Monthly Archives: November 2017

“Shall We Dance?” How Parents Can Work Together to Teach Kids About Race

Family dancing together

 

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res

 

By Shawn C. T. Johnson, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)

 

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In the world of reality contest shows, are any more fun than those that center around dancing? On shows such as Dancing with the Stars (above), individuals with varying levels of talent pair up with others—sometimes as novice, sometimes advanced—to practice and eventually perform a set routine.  If you have ever watched these shows, you can appreciate the time and effort it takes to get the count right, keep rhythm etc.

 

As a racial-ethnic socialization (RES) scholar, watching these shows has also gotten me to think about another dance that goes on (and is often unnoticed) for many parents: working together to teach their child how to navigate a racialized world. Unlike faulty steps meaning the difference between staying on a show and going home, the stakes for effectively providing your child with affection, protection, and correction, as Dr. Howard Stevenson describes it, are much higher. Yet, while we often consider racial socialization one of the most critical parenting practices, there is not much that exists to help parents think through how their individual and collective skills, what they bring to the dance, can have important consequences for safeguarding their children physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

So You Think You Can Dance?

 

Individually, it may be important for each parent to consider their styles and comfort around talking to their children about race. For example, one parent’s experiences with racial discrimination may make them more or less committed to preparing their children for potentially similar experiences. For another parent, they may still be carrying forward the messages that they were taught about race as a child, and these messages may inform how they plan to talk about race. Even experiences such as where parents’ grew up can impact how they think about race and the importance of teaching lessons to their children. So it is crucial to ask your co-parenting partner to share thoughts and feelings on race and RES.

 

It Takes Two…

 

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In addition to what each parent brings to the dance floor independently, how well parents work together impacts how successfully they can teach their children about race. Have you ever seen two capable dancers stumble through a routine? Oftentimes it has to do with a lack of communication. The most seamless routines are often found when communication is open and frequent. For RES, like dancing, this can mean using verbal or non-verbal means to let your partner know where you are going.

 

Another element of effectively navigating RES may center on discussions of role-taking or leads. Have you discussed who might be the one to teach your child what to do if they get stopped by the police, or is called a racial slur?

 

No Parking on The Dance Floor

 

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Even once parents are able to work together to get into a groove that includes mutual understanding and open communication, it is important to also take a look at what is going on in you and your child’s world. Very skilled dancers may still find it difficult to be successful on a dance floor that is too crowded, and communication may become difficult if the music is too loud. Does the neighborhood or school your child inhabits make having these conversations more critical? How do the current political climate and exposure to social media change the ways in which your maneuver? How do other important people—grandparents, stepparents, and fictive kin— fit in with how we are teaching our children about race?

 

While RES unfortunately does not come with an instructional dance guide, and there may not be just the “right moves”, working together to teach your children about race is achievable. Share experiences and perspectives on race; support one another in co-creating an approach to talking about race; and accommodate one another when disagreements about how to proceed inevitably arise.

 

So tonight, perhaps after watching the latest episode of DWTS, you can pull up APA’s RESilience Parent Tip Tool, and ask your co-parent, “Can we have this dance?”

 

Biography:

 

Shawn C. T. Jones, PhD, is a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Currently, Shawn works with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), which centers on applied research to promote racial literacy and empower families as a means of reducing the deleterious impact of race-related stress. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a Child and Family emphasis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Child Clinical Psychology Pre-doctoral intern at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. During his time at UNC, Shawn was both a Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Dissertation Fellow. Shawn also holds a Master of Health Science in Mental from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2010) and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University (2008).

Dr. Jones endeavors to impact the psychosocial wellbeing of Black youth and their families by: a) exploring mechanisms undergirding culturally-relevant protective and promotive factors; b) translating basic research into interventions that harness the unique strengths of the Black experience; and c) disseminating this research to be consumed, critiqued and enhanced by the communities the work intends to serve. Clinically, Dr. Jones is committed to the provision of culturally-informed child, couple and family therapy and assessment. Finally, Dr. Jones is passionate about eliminating racial health disparities, particularly those related to mental health services, which he sees as obtainable through stigma-reduction and mental health literacy interventions.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnic identity, parenting, parenting tips, racial and ethnic socialization, racial discrimination, racial identity, racial socialization, resilience

How to Listen When Someone You Know Discloses Sexual Harassment or Assault

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This post is based on a longer article by Dr. Jennifer J. Freyd (Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon)

 

Every day now in the news, we learn of various actions taken by those facing allegations of sexual assault and harassment. One set of actions has to do with their reported sexual harassment and/or assaults. Another set of actions has to do with how they respond when accused. Both types of action are crucially important. A good response can at least do some good (sincere apologies can be healing). But a bad response not only exacerbates the harm of the first injury, it also inflicts new injury, and does so in ways that are usually public and ongoing (well past the media moving on).

 

It is very important to be a good listener when a friend or loved one discloses a difficult or upsetting experience like sexual assault or harassment. We know that respectful, compassionate, attentive, and authentic listening can be healing, while a controlling, blaming, and/or invalidating response can cause harm.

 

1. Do Not “DARVO” and Call It Out When You See It

DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.The perpetrator or offender may:

  • Deny the behavior,
  • Attack the individual doing the confronting, and
  • Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender.

DARVO is a particularly pernicious response to disclosure and can cause harm. For more on DARVO see this page.

 

2. Be a Well-Intentioned and Respectful Listener

Many people want to respond well to a disclosure but may not know how. Here are some guidelines to help people and institutions respond well to disclosures of violence and distressing events. These suggestions are drawn from research findings¹

  • Respect the survivor’s autonomy and² strengths
  • Validate the survivor and indicate that the responsibility for the violence is with the perpetrator(s)
  • Stay engaged and focused on the survivor’s needs and validate the survivor’s strengths
  • When it is possible and appropriate, sincerely apologize
  • Do not invalidate, blame or pathologize the survivor
  • Do not take away the survivor’s autonomy 

 

3. Be a Compassionate Listener²

These suggestions are drawn from instructions that address listening skills in the moment.

 

First, it is important to use attentive body language. 

 

  • Do not make inappropriate facial expressions (e.g., smiling when someone is discussing a sad topic, rolling your eyes, raising your eyebrows when hearing how someone coped) and do not move your body too much (e.g., excessive fidgeting, playing with your cell phone).

 

  • Do sit in a posture (e.g., leaning forward or upright) and use gestures that convey engagement (e.g., nodding).

 

  • Do maintain consistent, not constant or darting, eye contact (look directly at the person for brief periods of 3-6 seconds, then look away briefly before reconnecting).

 

Second, it is important to use verbal skills that encourage the speaker to continue.

 

  • Do not change the topic or ask questions that are off-topic. This may seem like a way to decrease your anxiety or make the other person more comfortable, but it often has the opposite effect.

 

  • Do allow silence and convey that you are listening by using encouraging words like “hmmm” and “uh-huh” periodically.

 

  • Do state/name/reflect back the emotion being described.  It might also help you to imagine yourself in the speaker’s place and look at the situation from his/her perspective.

Examples:

“Wow – sounds like it was scary for you.” 

“It seems like you feel really sad about that.”

“I feel like that must’ve made you angry.”

 

  • Do ask questions if you are confused, and try to ask questions that require more than one word.

Instead of:

“Was that scary?” 

“Do you mean it wasn’t that bad?”

 

Ask questions like:

“Could you tell me a little bit more about that?” 

“What was that like for you?” 

“What do you mean when you say ____?”

 

Third, it is important to use words in a way that convey support. 

 

  • Do not reassure the person in a way that might minimize their experience

Examples:

“That happened so long ago, maybe it would help to try move on.”

“It’s not worth the energy to keep thinking about it.”

“Don’t be scared.”

 

  • Do not make judgments or evaluations about their responses or decisions

Examples:

“Couldn’t you do/say ______ instead?”

“I don’t think you should worry about it anymore.”

“I think it’d be better for you to _____.”

“Why don’t you ____?”

 

  • Do validate the person’s emotions in a genuine tone

(Examples: “If that happened to me, I can imagine I’d feel really overwhelmed too.”  “Given that experience, it makes sense you’d feel/say/do ________.”  “I think many people with that experience would have felt similarly.”)

 

  • Do point out the person’s strengths

Examples:

“I’m amazed at how much courage that took.” 

“You’ve done a great job at keeping everything in perspective.” 

“I really admire your strength.” 

“I’m impressed with how you’ve dealt with this.”

 

  • Do focus on their experience rather than your own and only give advice when it is requested.

 

When family and friends listen with respect and compassion they can help survivors on their paths to healing. To receive confidential support following a sexual assault, please contact the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

 

Biography:

 

Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. She received her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Freyd directs a laboratory investigating the impact of interpersonal and institutional trauma on mental and physical health, behavior, and society. The author or coauthor of 200 articles, Freyd is also the author of the Harvard Press award-winning book Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse. Her book Blind to Betrayal, co-authored with Pamela J. Birrell, was published in 2013, with seven additional translations. In 2014, Freyd was invited two times to the U.S. White House due to her research on sexual assault and institutional betrayal. Freyd has received numerous awards including being named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and an Erskine Fellow at The University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In April 2016, Freyd was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation.  Freyd currently serves as the Editor of The Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. You can follow Dr. Freyd on Twitter at @jjforegon.

 

References:

 

¹For example, Ullman, S. E., & Peter-Hagene, L. (2014). Social reactions to sexual assault disclosure, coping, perceived control, and PTSD symptoms in sexual assault victims. J. Community Psychology, 42: 495-508. doi: 10.1002/jcop.21624. Also these suggestions are drawn from Freyd & Birrell (2013), Blind to Betrayal.

²These instructions were used in a study by: Foynes, M.M., & Freyd, J.J. (2011). The impact of skills training on responses to the disclosure of mistreatment. Psychology of Violence, 1, 66-77. The particular wording of these instructions was designed to match a control condition in our study. (See http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/jjf/disclosure for the specific experimental and control materials).

 


Filed under: Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: discrimination, gender discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, sexual harassment, supporting victims, violence against women

Is Poking Fun at Birthdays a Harmless Way to Celebrate Them?

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By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, & MaryBeth Apriceno (Stony Brook University)

 

Have you ever noticed that the tone of birthday cards for children is upbeat with messages like, “way to go, you’re another year older”? Whereas that is rarely the theme in cards for adults older than 21, at least in the United States.

 

Next time you find yourself in a card store, read through a few birthday cards for adults. You might find one or two cards with an upbeat and pro-age sentiment like “Fifty and fabulous.”  More likely you’ll encounter a lot that reiterate false and negative stereotypes of aging and older adults — cards that exaggerate the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, depict dramatic age-related physical changes, portray older adults as very unattractive and cranky, as well as cards that suggest older adults lack sexual interest or have inappropriate sexual interest.  Nothing appears to be off limits.

 

Likewise, the aisles for adults at party supply stores are often devoted to party supplies and gifts poking fun of older adulthood. Here you’ll encounter a lot of “over the hill” themed party supplies such as balloons and serveware. You’ll also likely see favors and gifts that refer to ageist stereotypes, like signs that say “CAUTION, slow senior zone,” over the hill potty night lights, over the hill emergency diaper kits, and over the hill canes equipped with a horn, plastic chattering teeth, and a mini fine-extinguisher.

 

Funny or foul?

 

Birthday cards and gifts that poke fun of older adulthood are communicating negative ageist stereotypes found in society, including negative depictions of older adults in books, movies, and television. Together, these negative stereotypes and images take a toll on older adults.  Negative ageist messages may be internalized over the course of a lifetime and cause older adults to adopt an older self-image.  Older adults may then tailor their behaviors to these learned stereotypes, resulting in more sedentary lifestyles, decreases in cognitive functioning, decline in overall health, and a shorter lifespan (see Levy, 2009). Such effects may be amplified in women who face ageism as well as sexism (see Chrisler, Barney, & Palatino, 2016).

 

Widespread sale of birthday cards and supplies poking fun of older adulthood indicates the accepted nature of the stereotypes they communicate and the pressing problem of ageism. In fact, the World Health Organization (2015) has noted, “Ageism may now be more pervasive than sexism or racism.”

 

Ageism affects society. It can limit intergenerational contact and undermine intergenerational harmony. It contributes to age discrimination in the workplace, worse health care and poorer health for older adults, as well as financial and physical abuse of older adults.

 

“The world is in the midst of a unique and irreversible process of demographic transition that will result in older populations everywhere” (United Nations, 2014).

It is more important than ever to take steps to reduce ageism, and this includes no longer tolerating cards and gifts that poke fun of aging and older adults.

 

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

 

Chrisler, J., Barney, A., & Palatino, B. (2016). Ageism can be hazardous to women’s health: Ageism, sexism, and stereotypes of older women in the health care system. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 86-104. doi: 10.1111/josi.12157

Demos, V., & Jache, A. (1981). When you care enough: An analysis of attitudes toward ageing in humorous birthday cards. The Gerontologist, 21, 209-215.

Levy, B. R. (2009). Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(6): 332-336.

Levy, S.R. (2016). Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (Positive Education about Aging and Contact Experiences) Model. The Gerontologist. 10 AUG 2016, doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw116

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25. doi: 10.1111/josi.12153

United Nations (2014). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/ageing/

World Health Organization (WHO; September, 2015). Ageing and Health. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs404/en/

 

Biographies:

 

Sheri R. Levy, PhD, is a 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).

 

MaryBeth Apriceno is a graduate student and teaching assistant at Stony Brook University. She received her BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her research investigates factors that affect ageist attitudes, aging anxiety, and self-stereotyping.

 

Image source: Flickr user tawest64 via Creative Commons

 

 


Filed under: Aging, Health Disparities Tagged: age discrimination, ageism, aging, stereotypes, stereotyping

How Can We Better Protect LGBTQ Students: Psychologists Take Action

Click to view slideshow.

By Joshua R. Wolff, PhD (Adler University); H.L. “Lou” Himes, PsyD (QuIPP); and Theresa Stueland Kay, PhD (OUTReach Utah)

Over the last year, we have witnessed regular news media headlines coming out of Washington, D.C. with a state of shock, horror, and anger. Specifically, we have been alarmed by the rollback of protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and students.

We know from first-hand experience that LGBTQ students face many forms of discrimination which contribute to health disparities, such as increased rates of suicide and homelessness. Specifically:

  • I (Lou) have been gender non-conforming my whole life and I have faced harassment in educational institutions from elementary school through my doctoral studies.
  • I (Theresa) work with LGBTQ youth at an organization called OUTreach Utah. All too often, the youth I see are marginalized and bullied at home and at school. When they suffer at school, personnel frequently fail to protect these students. Even worse, faculty, staff, and administration often blame the youth for the fact that they are bullied.
  • I (Joshua) came out as gay at a faith-based college, Biola University, where I risked academic expulsion based solely on my sexual orientation, and realized I did not have any legal protections.

Together, we have each dedicated our careers as clinical psychologists to helping support LGBTQ people in the face of discrimination, which we have done through research, clinical services, and volunteering.

LGBTQ children and youth face daily roadblocks to their education and threats to their safety. This is a systemic issue and requires a systemic response.

Like many Americans, we have at times felt powerless against what seems to be an overwhelming recent assault on many of the most marginalized groups of Americans, including (but certainly not limited to) LGBTQ students. Hence, we asked ourselves “what can we do to help”? We decided to visit Washington, D.C. to talk to Members of Congress, including some who may not share our views, about the importance of protecting LGBTQ students.

Our first step was to contact staff at the APA to help us get started. We felt particularly fortunate to receive wonderful assistance from staff in the Public Interest and Education Government Relations Offices.

Prior to meetings with congressional offices, we connected with leading LGBTQ advocacy groups in Washington to learn about their current federal priorities and strategies. We met with the Human Rights Campaign, GLSEN, and the Trevor Project, as well as APA staff from the Safe and Supportive Schools Project. As a result, we learned about several important priorities. These included:

  • re-instating Title IX protections for transgender youth;
  • the ‘Safe Schools Improvement Act’ which would require schools to create plans to combat bullying, specifically including LGBTQ students;
  • fully funding Title IV (school climate improvement grants) of ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’; and
  • ensuring that federal surveys and surveillance systems  collect sexual orientation and gender identity data.

Further, we were alarmed to learn that the Trevor Project has seen a dramatic increase in the number of transgender youth calling their suicide prevention crisis hotline following the announcement of President Trump’s military ban for transgender service members. This provided a sobering reminder of how our government’s words and decisions affect those most vulnerable in our society.

Our meetings with these groups affirmed two clear messages:

(1) LGBTQ students need critical legal protections, and

(2) we need data to tell us how we can help.

We lobbied staff from the National Governors Association and the offices of Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on these important legal protections and data collection. Among the issues raised by the advocacy groups we met with the day before, we talked about:

  • the high rates of LGBTQ suicide attempts and homelessness, as well as
  • the lack of Title IX protections that could reduce bullying and victimization of transgender students
  • the need for greater legal protections and data collection to end these health disparities.

Each of us explained why these issues are important to us personally, how they impact our work as psychologists, and how they affect the Members’ constituents. Unsurprisingly, some offices did not agree on how to address the concerns. But others were eager to listen, and shared concerns about the high rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth and other health disparities. All of the offices agreed that there should be ongoing Congressional oversight of the Department of Education to continue to protect students, and asked us to follow up and continue the conversation.

The experience reminded us that advocacy isn’t a one-time deal, and it’s not just happening in Washington. Advocacy can happen through a phone call or an email to our Members of Congress. Hence, we will follow up with the various offices we contacted to remind them about the critical protections that LGBTQ youth need.

We encourage you to get involved, too. Join the APA Federal Action Network or get involved at the local or community level. Psychologists have a lot to contribute to advocacy, and it’s vital to make your voice heard.

 

Biographies:

Joshua R. Wolff, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Adler University in Chicago, IL. Further, he was a contributor to the U.S. government’s (SAMHSA/HHS) report, “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth”. His current research is directed at developing evidence-based public health strategies to reduce suicide rates and health risk behaviors for SGM people in non-affirming religious environments by building partnerships with clergy and faith leaders.

Theresa Stueland Kay, PhD, trained at Biola University, a faith-based institution, and is a licensed psychologist in Utah.  She is also an Associate Professor of Psychology at Weber State University.  Dr. Kay also serves as Board Chair at OUTreach Utah, a nonprofit organization that serves and supports LGBTQ youth.

H. L. “Lou” Himes, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and president at QuIPP, the Queer Identities Psychology Partnership—a group psychotherapy practice in Manhattan, NY that focuses on providing psychotherapy and transition-related support for trans/queer individuals.  Dr. Himes uses they/them/theirs pronouns.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Health Disparities, Human Rights and Social Justice, LGBT Issues, Public Policy Tagged: advocacy, Capitol Hill, data collection, Every Student Succeeds Act, gender identity, health disparities, LGBT, LGBT health, LGBT rights, LGBT students, LGBT youth, Safe Schools Improvement Act, sexual orientation, student health, suicide prevention, surveillance, Title IV, Title IX, transgender, transgender youth