Clayton Cook, John W. and Nancy E. Peyton Faculty Fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and associate professor in the department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently interviewed by Forbes for the article “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.”
In the article, Cook explains which conditions make it more likely we’ll keep our resolutions and how can make them into habits.
The article highlighted a new, small study in JAMA Pediatrics that examined the link between neighborhood factors – like liquor store density, domestic violence and violent crime rates – and stress in children.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Tulane University and included 85 children in New Orleans, found that children who lived near more liquor stores or crime, experienced high cortisol levels that were less likely to return to normal after a stress test.
Commenting on the findings, Gunnar said that “[e]arly adverse experiences do get under our skin to influence our biology,” noting that “children need safe places to live in order to grow into healthy and productive adults.”
Despite this, Gunnar said many children who experience adverse neighborhood factors will be resilient. “Identifying the protective factors that support that resilience and building on them, especially for children showing the effects of toxic exposures, is the appropriate response to the pediatric health issues revealed by this study.”
Executive function refers to a set of skills that helps individuals pay attention, control impulses and think flexibly. During the interview, Carlson explained how executive function is related to the achievement gap and offered suggestions for how parents, educators and policymakers can help children develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom.
“Difficulties with executive function really set kids up to fail in school,” Carlson said, later adding, “I would like to encourage educators and parents to get involved in these issues. There’s no powerless figure: ‘There’s nothing I can do for my class or for my child that’s going to make any difference.’ You really can and it’s a collective form of empowerment.”
Three Institute of Child Development (ICD) faculty members will be featured as part of the University of Minnesota (U of M) Driven to Discover campaign.
This year’s campaign emphasizes the U of M’s collective strengths in tackling big challenges in four key areas, including abolishing hunger, closing the opportunity gap, ending addiction and protecting human rights.
For the campaign, ICD faculty Megan Gunnar, Philip Zelazo and Jed Elison shared how their research is helping to close the opportunity gap.
Gunnar, director of the institute, Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, discussed the importance of investing in early childhood and promoting healthy development for all children.
Zelazo, a Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, highlighted his research on executive function, which can help predict kindergarten readiness and academic success.
Elison, an assistant professor, discussed how he is working to detect autism earlier to help children and families access interventions and achieve better outcomes.
The campaign, which launched in TV, print, digital, and social media on Sept. 26, will feature Gunnar, Zelazo and Elison throughout Fall 2016.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded the first-ever grant dedicated to laying the policy groundwork needed to translate genomic medicine into clinical application. The project – LawSeq – will convene legal, ethics, and scientific experts from across the country to analyze what the state of genomic law is and create much-needed guidance on what it should be.
The principal investigators leading the grant are Susan M. Wolf, J.D., U of M chair of the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; Ellen Wright Clayton, M.D., J.D. (Vanderbilt University); and Frances Lawrenz, Ph.D., U of M associate vice president for research and professor of educational psychology. Lawrenz is an expert in qualitative and quantitative research methods who has successfully led multiple National Science Foundation grants and has directed qualitative research on managing incidental findings and return of genomic results.
The leading investigators will be joined by a group of 22 top experts – from academia, industry, and clinical care – who will collaborate over the course of this three-year project to clarify current law, address gaps, and generate the forward-looking recommendations needed to create the legal foundation for successfully translating genomics into clinical care.
In a recent New York Times article, FSOS professor Marlene Stum says it’s not the big things that matter when dividing assets after the death of a loved one.
In fact, Stum says that most often families have decided ahead of time what will be done with the items bearing any significant monetary value. It’s the smaller things worth almost no money, but high in sentimental value, that families end up fighting over, which leads to strife in relationships.
Stum’s publication, Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate, helps families navigate the division of the assets. Her book sets forth principles such as helping family members understand that each belonging has a varying value to each family member, and stresses the importance of setting up a fair system for dividing assets, and sticking to it.
Dr. Kohli’s research focuses on developing and improving statistical methods for analyzing longitudinal (measures repeated on the same individuals over time) educational and psychological data. The aim of this work is to move the applied statistics literature forward and provide researchers and practitioners the theoretical underpinnings and empirical guidance to utilize these methods to address important substantive questions in areas of education, health, and human development.
At the convention, Dr. Kohli will discuss her research work on the statistical methodology of piecewise growth models. A significant part of her academic research program has been devoted to the development and extension of piecewise growth models that allows the estimation of the location of the knot between learning or other developmental phases. She will talk about the various extensions of this model, along with its applications to psychological and educational research settings.
The Association for Psychological Science is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of scientific psychology and its representation at the national and international level. The Association’s mission is to promote, protect, and advance the interests of scientifically oriented psychology in research, application, teaching, and the improvement of human welfare. The APS Annual Convention attracts over 4,300 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field.
After years of living in the United States illegally, Daniel Perez, a former FSoS undergraduate student and current graduate student, has a green card after qualifying for a federal program that offers deportation reprieve for immigrants who entered the country as children.
Perez, who crossed the Mexican border when he was 15, qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), passed by the Obama administration in 2012.
According to an article in the Star Tribune, for those who qualify, DACA offers a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit. For some immigrants married to U.S. citizens, the program also allows government-approved travel abroad to nullify their initial illegal entry into the country and permit them to apply for a green card.
Perez’s wife, Kendra, a Canadian who is now a U.S. citizen, sponsored him.
Through DACA, Perez has been granted “advanced parole,” according to the Star Tribune. This means that a person with a pending immigration application has permission to re-enter the country, as long as they had an educational, professional, or humanitarian reason to leave the country. Perez, who now works as a social worker in Minneapolis, was granted advance prole for a professional conference in Canada.
Now Perez and his wife are planning his first trip to Mexico since he and his family left in 2002. They will visit his grandparents and other family.
Perez will be eligible to apply for citizenship in 2018.
FSoS doctoral candidate Diego Garcia-Huidobro has been named as a finalist in the inaugural CEHD Three Minute Thesis competition. Garcia-Huidobro is one of eight finalists, and the only finalist from FSoS.
Garcia-Huidobro will be competing for $500. The runner up and the people’s choice will receive prizes of $250 respectively.
Despite this being the first year that CEHD is participating in 3MT, over 200 universities across the world participate annually. The competition is intended to develop presentation, research, and academic communication skills, and to help students explain their work effectively to a general audience with no background in their field of study.
Judges for the CEHD competition are Dr. Keith Mayes, CLA professor; R.T. Rybak, former Minneapolis mayor and current executive director of Generation Next; and Margie Soran, executive director of the Soran Foundation.
The Three Minute Thesis competition will be held on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM, in the McNamara Alumni Center Heritage Gallery as part of CEHD Research Day.
A new study led by Institute of Child Development professor Arthur Reynolds suggests people who experience four or more traumatic events, known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), are significantly less likely to graduate from high school, which is a leading indicator of lifelong health. The study in the April 2016 issue of Pediatrics, “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Well-Being in a Low-Income, Urban Cohort,” followed 1,202 economically disadvantaged, minority participants who attended kindergarten in Chicago Public Schools and responded to periodic surveys about family and school experiences throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.
ACEs that participants were asked about included whether they had been a victim of violent crime; had witnessed a shooting or stabbing; experienced the death of a family member, friend, or relative; or had frequent family conflict, prolonged absence or divorce of their parents, or substance abuse by a parent. In addition to education level, these experiences also affected occupational prestige, criminal activity, health-compromising behaviors, and mental health by the time participants reached age 26.
Reynolds said the study, funded with National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Science Foundation grants, showed that the harmful effect of ACEs extend above and beyond socio-economic status. Early childhood programs can buffer the negative effects of early, traumatic experiences and should be more widely available, he added.
Department of Family Social Science associate Professor Joyce Serido teamed up with Extension educators across the state to create a pilot program that helps students and families make better choices about financing higher education.
The program began in January, and Serido will meet with Extension educators in February to fine tune the program to make it accessible to various groups statewide.
When she made a last-minute decision to abandon a scholarship from a sociology Ph.D. program and enroll instead in the University of Minnesota’s master’s of social work (M.S.W.) program, Katy Armendariz had no idea that would be her first step toward fulfilling a lifelong dream of serving children and families.
Katy is an international adoptee and former foster child who knows the child welfare system from personal experience. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota in 2009. In 2013, she started MN CarePartner, a mental health agency to bring psychotherapy services into the homes of people who could not make it to a clinic due to physical, mental, financial or transportation barriers.
The agency started out small, with just two part-time therapists. By August of 2015, it had six therapists and a certificate from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS). CTSS is an in-home rehabilitative service that teaches children and families the necessary skills to manage the symptoms of a child’s mental health condition and bring the child back to a normal developmental trajectory.
Then, last spring, Katy and Laura Skoglund, owner of Families in Transition Services (FiTS), had a conversation over coffee. Laura has a degree in social work and paralegal studies, with a strong advocacy background in domestic violence and sexual assault. When she took over Families in Transition in January of 2012, she found a niche serving families through supervised visitation and parenting skills.
Laura, who grew up in a home where domestic violence and chemical dependency were prevalent, saw FiTS as an opportunity to help families in similar situations. FiTS provides supervised visitation for child protection families requiring oversight throughout the process of permanency and reunification, as well as family law cases. Laura saw that children’s acting-out behaviors often increased before and/or after visits with their parents, and she saw a need for in-home skills and therapy to smooth the transitions. Katy wanted the services her agency provided to help disadvantaged families who have a hard time parenting due to psychosocial barriers, such as the homelessness and mental illness that prevented her own birth mother from being able to parent.
It was a perfect match and happened to coincide with the release of 93 recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children, which had examined the Minnesota child welfare system. It concluded that the system could not improve without additional resources, training and workforce. Katy and Laura quickly realized that their partnership could help child welfare providers meet several of the task force recommendations about providing more seamless services to children and families.
Together, FiTS and MN CarePartner offers supervised visitation in the home, CTSS services and in-home psychotherapy. In order to reduce the number of providers coming into a family’s home, the two agencies work together to hire people who can provide more than one kind of service. The person supervising the visit is often the same person who teaches CTSS and parenting skills between visits. The CTSS skills worker is supervised by the in-home therapist, ensuring complementary treatment plans and a quality coordinated-care team for each family.
FiTS and MN CarePartner reached out to several child protection units in several counties, and had 16 partnerships set up in 10 counties by the end of August. The response to the partnership has been extremely positive, and child protection workers have reported that they feel at ease knowing that a committed team is in the home working for the empowerment and self-determination of children and families. Additionally, MN CarePartner and FiTS actively recruit staff of color, as well as bilingual staff, to address the cultural disparities that have made it difficult for far too many families to connect with their service providers and have a fair shot at reunification.
In November, Katy will receive an Outstanding Service Award from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health for showing extraordinary leadership in the field.
On September 4, 2015, the Department of Educational Psychology hosted Drs. Douglas & Lynn Fuchs to present their work and insights on addressing learning disabilities in the classroom. Their talk, Is There a Role for Cognitive Processes in Academic Intervention?, addressed the issues of student learners and the necessity for researchers to modify interventions based on students’ ability to learn.
Dr. Douglas Fuchs’s research area focuses on the instruction of students at risk for school failure because of disability or poverty, peer-mediated learning, classroom assessment, school improvement and reform, urban education and special education policy.
Dr. Lynn Fuchs’s research area focuses on the instructional practice and assessment of student progress for students at risk for or with reading disabilities and mathematics disabilities.
Jason Wolff, assistant professor in the special education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, was recently featured in an article by Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The article, “Thick bridge of nerves may signal autism in infancy,” highlights Wolff’s study published in Brain in May. His research findings suggest that the bundle of nerves that bridges the brain’s two hemispheres is abnormally thick in infants later diagnosed with autism.
“I think it drives home to us how important it is to think about how much the brain changes throughout life,” Wolff told SFARI.
It is the first formal study of the use of gratitude in alcoholism treatment. Krentzman said she conducted the study after discovering that positive psychology interventions had not been tested among individuals with substance use disorders, even though they are commonly used in recovery programs.
“I thought a gratitude practice would be perfect as the first positive psychology intervention to test among individuals with addictions because gratitude is a naturally occurring theme in addiction recovery. For example, it is a regularly occurring theme in Alcoholics Anonymous literature,” Krentzman said.
The gratitude exercise, “Three Good Things,” asks participants to write about three positive things that happened in a day and why they happened. Krentzman said that her study will serve as a pilot program for further study about the impact of using “Three Good Things” in substance use disorder treatment programs and in post-treatment recovery organizations, such as sober living houses.
“I study addiction recovery and the factors that make the experience of recovery positive and reinforcing, which is a hedge against relapse,” Krentzman said. “Positive psychology is an excellent framework for my research.”
Amelia Franck Meyer (M.S.W. ’01), CEO of Anu Family Services, was named an Ashoka Fellow, joining a network of over 3,000 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.
Ashoka Fellows are chosen for having innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change.
Franck Meyer has been CEO of Anu Family Services since 2001 and has built an award winning organization that is achieving nationally leading outcomes in finding permanence for children in out-of-home care. Last year, she shared her message and expertise with system leaders, legislators, front line staff, educators, and students across Minnesota, Wisconsin and 15 other states. Being an Ashoka Fellow will give her an opportunity to build on this growing momentum and desire for much needed systems change across the country.
Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. For more information, see the Ashoka website.
Students participated in presentations and professional development and listened to several keynote speakers. The students and their advisor, Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman, gave five presentations on a number of topics, including: technology, school counselor and parent engagement with technology, immigrant students, aromatherapy, and students in the military.
Erik Van Iterson, a doctoral candidate under the mentorship of assistant professor EricSnyder, Ph.D., has received the prestigious Best in Abstracts Scholarship award from the American Thoracic Society.
He will attend and present three oral presentations based on work conducted in Dr. Snyder’s Clinical Exercise Physiology Laboratory at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Denver, CO, this spring.