjoys teaching undergraduates and is the recipient of the 2008 Howard A. White Award for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with maltreated, developmentally delayed, and other troubled children and their families.  Dr. Miller-Perrin has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters covering a range of topics, including physical punishment, child maltreatment, family violence, and vocation and life purpose.  She has co-authored four books, including Why Faith Matters: A Positive Psychology Perspective (with E. Krumrei, 2014), Family Violence Across the Lifespan (with O. Barnett & R. Perrin, Sage 1997, 2005, 2011), Child Maltreatment (with R. Perrin, Sage 1999, 2007, 2013), and Child Sexual Abuse: Sharing the Responsibility (with S. Wurtele, University of Nebraska Press, 1992).  She serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, and Advances in Child and Family Policy and Practice.  She is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association (APA) and has served as the President of the Section on Child Maltreatment and Member-At-Large for Division 37 Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice of APA.  She is currently President of APA’s Division 37.

Image sources:

Filed under: Children and Youth, Uncategorized Tagged: christian parenting, discipline, parenting, physical discipline, religious beliefs, religious parents, spanking