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“No Duty More Important”: Why We Must Treat Children’s Rights as Fundamental Human Rights

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By Julia Mancini (Intern, APA Office on Children, Youth and Families)

“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” — Kofi Annan

 

Where exactly do human rights begin? Sunday, December 10th, 2017 is International Human Rights Day. #HumanRightsDay is celebrated in conjunction with the anniversary of the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will reach its 70th anniversary this coming year. The Declaration seeks to uplift individuals from all walks of life across the world and protect our kinship and dignity as human beings. However, how far does this kinship and dignity extend?

 

We cannot protect the rights of all people if we do not respect the rights of the youngest and most vulnerable. In November of 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It acknowledges young people as change agents of society and holders of rights1.

 

Some might consider children bystanders in their own lives, directed always by the decisions caregivers and governments make for them. In considering children active agents of society, we respect their dignity and give them a voice to speak on the difficult situations they face so that we might better support them.

 

Adults often have legal, developmental, social, and monetary advantage over children. It is not mistaken that adults support children in ways they are not able to do for themselves. The goal is not to take away caregivers’ rights but to instead retain the balance between the rights of children and the rights of families3.

 

What exactly do those rights include? According to the UN, all children have a right to:

  • a safe physical environment,
  • security,
  • food,
  • shelter,
  • freedom of expression,
  • freedom of association,
  • self-determination,
  • knowledge, and
  • work.

 

On International Human Rights Day, let’s remember that children’s rights are human rights. If we assume the capacity of a child, we often underestimate the contribution they offer to our society and submit their autonomy to a third party or adult with more power. It is important to balance this agency with protection from harm for those who cannot protect themselves2. This pertains especially to the most vulnerable children throughout the world – the ones who often face the most adversity and discrimination, namely disabled, displaced, impoverished, and minority children. It is important that when we speak of the rights of marginalized groups throughout the world, we also give a voice to children within these groups who might be forgotten or exploited.

 

The American Psychological Association has endorsed the principles and spirit of the CRC and thus recognized the importance of the rights of children. This issue is important because, as a society, if we were more aware of what children are entitled to as citizens of the world, there would be opportunity for social justice changes that could have an inter-generational and global impact.

 

It is, of course, essential that adults take a primary role in ensuring their children’s well-being, but it is our international responsibility to ensure that governments and caregivers are doing this in a way that fits the child’s best interests. If we understand and advocate for children’s rights in the present, there will be a better future for not only these individuals, but on an international level as well.

 

Join the conversation on social media:

  • Celebrate children’s rights and International Human Rights Day by telling the world that “children’s right are human rights” on your social media. Use the hashtags #HumanRightsDay and #childdevelopment.
  • Take part in our December 12 Twitter chat on the vital role scientists can play in promoting human rights. It will take place at 2 PM (ET) in partnership with the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Coalition.

 

References:

1Ruck, M. D., Keating, D. P., Saewyc, E. M., Earls, F. & Ben-Arieh, A. (2014). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Its relevance for adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(1) 16-29. doi:10.1111/jora.12172

2Smith, A. B. (2016). Achieving social justice for children : How can children’s rights thinking make a difference? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(5), 500-507. doi:10.1037/ort0000191

3Huus, K., Dada, S., Bornman, J., Lynegard, F. (2016). The awareness of primary caregivers in South Africa of the human rights of their children with intellectual disabilities. Childcare, Health, and Development, 42(6) 863-870. doi:10.1111/cch.12358

 

Biography:

Julia Mancini is currently a junior Psychology and Criminal Justice double major at George Washington University. Julia has a particular interest in children and families and is excited to be interning with the Children, Youth and Families office this fall. Julia has been involved with behavioral genetic research through The Boston University Twin Project. She also worked as a Clinical Research Intern at Safe Shores, DC’s Children’s Advocacy Center, investigating disparities in PTSD presentations among minority youth. This past summer Julia interned for the Child Protection Unit in the District Attorney’s office in her home state of Massachusetts. She also had the opportunity to work internationally with a non-profit in Cochabamba, Bolivia that provides psychological, legal, and social services to child survivors of sexual violence.

Image source: Photo by Michael Mims on Unsplash


Filed under: Children and Youth, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: children's rights, human rights, International Human Rights Day, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

A Good Death is an Important Part of a Good Life

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This is the first of three blog posts on grappling with end-of-life issues. Posts will go up for the next three Fridays. Subscribe to our Psychology Benefits Society blog to stay updated.

By Amy Albright (Clinical Geropsychology Doctoral Student, University of Alabama)

We spend a lot of time talking about quality of life, but, increasingly, people around the world are talking about quality of death. Facing the end of life is hard for everyone involved, and many worry about the pain and loss of dignity associated with dying.1 In some areas of the world, individuals may choose legalized medical aid in dying, allowing them to control the time and place of their own death. This assistance allows patients to peacefully and painlessly end their lives through prescribed medication, which is often referred to as “assisted dying” or “death with dignity.” The majority of patients who choose these options are receiving hospice care,2 and many choose to die peacefully at home.3

Within the United States, residents of California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. may seek assisted dying.4 Currently, all U.S. states that allow assisted dying require that the patient is at least 18 years old, has a terminal illness, and has the legal capacity to make medical decisions.5 Psychologists don’t take a stand on this issue one way or the other; instead, they work with individuals to identify their own values and make their own decisions during this difficult time.6 There is a great deal of controversy surrounding  assisted dying, as the idea of ending one’s own life may be uncomfortable within certain cultures and religions.7 This is a choice that must be made at an individual level, and many who explore this option do not choose to hasten their own death. As of 2015, approximately 64% of medications prescribed under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act were used.3

There is a great deal of variation in assisted dying laws,5 which may be due to how these laws develop. Brittany Maynard, a resident of California, was 29 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.8 While she wanted to choose death with dignity, this was not an option in California at the time, and she and her husband moved to Oregon so she could choose a peaceful death on her own terms. Ms. Maynard and her family advocated for California to pass a death with dignity law, and the California End of Life Option Act took effect in June of 2016.9 Due in large part to Ms. Maynard’s efforts, the idea of choosing assisted dying at the end of life is something that many Americans are now aware of. While hastening death is not something that most people will choose, having these tough conversations helps patients and their families become more aware of the services and options available to them at the end of life, allowing them to make the best decision possible.10

Choosing to pursue assisted dying is an incredibly difficult decision for all involved, and judging quality of death is very personal.11 While losing a loved one is never easy, family members of those who seek assisted dying have noted that their relative appeared prepared for death, allowing goodbyes to be said.1 Death is an inevitable part of life, and death with assisted dying  laws allow patients and their families some measure of control over the time and manner of death. Simply having the option to influence quality of death may be enough for some patients, and not all who consider assisted dying laws will choose to hasten death. Ultimately, there are no universal standards about the decision to pursue assisted dying, and this should always remain a matter of personal choice.6

 

References

  1. Smith, K. A., Goy, E. R., Harvath, T. A., & Ganzini, L. (2011). Quality of death and dying in patients who request physician-assisted death. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(4), 445-450.
  2. Campbell, C. S., & Black, M. A. (2014). Dignity, death, and dilemmas: A study of Washington hospices and physician-assisted death. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(1), 137-153.
  3. Oregon Public Health Division. (2016). Oregon Death with Dignity Act: 2015 Data Summary. Retrieved from http://www.worldrtd.net/sites/default/files/newsfiles/Oregon%20report%202015.pdf.
  4.  Death with Dignity National Center. (2017). Death with Dignity Legislation. Retrieved from https://www.deathwithdignity.org/faqs/#laws.
  5. Emanuel, E. J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., Urwin, J. W., & Cohen, J. (2016). Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. JAMA, 316(1), 79-90.
  6. American Psychological Association. (2017). Resolution on Assisted Dying and Justification. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/assisted-dying-resolution.aspx.
  7. Hendry, M., Pasterfield, D., Lewis, R., Carter, B., Hodgson, D., & Wilkinson, C. (2013). Why do we want the right to die? A systematic review of the international literature on the views of patients, carers, and the public on assisted dying. Palliative Medicine, 27(1), 13-26.
  8. Maynard, B. (2014, November 2). My right to death with dignity at 29. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/opinion/maynard-assisted-suicide-cancer-dignity/index.html.
  9. Coalition for Compassionate Care in California. (2017). End of Life Option Act. Retrieved from http://coalitionccc.org/tools-resources/end-of-life-option-act/.
  10. Balaban, R. B (2000). A physician’s guide to talking about end-of-life care. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 15(3), 195-200.
  11. Meier, E. A., Gallegos, J. V., Thomas, L. P., Depp, C. A., Irwin, S. A., & Jeste, D. V. (2016). Defining a good death (successful dying): Literature review and a call for research and public dialogue. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24(4), 261-271.

 

Biography:

Amy Albright is a doctoral student in the Clinical Geropsychology program at the University of Alabama. Her research focuses on health literacy and the end of life, and she has a particular interest in factors that influence seeking medical assistance in dying. This includes both patient and provider attitudes towards physician-assisted death, as well as health and palliative care literacy.


Filed under: Aging Tagged: aging, assisted dying, death with dignity, end of life, hospice care, palliative care

What Does Our Past Tell Us About Our Future? The Essential Role of Psychologists in Fighting HIV

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(L-R) Dr. Rich Wolitski (HHS/OHAIDP); Dr. Fayth Parks (Georgia Southern University) APA Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology & AIDS (COPA) chair and symposium co-chair; Dr. Sherry Wang (Santa Clara University) COPA symposium co-chair; Ms. Cherie Mitchell (APA); Dr. Karen Ingersoll (University of Virginia); Dr. Richard Jenkins (NIH/NIDA); and Dr. Ramani Durvasula (California State University, Los Angeles)

This article is cross-posted from the HIV.gov blog with their permission.

 

By Richard Wolitski, PhD (Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

 

Since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, psychologists have been essential in the response to HIV:

  • They offered mental health support for people living with, or at risk for, HIV—as well as for their families and communities, and those who provide HIV medical care and social services.
  • Psychologists developed programs to educate people about HIV and motivate behavior change to reduce risk.
  • They counseled and supported those who were diagnosed, and also played important roles in working to eliminate the stigma that attaches to HIV/AIDS, sexual minority status, gender identity, substance use, and other characteristics associated with HIV infection.
  • They conducted research that gave us an understanding of cognitive, behavioral, and social determinants of health that create health disparities.

 

They continue to do all of these things, and they play a vital role as the response to HIV/AIDS continues to evolve.

This year, the professional organization for psychologists, the American Psychological Association (APA), celebrated its 125th anniversary. The APA has been deeply involved in the response to HIV/AIDS in the United States:

  • From 1996-2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded APA’s Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program. The program established a national network of more than 300 psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and public health experts who provided capacity-building technical assistance to improve the delivery and effectiveness of HIV prevention services to more than 700 organizations.
  • And from 1991-2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funded APA’s HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) Program, which trained more than 36,500 psychologists and allied mental health providers about HIV, substance use, and mental health.

 

Today, the organization continues its mission to address the ongoing toll of HIV on the mental and physical health of people living with HIV. You can view information about activities, events, and resources on the APA’s HIV webpage.

 

Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr. , PhD, APA’s Chief Executive Officer, expressed his support for APA’s role in this work. He shared with me that he sees psychology’s role in this way:  

Psychology plays a critical role in HIV prevention and treatment by promoting behaviors aimed at helping to improve overall health, mental health and well-being and providing a better understanding of social and cultural factors, such as stigma and culturally appropriate counseling and treatment interventions. We know that access to quality behavioral health services facilitate better outcomes across the HIV care continuum, including viral suppression.

Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD

 

Given the organization’s commitment and long track record of service to the HIV community, I was honored when APA asked me to be a discussant as part of the 125th Anniversary Talk, Past, Present and Future of HIV/AIDS Science and Practice in Psychology. Under the skillful direction of co-chairs Dr. Fayth Parks and Dr. Sherry Wang, the panelists addressed a number of important topics:

  • Eugene Farber, PhD, ABPP, Emory University School of Medicine, The Future of Psychology as a Health Service Discipline: Clinical Lessons from the HIV Epidemic
  • Ramani Durvasula, PhD, California State University, Los Angeles: A History of HIV/AIDS in Women: Shifting Narrative and a Structural Call to Arms
  • Karen Ingersoll, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the Center for Behavioral Health & Technology, University of Virginia: Internet Intervention for HIV+ Substance Users to Improve ART Adherence and Addictive Behaviors
  • Richard Jenkins, PhD, Health Scientist Administrator, Prevention Research Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse: Roles for Psychologists in a World of Changing Epidemics and Policies

Each of the presentations drew attention to the ways that psychologists have contributed to the fight against HIV. A key point made by all the participants is that behavioral approaches to HIV prevention, care, and treatment optimize biomedical approaches—and that the two are inextricably linked.

Dr. Eugene Barber speaking
Dr. Eugene Farber, Emory University

Dr. Gene Farber set the frame for the session by reflecting on the essential role of behavioral health service providers in supporting a humanistic, culturally responsive, and patient-centered care experience for people living with HIV. He stressed that behavioral health services must encompass not only assessment and treatment of behavioral disorders but also interventions to prevent the onset of other health conditions and to optimize biopsychosocial well-being. He also noted that psychologists can make substantial contributions to patient care and evaluation in medical settings.

Dr. Karen Ingersoll took his points a step further to show how psychologists can help individuals even when in-person contact is impossible. She is working on finding better ways to support substance users who are living with HIV—particularly those in rural areas, where HIV and other types of care are not always available and may require time away from work. These individuals are at significantly higher risk for nonadherence to their HIV medications and disengaging from care—so Dr. Ingersoll and her colleagues have developed an interactive online video intervention  that features peer role models offering advice and support to viewers. (Much like our own Positive Spin series, which takes a similar approach to supporting people living with HIV to achieve viral suppression.) This behavioral intervention is currently being tested to see if it can support substance users to take full advantage of biomedical treatment for their HIV disease.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula spoke about the need for holistic approaches to psychological care for women living with HIV. Her presentation focused on “the story of HIV in women,” which includes the multiple challenges women have faced in attempting to:

  • Get information on HIV risk;
  • Obtain an HIV diagnosis, care and treatment; and
  • Participate in HIV clinical trials.

For many women, neither biomedical or behavioral interventions were available.

Dr. Durvasula then discussed the current need for psychologists to be aware of the multiple psychosocial stressors women with HIV face (e.g., economic and caregiving burdens, relational issues, stigma, intersectional discrimination) and how they affect women’s physical health. She also emphasized the need to focus on women’s resiliencies, strengths, and growth rather than just their HIV disease. She ended with the observation that, for the future, psychology training programs should be looking at social justice and advocacy training as key to producing psychologists with the skill sets necessary for the future.

Finally, Dr. Richard Jenkins took the audience through a history of the role of psychologists in the U.S. epidemic, including a look at the ways in which the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other biomedical approaches have pushed many behavioral interventions to the margins. However, he noted that many of issues that affected people living with HIV in the early days of the epidemic persist and have not been eliminated by effective biomedical treatment, including stigma, access to care, and racial/ethnic disparities. He ended his presentation with a series of questions about how to connect psychologists to opportunities in HIV work, and raise the value of psychology for workforce development related to HIV.

As I listened to these passionate, committed professionals, I thought about the long history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. I thought about how our early efforts, which were based on the best information we had at the time, created systems and approaches that have sometimes hampered our efforts to respond to the realities of today’s epidemic.

For example, when the first HIV test became available, we created a standalone system for HIV testing that was supported with siloed funding (meaning the funds could only be used for HIV testing—not any follow-up care or treatment). This was necessary because of the large number of people who needed to be tested and the fact that many people were unwilling to be tested by their usual healthcare providers. They didn’t want their providers to know they were at risk for infection or did not want information about their risk and their HIV test results to be recorded.

So, we set up stand-alone systems for anonymous testing—meaning your name was never attached to your HIV test. You were given a number that matched the one on the vial of blood the worker at the testing site took from you, and you had to have that number to get your results. This approach was intended to alleviate the stigma of testing—but it also meant that we were not able to set up linkages to care and treatment for newly diagnosed people.

The lack of connection with health care was further reinforced—first, by the absence of effective treatment, and, then, for almost three decades, by guidelines indicating that ART was not needed until later in the course of the infection, when damage to the immune system became clear. This history—and the fact that funding streams were established for HIV testing separately from health care—have required substantial changes to facilitate immediate linkage to care, and establishing late in the epidemic coordinated prevention, care, and treatment plans.

Another way that our past response affects our future is in the way that surveillance systems were established. Initially we were focused on AIDS. We did not know what caused it, and we focused on documenting the cases when and where they were identified and when and where the person died. We did not need to gather data to support engagement in HIV care over a lifetime. We were focused on keeping people alive for the next year (or month) and preventing new cases. This changed as we learned what caused HIV, its effects on the body and how to treat it effectively. As changes occurred, we had to start playing catch-up on the surveillance front, and we continue to wrestle with how to collect data in ways that will help us end the epidemic.

We know now that being diagnosed and beginning HIV treatment as soon as possible are essential to the health of people living with HIV. We also know that good physical health and good mental health are closely connected, and that people who feel a sense of well-being are also more likely to feel motivated to care for their bodies. That’s particularly important for people living with HIV.

Our goal is to support every person to engage in care, remain on treatment, and achieve viral suppression—and that goal can only be reached if people feel empowered to take charge of their healthcare. That is where the contributions of my colleagues at APA come in.

Even though biomedical tools are clearly the way we will ultimately win this battle against the HIV epidemic, they will not work if people do not engage in the behaviors that are needed to use them effectively. Psychologists have the training and the skills to help them do just that.


Filed under: AIDS, Health Disparities, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: aids, AIDS research, behavioral health, discrimination, HIV, hiv prevention, HIV treatment, mental health, stigma

“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

 

source

 

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?

blog-ageism-birthday

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

A Fate Worse than Death? Being Transgender in Long-term Care

Serious transgender couple standing together

 

By Mark Brennan-Ing, PhD (Senior Research Scientist, Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging)

 

“I would kill myself.” This is what a 70 year-old transgender woman told me recently when I asked what she would do if she needed long-term care. While this sounds dramatic, it is a common sentiment among older transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) adults (Witten, 2014). Many TGNC older adults do not have family caregivers available to meet their needs for assistance in later life, having been rejected and ostracized by their families of origin according to a study by Grant and colleagues (2011), and long-term care services may be their only option.

 

Plans for concealing gender identities, suicide and euthanasia are one way for older TGNC adults to cope with the fears of entering long-term care (Bockting & Coleman, 2007; Ippolito & Witten, 2014). The National Senior Citizens Law Center (2011) reports that TGNC older adults, regardless of the degree of gender transitioning, are at risk for abuse, mistreatment, or violence in institutionalized settings, especially those needing assistance with activities of daily living such as showering, dressing, and toileting.

 

Accessing medically competent care may also be a problem for older TGNC adults in long-term care. Geriatric care for TGNC older adults requires special considerations. Due to potential drug interactions, contraindications, and polypharmacy, TGNC older adults using hormone therapy concurrent with other medications may require close monitoring (Grant et al., 2011; SAGE & NCTE, 2012; Witten & Eyler, 2015). Sometimes these problems may require stopping hormone therapy, which may be especially traumatic for those who have transitioned later in life and not yet achieved their goals for masculinizing or feminizing their appearance.

 

Since private rooms in long-term care facilities are not covered by insurance, older TGNC adults may be assigned shared rooms based on their birth sex instead of their gender identities, which is problematic for the TGNC person as well as their roommate. The Department of Veterans Affairs (2013) has issued a directive that rooms for TGNC veterans are assigned based upon self-identified gender without regard to physical presentation or surgical history. This policy should be a requirement in all long-term care facilities.

 

The Nursing Home Reform Act and the Fair Housing Act prohibit TGNC discrimination and mistreatment in long-term care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity by health care organizations (NCTE, 2015), but this legal protection is at risk following the 2016 election with promises by those in power to repeal the ACA. If ACA repeal is successful, older TGNC people will lose safeguards around denial of services, access to facilities like restrooms that conform to their gender identities, isolation, deprivation, and harassment by staff.

 

For long-term care providers, there are a number of resources available for continuing education to better serve their TGNC clients. These include the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, which offers a variety of in-person and on-line training options (http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/training/index.cfm). Providers working with veterans can review training and education options in the VA system at http://www.patientcare.va.gov/LGBT/index.asp . And TRANSLINE provides on-line consultation for medical providers (http://project-health.org/transline/ ).

 

Sadly, we may soon witness a rollback of protections for TGNC individuals in long-term care. Therefore it is imperative that the TGNC community and their allies work harder than ever to insure that policies, legislation, and training programs are in place to guarantee that older TGNC people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve in long-term care and other clinical settings.

 

Portions of this blog were drawn from “Providing competent and affirming services for transgender and gender nonconforming older adults” (Porter, Brennan-Ing et al., 2016), and “Guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming people (American Psychological Association, 2015).

 

References:

American Psychological Association (2015). Guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming people. American Psychologist, 70(9), 832-864. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039906 .

Bockting, W. O., & Coleman, E. (2007). Developmental stages of the transgender coming‐out process. In R. Ettner, S. Monstrey, & A. Eyler (Eds.), Principles of transgender medicine and surgery (pp. 185‐208). New York, NY: Haworth.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA; 2013). Providing health care for transgender and intersex veterans (VHA Directive 2013–003). Retrieved from http://www.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=2863

Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Kiesling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality & National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved from http://endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf

Ippolito, J., & Witten, T. M. (2014). Aging. In L. Erickson-Schroth (Ed.), Trans bodies, trans selves: A resource for the transgender community (pp. 476-497). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

National Center for Transgender Equality (2015). Know your rights: Healthcare. Retrieved from http://www.transequality.org/know-your-rights/healthcare

National Senior Citizens Law Center (2011). LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field.  Washington, DC: National Senior Citizens Law Center.

Porter, K. E., Brennan-Ing, M., Chang, S. C., dickey, l. m., Singh, A. A., Bower, K. L., & Witten, T. M. (2016). Providing competent and affirming services for transgender and gender nonconforming older adults. Clinical Gerontologist. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07317115.2016.1203383

Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) & National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE; 2012). Improving the lives of transgender older adults. New York, NY: Authors. Retrieved from http://transequality.org/Resources/TransAgingPolicyReportFull.pdf

Witten, T.M. (2014). End of life, chronic illness and trans-identities. J. Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care, 10(1), 1-26. doi:10.1080/15524256.2013.988864

Witten, T.M. & Eyler, A.E. (2015). Care of aging transgender and gender non-conforming patients. In. R. Ettner, S. Monstrey and A.E. Eyler (Eds.), Principles of transgender medicine and surgery. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

 

Biography:

Mark Brennan-Ing, PhD is the Senior Research Scientist, Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, City University of New York. He was the 2016 Chair of the APA Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

 


Filed under: Aging, Health Disparities, LGBT Issues Tagged: health disparities, health equity, LGBT, long-term care, older adults, transgender

3 Essential Tips to Help All Kids to Embrace Their Race and Ethnicity

blog-planting-seeds-res-blog

This is the fourth 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 Chelsea Derlan, PhD (Asst. Professor of Developmental Psychology, Arizona State University)

 

In their daily lives, children receive many direct and subtle messages involving their racial-ethnic background from others:

 

“But how can he be your dad? You don’t match.”

 

“You should put on sunscreen because you don’t want to get too dark.”

 

“I always thought Black people couldn’t swim. You act White though, maybe that’s it.”

 

Although we cannot control every interaction our child has with others, what we can do is build up positive messages that influence the effect these interactions have on them. For example, what if we had engaged in racial-ethnic socialization (RES) that involved the following messages:

 

“You are such a perfect mix of mine and your fathers’ cultures.”

 

“You have beautiful brown skin. I love how you get darker in the sun.”

 

“Your ancestors are Black kings and queens. You can do anything you put your mind to.”

The RES we provide can have profound effects on our children’s well-being. Here are a few tips:

 

1. RES is important for all children.

It is important that we talk about race-ethnicity with children – all children. A recent ethnic-racial identity intervention study provided an opportunity for teenagers to explore their culture and develop a clearer sense of what their ethnicity-race meant to them. Participating had positive effects on youth from all racial-ethnic backgrounds.

As caregivers, we can set up similar opportunities by providing a space for our children to ask questions, process, and learn. Given our unique histories and everyday realities, we will want to tailor messages based on our children’s specific culture and experiences. For example, we might choose to prepare children for bias they may encounter, highlight stories of their ancestors, or build pride in their appearance. For ideas and activities, check out 25 mini-films for exploring race-ethnicity.

 

2. It is never too early to start.

Caregivers often wonder when it is the right time to begin RES. The answer is that it is never too early to start. Research tells us that by kindergarten, many children already know what their race-ethnicity is, and use race-ethnicity as a way to understand themselves and others. We know that when caregivers engage in RES it has positive effects on children’s academics, behavior, and language skills.

An important thing to keep in mind is to craft messages so they make sense to children based on their age and level of understanding. Very young children tend to focus on the parts of culture that they can see, such as skin tone and hair. For example, with Black children, you might start with books or videos that highlight how all hair is good hair, skin comes in lots of wonderful shades, or that feature Black boys and Black girls as main characters. Sometimes it is easiest to simply start talking, and other times it is helpful to read a book or watch a video, and then build a conversation afterwards.

 

3. Don’t give up!

Despite our most dedicated efforts, there will be times when children question and/or disagree with our teachings.

I came across an article in which a mother wrote about a time when her daughter said: “Mommy, I don’t want to be Black like you.” After talking to her daughter she realized that

“… it wasn’t that my daughter didn’t want to be Black, she was simply struggling to deal with her perception and understanding of who she is. Realistically, I know how the world will view her, and I can’t shield her from it. What I can do is make sure she knows who she is, that she is loved, and that she loves herself, fully.”

Although times like these can be discouraging, we can’t give up. We have to listen, and remember that the ways our children are understanding and interpreting their experiences may not always match our own.

 

RES is a process that involves many lessons over time. As children have different experiences, new things will pop up. Our goal is to create a support system so they know there is someone they can go to who will talk and/or listen. It is about planting those positive seeds for them that they can water when they need to. It is an opportunity for us to show our children love and compassion, to help them understand themselves, and to prepare for a better tomorrow with our children today!

 

Learn more:

Start healthy conversations about race/ethnicity with your kids today. Download APA’s RESilience Parent Tip Tool

 

Biography:

 

Chelsea Derlan, PhD, is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at Arizona State University. Broadly, her work examines how risk factors (e.g., discrimination) and resilience factors (e.g., cultural socialization) inform ethnic-racial minority youths’ positive psychological, academic, and health outcomes. Guided by cultural ecological models, she considers the role of family, school, and other key contexts. Her research is focused in two main areas:

(a) assessing what young children understand and feel about their culture (i.e., ethnic-racial identification), and how this plays a role in development, and

(b) examining the interplay between individual and contextual factors as they inform adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity and adjustment.

 

Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnic identity, ethnicity, parenting, race, racial and ethnic socialization, racial identity, resilience, stereotypes, stereotyping

What is One Simple Thing You Can Do to Prevent Gun Violence at School? Say Something

 

 

By Julia Mancini (Intern, APA Office on Children, Youth and Families)

 

It is crucial for schools to be supportive environments for youth learning and growth. Too often, they become places of violence and fear. Nationwide, it has been found that 6% of children do not go to school at least once a month because they fear for their own safety at or on their way to school1. This shows that this place that should foster healthy development can be a source of traumatic experiences. Further, violent and toxic school environments are all too common and hinder educational, social and personal development. School should be a place where children can express themselves and be comfortable reaching their maximum potential.

On December 14th, 2012, 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This tragedy has been central to many of the conversations surrounding gun violence in schools and hits close to home for many.

Research has shown that when it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least one other individual before the incident takes place.

 

Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something Week raises much needed awareness and educates the community, students, and educators through media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests, and school awards. It provides the confidence and tools to create a safer and healthier school environment. It is important to create positive dialogue around school safety in order to be proactive against community violence and fear.

Say Something Week empowers children to help others and prevent tragedies. They are taught to ‘Say Something’ to a trusted adult to prevent a friend from harming themselves or others. This programing has the potential to save lives in the communities it reaches. Though it is a daunting task to ensure that no student ever has to go to school in fear, campaigns such as Say Something Week can work with schools and youth programs to maximize their safety, learning, and potential.

 

What is Say Something Week?

While there is no simple solution to this problem, Striving to Prevent Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) and Sandy Hook Promise are partnering to implement the Second Annual Say Something Week.

STRYVE is a multi-sector consortium of organizations that work nationally to support local youth violence prevention efforts in states and communities. Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. They are led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting. SHP is focused on preventing gun violence (and other forms of violence and victimization) before it happens by educating and mobilizing youth and adults on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals. Their goal is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning their tragedy into a moment of transformation.

 

How can you be a part of this?

Consider joining Sandy Hook Promise, the American Psychological Association, and thousands of other school and youth organizations for the second annual Say Something Week from October 16-20th.  To sign up, visit: http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/saysomethingweek

 

References:

1 School Violence: Data and Statistics . (2017, August 22). Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/schoolviolence/data_stats.html

 

Biography:

Julia Mancini is currently a junior Psychology and Criminal Justice double major at George Washington University. Julia has a particular interest in children and families and is excited to be interning with the Children, Youth and Families office this fall. Julia has been involved with behavioral genetic research through The Boston University Twin Project. She also worked as a Clinical Research Intern at Safe Shores, DC’s Children’s Advocacy Center, investigating disparities in PTSD presentations among minority youth. This past summer Julia interned for the Child Protection Unit in the District Attorney’s office in her home state of Massachusetts. She also had the opportunity to work internationally with a non-profit in Cochabamba, Bolivia that provides psychological, legal, and social services to child survivors of sexual violence.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Violence Tagged: #STRYVE, children's mental health, gun violence, gun violence prevention, Say Something Week, school safety, school shootings, suicide prevention, teen suicide, youth violence