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In Case You Missed It – April 3, 2015

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Welcome to In Case You Missed It, a weekly roundup of news articles related to issues of psychology, health and mental health, social justice and the public interest that you may be interested in.

We collate these articles from multiple news and commentary websites.

Make sure to also check out these APA publications:

Monitor on Psychology – our monthly magazine

APA Access – our monthly member newsletter and

In the Public Interest – the Public Interest Directorate’s monthly newsletter.

This week we look at stories covering the difference between Indiana’s “religious freedom” law and other states, links between poverty and brain development in children, whether quality time trumps quantity of time that parents spend with their kids and more.

In the face of backlash, Gov. Mike Pence and other supporters of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) have defended their legislation by stating that numerous other states and the federal government already have the same law on the books. However, gay rights advocates counter that the main difference between the Hoosier state’s law and the others is that it expressly applies to corporations. According to gay-rights advocates, the federal law signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, and similar RFRAs in 19 other states, do not include such language. Instead, they apply to private citizens. These laws say the government has to prove a higher standard of government interest in applying laws that may infringe on a person’s free exercise of their religion. Opponents of Indiana’s RFRA also point out that the lack of a statewide law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation could mean no protection for LGBT individuals from discrimination by companies.


Two groups of men arrested for burglary in Iowa on the same day: Coverage by and used student wrestling team photos for the white men and mug shots for the black men. Challenged for racial bias almost immediately, the parent news organization changed the white students’ photos to their mug shots, with KCRG commenting that they used the “best images available” at the time. An earlier Media Matters study found that New York City television stations reported on crimes with black suspects at higher rates than were actually reflected in arrest records. For more, read our blog post on how media reporting affects racial perceptions of crime.

In this op-ed, social psychologist and research associate at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Veronica Womack, PhD discusses how the Black Lives Matter movement represents an opportunity to deal with the impact of racial discrimination on the mental health of African Americans. Dr. Womack cites research on the detrimental ways in which chronic discrimination contributes to depression and other mental health problems along with physical health disparities for communities of color. She calls on institutional and employment leaders to engage in critical and substantive dialogue with their employees about inclusion, equality, and difference as an initial step toward addressing mental health disorders among African Americans. For more on preventing discrimination and promoting diversity, read APA’s Dual Pathways to a Better America report.

Researchers from nine universities across the country, led by neuroscientists at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Columbia University Medical Center, conducted a major new study of the effects of family income and parental education on child and adolescent brain development. What did they find? It appears that children who grow up in higher-income families may have larger brains.

The researchers studied nearly 1,100 individuals (ages of 3 to 20) and collected data on their socioeconomic situation, MRI brain scans and cognitive tests  to measure executive functions like self-control and anticipation of consequences. The results revealed a strong positive association between family income and brain surface area, largely in those brain areas that are linked to skills instrumental in learning and academic success. The brain of “the kid whose family makes less than $25,000 is about 6 percent smaller in surface area than the kid whose family made $150,000,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sowell, director of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

For more on the understanding the effects of poverty on children and families, check out our recent webinar:

The first national survey of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) shows that nearly half of preschoolers are on medication for the condition, and more than a fifth were receiving neither of the recommended therapies. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines call for the use of behavioral therapy first with children younger than 6. This is because the long-term impacts of medications on developing brains are not well known. However, the data show that 46.6 percent of the preschool aged children with ADHD had taken medication alone or with behavioral therapy in the previous week, and 53.2 percent had used behavioral therapy in the previous year. Another 21. 4 percent received neither therapy. The data come from the 2009-2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs.

Every parent has felt some guilt about not spending “enough” time with their children. However, groundbreaking new research shows that quality may trump quantity when it comes to raising kids. According to the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and minimal effect is seen for adolescents. In fact, the study found one key instance when parent time can be particularly harmful to children. That’s when parents, mothers in particular, are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty and anxious. So, if the study finds that quality, not quantity, is what counts, then how much quality time is enough? There is no conclusive answer at this point. However, this and other studies have found that, more than any quantity or quality time, income and a mother’s educational level are most strongly associated with a child’s future success.

Meet the other Ms. California – The Huffington Post

Dr. Alette Coble-Temple (a member of APA) is highlighted in this article. As the newly crowned Ms. Wheelchair California, Dr. Coble-Temple explodes the stereotypes of pageant queens. She is a full professor of psychology at John F. Kennedy University where she teaches graduate students and serves as the Chair of the Curriculum Committee, while she manages a part-time independent practice conducting evaluations on inmates in prisons all over the state of California, she holds a post on the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology, and is an elected member of the APA’s Committee for Women in Psychology. In addition, she has co-led a Girl Scout troop for three years, is married and has an 11-year-old daughter, Kathryn. One of the issues she is working to improve is access to health care by increasing the awareness of health care practitioners about people with physical differences.

APA Exclusive: Women and girls are still left behind – (Public Interest Executive Director) Dr. Keita’s column in the April 2015 Monitor

Twenty years ago, the United Nations launched A Platform for Action, which called for governments to “ensure equal access to education, eradicate illiteracy among women, and improve women’s access to vocational training, science and technology.” Psychological research supports the importance of these goals. While the world has seen measureable progress since 1995 in efforts to provide access to education and to address economic inequality for women and girls, there has also been retrenchment. A new report by the African-American Policy Forum, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, found that “Black girls were suspended from school six times more than white girls, while black boys were suspended three times as often as white boys.” Their findings echo APA’s Zero Tolerance Task Force Report which found that harsh disciplinary policies curb educational progress and run counter to our “current best knowledge concerning adolescent development.” In a study of the economic outcomes of women and men who do and do not complete high school, the National Center for Education Statistics found that women “had significantly higher rates of unemployment, lower rates of labor force participation, and, consequently, lower hourly wages and average annual earnings,” even after controlling for the timing and the type of high school credential earned.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out?

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