October 2011 Archives

Why would a child commit suicide?

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Some weeks ago, striking news appeared in the media in Brazil. Another case of kids with guns in schools was on the news, but now the boy was only 10 years old. He shot twice against the teacher, and after he killed himself in the corridor of the school. All students panicked, and classes were interrupted for a week. Nobody could imagine that this kind of situation would happen with someone so young, and my first reaction was to think that he was either a victim of bullying at school or that the was depressed. It's impossible not to think that this boy had his whole life ahead; more surprising is to know that statistics show suicidal children cases as extremely rare (Ash, 2008).

The main problem in unfolding this mystery is that there is no evidence of any of internal or external factors that might have contribute to the boy's decision. Some caution is needed to evaluate the information gathered by the media, but so far, the boy was never considered problematic. According to teachers, family, and peers, everybody thought he was a handsome boy who used to take very good grades at school. His family is very active in the church they attend, and friends belong to the same social class - the father is a police officer, and the mother is a homemaker. Apparently, there was no bullying, no depression. So, if everything was all right, what went wrong with him that day?

Trying to find reasons, I remember reading a chapter in the book Social Psychology (Aronson, Wilson, and Akert, 2010) that talks about the need to justify our actions (Chapter 6). For some moments, I thought that the case of the boy's suicide could be related to the fact that 39 people of Heaven's Gate killed themselves too - so the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance might have played a role in both suicides. Reviewing cognitive dissonance, it is a theory first investigated by Leon Festinger, defined as "the feeling of discomfort caused by performing an action that runs counter to one's customary (typically positive) conception of oneself" (Aronson et al., 2010). An additional part of the story is that someone listened to the boy saying that his father would be very angry with him because had taken the gun to school, and of course because he had shot the teacher as well. Just some moments after the incident, he ran away and killed himself in the middle of the confusion that was formed. If he was a normal boy who took the gun to school for any silly reason, for sure the father would be mad at him, so the suicide might have been a desperate measure caused by cognitive dissonance.

The theory that the boy had a not diagnosed depression has to be considered too. The boy's brother reported that two weeks before the incident he had mentioned something about dying. Nobody paid attention to that until the tragedy happened, and a suicidal thought is one of the symptoms of depression. Statistics show that suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people from 15 to 24 years old, but among children who are between 10 and 14 years old, the rate is 0.9 per 100,000 - boys are more prone to suicide than girls, and while adolescents and young adults were more likely to use firearms, children were dramatically more likely to use suffocation (NIMH, 2011). According to the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation results from "the joint experience perceptions of being socially alienated from others and being a burden on others" (Joiner & Ribeiro, 2011). If we apply this theory to his case, maybe there is an explanation of how he was feeling before committing suicide. It's possible to speculate that the boy saw himself as a burden to his family. Another thing that people usually forget to pay attention is when someone mentions death in a conversation; depending on the context, it might be a possible clue to suicidal behavior. As it happened to the boy's brother, he only associated the topic after the suicide. A common myth related to suicide is that it is committed without warning when in fact evidence shows that people usually give many warnings before it takes place (NHCHC, 2011). 


depressed boy.jpg


The real causes of the boy's suicide are really difficult to unfold, as the same myths indicate that people usually think that suicidal individuals are depressed. The fact is that a number of other emotional factors should be considered to assess causes of suicide (NHCHC, 2011). The subject in question is a child who shot the teacher and killed himself. A simple fact that comes to my mind is that this tragedy could have been avoided if access to a gun was made difficult for the boy. The gun was at home, hidden in a shoes box. Unfortunately, many factors combined to the tragic outcome, but what killed the boy was the bullet from the gun.

 

References:

 

Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D. & Akert, R.M. (2010). Social Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson.

Ash, P. (2008). Suicidal behavior in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Psychological Nursing. V.46(1). Retrieved from:

 

Joiner, T. E., & Ribeiro, J. D. (2011). Assessment and management of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. Pediatric Annals, 40(6), 319-319-324. doi:10.3928/00904481-20110512-08

National Health Care for the Homeless Council (2011). Suicide myths and facts. Retrieved from:

www.nhchc.org/ShelterHealth/ToolKitD/D9SuicideMythsandFacts.pdf

 

National Institute of Mental Health. (2011). Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention.

Retrieved from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml

Planet Peace

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When I was a student at Mount Nittany Middle School back in State College, PA, we had a program called "Planet Peace" which consisted of monthly sessions that interactively taught me and my classmates about the negative consequences of bullying and violence in school.  It not only tried to steer us away from these behaviors but also tried to instill a cooperative and peaceful mind in the student body.  Taken from the Planet Peace website:

"Our monthly lessons discuss a variety of topics, which include bullying, appreciating differences and recognizing similarities, respect, point of view and empathy. We incorporate games, role playing, video presentations, art projects, team building and school wide activities to include everyone in interactive learning." (scasd.org)

Planet Peace was not only beneficial because of its' anti-bullying focus, but also because it instilled a sense of cooperative learning (Slavin, 1990) in us.  I remember the majority of the activities that we participated were teamwork building exercises that encouraged cooperation and an open and honest sharing of ideas.  Much like the student teams-achievement divisions and the jigsaw classroom technique (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2005), we were often split into small groups of around 7 or 8 students to work on activities.  This was not just a group anti-bullying lecture.  Through this program, a better morale climate was formed in the school as bullying and violence was far from the descriptive norm (e.g., Cialdini, Kallgren, & Reno, 1991; Deutsch & Gerard, 1955).  Instead, it was this teamwork environment that was salient.  Granted these sessions were only once a month but I distinctly remember the positive affect they had on me and my classmates.

Planet Peace is an obvious success when you take into account that I left Mount Nittany Middle School in 2004 and 7 years later it is still operating.  I think that other school districts across the country could definitely benefit from similar programs and it's encouraging to know that some are.  For instance, the LIFT (Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers) program which was implemented in multiple school districts in Oregon yielded positive results in that the children were less likely to engage in violence or in behavior concerning alcohol or drugs (Eddy, Reid, & Fetrow, 2001).  Successes of these programs should signal to other districts that it is indeed possible to create a better, more peaceful and cooperative morale climate in their schools and hopefully they will follow suit and start devising programs of their own, or adopt a version of one of the success stories.

References

Planet Peace website retrieved from <http://www.scasd.org/Page/5718>

Slavin, R.E. (1990). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Cialdini, R.B., Kallgren, C.A., & Reno, R.R. (1991). A focus theory of normative conduct: A theoretical refinement and reevaluation of the role of norms in human behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 24, 201-234.

Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H.B. (1955). A study of normative and social influences upon individual judgement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 629-636.

Eddy, J.M., Reid, J.B., & Fetrow, R.A. (2001). An elementary school-based prevention program targeting modifiable antecedents of youth delinquency and violence: Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT). In H.M. Walker & M.H. Epstein (Eds.), Making schools safer and violence free: Critical issues, solutions, and recommended practices (pp. 128-139). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Bullying

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            Bullying is a form of violence that can be experienced by children in school.  Statistics for the prevalence of bullying are varied because the behavior is not always delineated as a crime, so statistics are not readily available from uniform crime statistics.  When law enforcement is involved, bullying behaviors are often identified as harassment, stalking, and assault through the legal system.  Adding to the scattered data is the reality that bullying is often 'handled' within the level of the social-ecological system that it occurs.  Bullying however does not occur in isolation; it results as a complex interaction between the individual and all levels of the social-ecological system (Swearer, Espelage, and Napolitano, 2009) and therefore is a societal issue of concern for everyone. 

            The statistics for childhood bullying vary a great deal.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, one in five children have experienced some degree of bullying in their lifetime (http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying 2011).  The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2007, 32% of students aged 12-18 reported having been bullied at school (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2010//ind_11.asp 2011).  Seventy seven percent of junior and senior high school students from small Midwestern towns have indicated that they were victims of bullying during their school years (http://www.ojjdp.gov/jjbulletin/9804/bullying2.html Hoover, 1992).  The FBI reports that "bullying remains one of the largest problems in schools, with the percentage of students reportedly bullied at least once a week steadily increasing since 1999" http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/2011pdfs/may-2011-leb (2011).    

            Most bullying definitions contain the same three major components; aggressive behavior, imbalance of power, and repetitive actions.  Sutton, Smith, and Swettenham (1999) stated it well; "bullying involves an intentional, usually recurrent, action designed to inflict physical and psychological harm on another person or persons by one or more persons and is a part of a complex interplay of dominance and social status."   Bullying behaviors may be physical, verbal, emotional, written, or electronic in nature.  The actions may include behaviors such as unsolicited physical (hitting, kicking, etc.) and verbal (teasing, taunting) contact, social manipulations (spreading rumors, exclusion), negative/aggressive written and/or electronic contact, stealing or damaging another's property.  Bullying can take many forms, but always has the intent of causing physical or psychological harm to another. 

            Aside from obvious physical injuries that can be a result of being bullied, there are other ways the victim is harmed.  Bullied youth experience increased physiological symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches and they experience increased psychosocial problems.  Bullied youth report more loneliness, increased school avoidance, less self-esteem and increased suicide ideation than nonbullied youth (Swearer, Espelage, and Napolitano, 2009).  Victimization can also result in lower academic competence, performance and engagement.  Consequently, the negative effect on a student's education can result in lowered earnings in adulthood. 

            There are factors at every level of the social-ecological system that are associated with bullying.  Children with internalizing problems are at higher risk for becoming a victim of bullying.  A person from a home that is unstable or where children are maltreated is more likely to be a bully or be bullied.  School environments that have a climate of conflict and low levels of supervision are associated with bullying.  Lastly, at the macro level, governmental policies that are less than inclusive perpetuate the message that some are better than others and not deserving of respect and equal treatment.  It is time we recognize that bullying is not "just kids being kids", it is a serious phenomenon that harms the individuals involved (including the perpetrator), our schools, institutions, and society at large.  This ever increasing form of violence requires attention at all social-ecological levels to make it unacceptable. 

 

References

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2011). Facts for families: Bullying. Retrieved on October 28, 2011 from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying

 

Hoover, J. H., Oliver, R., and Hazler, R. J. (1992). "Bullying: Perceptions of adolescent victims in Midwestern USA," School Psychology International 13:5-16,1992.  Retrieved October 29, 2011 from http://www.ojjdp.gov/jjbulletin/9804/bullying2.html

 

National Center for Education Statistics (2011).  Retrieved October 29, 2011 from

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2010//ind_11.asp

 

Sutton, J., Smith, P. K., & Swettenham, J. (1999). Bullying and "theory of mind": A critique of the "social skills deficit" view of anti-social behavior.  Social Development, 8, 117-127. doi:10.1111/1467-9507.00083

 

Swearer, S. M., Espelage, D.L., and Napolitano, S. A. ( 2009).  Bullying prevention and intervention.  New York, NY: Guilford Press.

 

United States Department of Justice, FBI, (2011).  Retrieved October 30, 2011 from

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/2011pdfs/may-2011-leb

 

 

 

Extension of Education Through Media

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For the longest time education has been carefully taken through the professions of professors, teachers, tutors, and masters of a craft or subject.  However over the years the media has come to add to the idea of home education.   This isn't referring to the television ads about colleges or internet access for online classes at all; this is about the education one obtains through media products or social media resources.  Social media education would be the things that kids through young adult age learn from the great world of socializing on the internet.  Young people have so much access to certain things on the web.  The other would be the marketing of educational items on ads through television, ads, and articles.  How many times have you seen ads for things to better yourself or education yourself?  Items such as weight loss formulas to help you look like your favorite TV idol or items that teach you to learn new things such as new languages or for young kids' different methods to learning new subjects.

These "items" for education although appear helpful can also just be time consuming and a waste of money.   Just like many other things today, the tools to learn something new are becoming smaller and easier to use.  It is not a problem for them to be available because everyone doesn't have the money to go and take a class in it which makes these affordable yet reliant.  The problem here is that it is starting a trend to apply learning based components to a simple easy to use and start.  It is this that brings concern to the social world again because of how dependent people are to use of all obtainable marketing through television and internet.  Some of these education helpers can do as much as teach everything you lean in the first years of school.  So what does this mean for younger children and parents teaching them through the use of technology outside of the class room?  Are we again being too dependent on technology for things that we never needed it for?  The concern is hoping that our very foundation of teaching and learning is not overlooked because of the new modern forms of education tools mankind will create in the coming years. 

Touching up on the social media education is also a system people should be aware about when it is freely used by all ages of kids, teenagers, and adults.  The big problem here is that the young people of tomorrow can create an account and can be exposed not just to friend's pages but friends of friends (mutual friends) that can be older and have items on their page that young people shouldn't stumble upon.  Imagine a young teenage boy going on a older relatives page and in their finds pictures demonstrating alcohol use at events or at home.  Would that kid now thinks it is ok to do that when given the opportunity, or would a younger person believing that the older person is a role model set forth to do what ever he/she sees because everyone else is doing it.  These are only some things that we should watch out for when the media educates people and not us.

References

O'neil, B. (n.d.). Financial education through social media: Can you evaluate its impact. Retrieved from http://www.ncsu.edu/ffci/publications/2011/v16-n1-2011-spring/oneil-zumwalt-gutter-bechman.php

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2011). Applied Social Psychology: Theory and research methods. Retrieved online at :https://cms.psu.edu


As I consider the elements for our policy paper, I have concluded that peer-to-peer education may serve a critical purpose in my proposed intervention.  The intervention I am creating is a plan to decrease adolescent STDs and unwanted pregnancies (UPs) by increasing knowledge, and improving attitude (via self-efficacy).  I have been deliberating the operationalization of these methods over the past few weeks.  This week, after reading our text's chapter on "Applying Social Psychology to Education" (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005), I began to recognize the importance of peer-to-peer education, and how it may be applied to my intervention.

The study by DuPaul, Ervin, Hook, & McGoey (1998), describes how academic engagement and performance in students with ADHD were improved through the implementation of peer-to-peer tutoring.  In addition, this method also resulted in a decrease in disruptive class behaviors previously exhibited by those ADHD students.  The authors describe peer tutoring as "an instructional strategy" where collaborate on a school project/activity.  In this situation, the ADHD student would be taught by the other student not affected by ADHD.  The student responsible for the tutelage of the ADHD student would be offer teaching, assistance, and feedback to the ADHD student.

This study was able to offer a significant improvement to the educational experience, performance, and engagement of students with a learning disability.  As such, the likelihood for its continued success for those without learning challenges could be considerable.  Long-term potential for academic success, as well as improved knowledge and attitude of self-efficacy where adolescent sexual and reproductive health are concerned would need to be assessed via follow-up questionnaires. 

Through peer-to-peer learning, all students involved have the ability to benefit from this progressive learning vehicle.  The students on the receiving end of the peer teaching may exhibit improved academic performance and classroom involvement. Both sets of students are likely to benefit from improved confidence, as well as communication skills.  If academic performance and engagement are improved through peer-to-peer learning, this model may also be applied to the objective of improving the knowledge of sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, with the goal of decreasing the amount of STDs and UPs in this population.  

 

References:

DuPaul, G.J., Ervin R.A., Hook, C.L., & McGoey, K.E.  (1998).  Peer tutoring for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: Effects on classroom behavior and academic performance.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 579-592.

 

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (Eds.).  (2005).  Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

 

 

Media and Eating Disorders

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Mass media are forms of communication directed towards large audiences and include television, radio, internet, news papers, magazines, books and any other means of communication (Helsin, 2006). The media today has become more powerful than ever and it is difficult to find a person in our society that does use or come across to one of the forms of mass media in their everyday life. The media has taken a central part in our lives and also has the ability to influence the way we think and perceive things around us. In particular television, and more currently the internet are the most powerful forms of media as they are able to combine pictures and sound and are more realistic to their viewers. Much research on the influence of the media has targeted the effects of media violence on aggression, pornography and political converge (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). However media influences do not stop here and they are able to affect our views and promote stereotypes ideas on several issues in our lives. A significant element to mention when it comes to media is the influence of advertising with its nature to ultimately persuade the audience about products or others matters of interest. One of the stereotype ideas that media seems to promote relates to body image for both males and females. Media today has set standards about who is consider attractive and fashionable, and size 0 seems to be the appropriate figure for a women in order to be considered attractive. Messages promote the idea that in order to be successful and attractive you have to be thin. However this has caused many and in particular young people to become obsessed with their weight which leads to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. It is estimated that up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from these types of eating disorders in the U.S. and eating disorders have resulted in death for about 6% of those who have them (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders[ANAD],2011; Taylor,2012,p.105)( http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/).  Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight along with an extremely distorted body image and causes self-starvation (Donattele, 2008). Bulimia involves alternating cycles of binge eating and purging through methods such as vomiting (Taylor, 2012). Binge eating is like bulimia but the person does not take excessive measures such as vomiting in order to lose the weight they gain (Donattele, 2008). These disorders could be examined and s to media sociocultural factors are the ones that influence the most. Theories such as the social influence theory could be used to explain these disorders.

Today in our modern society being thin is what is considered to be fashionable. Most of the celebrities depict this profile and many people are influenced bbody-dysmorphia.jpgy this model and preoccupied to control their weight to unrealistic levels. Teens and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to these messages as they are more susceptible to external influences, haexplained through the biopsychosocial model as there is biological, psychological, and social factors involved. However when it comeve not fully developed their identity, have greater tendency to imitate other's behaviors and concepts displayed in the media, and they are affected by peer influences (Berger, 2005). Eating disorders could affect people as young as 7 and as old as mid-80s (Taylor, 2012). I personally remember a period in my life when I was young when I was preoccupied with my weight but I did not end up developing one of these eating disorders. However I know friends and coworkers that had anorexia and bulimia and despite any advice and encouragement from others they were extremely dissatisfied with their weight. For instance one of my coworkers who was bulimic  either did not usually join us when we went out to eat as a group or when she did she was always ordered extra meals to take home as she was planning to eat them and after purge herself. I remember one time when there was a birthday party in the office she ate several pieces of cake and then ran to the bathroom. It did not take long for all of us to figure out what was going on with her. Despite the fact that several of us tried to help, she was unresponsive to any advice. She was so obsessed with getting thin that nothing else seemed to matter to her even the fact that she was damaging her health. As mentioned eating disorders can even affect young children and parental monitoring is very important. It is difficult for many to imagine that young children could become influenced by stereotyped ideas about body image and I was previously one of them. However at a recent family reunion diner I witnessed my 11 year old niece being extremely concerned with her weight and even claiming that she was on a diet. She did not want to eat her meal and she only took couple of bites from it. When I asked her if she wanted something else to eat, she categorically responded that she needed to lose several pounds in order to be pretty. The majority of celebrities and particularly most models have a specific profile that includes being thin. Young girls seem to be familiar with this image and will most likely try to achieve the same with their bodies. When the body shapes of young girls change during puberty problems might start to arise and become worse as the girls grow older.

The media is so preoccupied with promoting this model that on occasion can become extreme. For instance in cases where a celebrity or model happens to gain some weight they are crucified by the media and their pictures appear on the front pages of popular magazines and their story becomes the center of attenanorexia_bulimia_in_dieting_problems.jpgtion on popular talk shows. Furthermore most of the advertisements and products advertised every day are products for how a woman can look better, younger and thinner. While watching your favorite show, listening to your favorite station, or surfing the internet, one is constantly bombarded by messages from advertisers. Statistical facts regarding the influence of media and advertising shows that on average we are exposed to approximately 5,000 advertising messages per day and on average young adolescents watch 3-4 hours of TV per day (National Eating Disorder Association [NEDA], 2005). Considering these facts one can think about the concept of persuasion and how its application affects social influences regarding body shape. Persuasion refers to a specific kind of social influence where a particular message attempts to change someone's attitudes and beliefs (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). However the majority of the media messages portray an unrealistic model of body shape. For instance the average women is 5"4' and weighs 140 pounds whereas the average model is 5"11' and weighs 117 pounds, and most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, 2011; http://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/what-causes-eating-disorders). Furthermore ironically the media promotes quite conflicting messages particularly when it comes to the advertisement of food products. Large amounts of food products such as snacks, cakes, cereals, and fast foods that are extremely fattening without significant nutritional value are continuously advertised. The people used to advertize these products however are thin, beautiful and healthy females and males that actually in order to maintain their shape cannot indulge in these products. Therefore on one hand the media endorses the consumerism of high caloric food items and on the other hand promotes the concept of thinness. 

  Apart from the individual's desire and obsession with appearance their social surroundings could affect and promote these tendencies. Particularly during adolescence and in early adulthood where peer and social influencCauses-of-Eating-Disorders.jpges can be very critical for one's development. People in these ages are concerned more with how they look and they try to "fit" into their group and be desirable (Berger, 2005). Media and particularly television influences what is considered a trend and establish a specific concept of appearance that many young people try to adapt. Social influences refer to the idea that interaction with others could lead to a change in our attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p. 184). People want to be accepted by others in their social environment and often end up conforming to behaviors that they believe the majority holds as appropriate. This is known as normative social influence and refers to the idea that people end up conforming to a behavior due to social influence in order to be liked and accepted by others, and this could happen even if an individual does not actually accept this group's behaviors (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011). Western cultures and particularly our culture contribute much attention and value on thinness and the media is constantly reminding us of this. In particular women try to conform to the beliefs and norms and end up trying to achieve the unrealistic notion of the "perfect" body shape. They try different types of diets and as well as several products that promise weight loss. For some this obsession to lose weight could lead to the above mentioned disorders.

The fact seems to be that the media affects our perception about body image and has an indirect cause on the development of eating disorders. Young people are more susceptible to media influences particular regarding body image. Looking over the years one can notice that the body image considered beautiful and attractive has changed dramatically. Even today among different cultures one can notice different perceptions about what figure is consider attractive. Therefore it is evident that the idea of the "perfect" body relies of sociocultural influences. Media by being a form of communication is able to transmit ideas and perceptions and even influence attributes and beliefs. One way that would help reduce eating disorders and the general obsession over weight is to have media promote and depict more realistic models of what every day people actually look like. Also important is to educate and help young people develop strong critical thinking, proper judgment and self control. It is critical for one to learn to define what is normal and real and distinguish this from fabricated messages. It is truly disturbing and unfortunate to have this large number of people suffer from eating disorders and also to have a percentage of these to end up losing their lives as a result of these disorders.

 

References:

 

Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D. & Akert, R.M. (2011). Social Psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson.

 

Berger, K.S. (2005). The developing person through the life span (6th e.d.). New York, NY: Worth publishers.

 

Disorder.org. (2009). Causes of eating disorders [Photograph]. Retrieve from: http://www.disorder.org/causes-of-eating-disorders.html

 

Donatelle, R.J. (2008). Access to health (10th e.d.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

 

Henslin, J. M. (2006).Essentials of Sociology: A down-to-earth approach (6th e.d.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

 

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2011). Eating disorders statistics. Retrieve from: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

 

National Eating Disorder Association. (2005). The media, body image and eating disorders. Retrieve from:  http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/MediaBI.pdf

 

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

 

Taylor, S.E. (2012). Health Psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/index.htm

 

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. (2011).What causes eating disorders. Retrieve from: http://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/what-causes-eating-disorders

 

ThirdAge.com. (2011). Anorexia photos [Photograph]. Retrieve from: http://www.thirdage.com/hc/c/anorexia-photos

 

Vermeulen's article on diets and brainwashing [Photograph] (n.d.). Retrieve from:  http://www.wineinyourdiet.com/Diet_fads_and_scams/dbda.php

Our Youth, Our Future--The Social Learning Theory

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The topic of education hits very close to home for me. As a former education major and a current preschool educator, there are a lot of things about this chapter that I can say "ah ha!" and "that's so true!" about. However, I cannot discuss every topic, and whether you have read my posts and responses or not, I have focused a lot on the self-perception theory, so for my blog, I choose the social learning theory.

Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2005) tell us that the social learning theory means that children observe the aggressive behavior of others and learn that aggression may be an effective way to obtain their goals. I work with 3-5 year olds and they are an extremely impressionable audience. Unfortunately, I am unable to have a room filled with primarily three year olds or primarily four year olds or primarily five year olds. Because this is not possible, I have a room with five year olds or nearly five year olds who have been in the same classroom for two years mixed in a classroom with just-turned-three year olds where everything is new to them. What is the problem, you may ask? Well, when a child has been in a room with the same toys, same teachers, and same surroundings and routines in general, they tend to get bored. This boredom causes them to act in ways that make teachers' heads spin! How does this relate to the social learning theory? The older children often get rambunctious and act violently towards each other and/or the younger children. Meanwhile, whether or not the younger children are the bystanders or victims, they see what the older children do and look towards them as an example. In my eyes, the social learning theory does not just apply to aggression and violence, but to any behavior really. I have one child who is just naturally disobedient and he does not necessarily always mean to be. However, he is the oldest in the classroom and a lot of the other children look up to him. I have a newer, younger little boy (they are the only two boys of their race in the classroom as well) who follows almost everything that the older one does. He is not beginning to act EXACTLY like the older child even in the absence of that particular child.

Another example I will use is my own son. My son is on the verge of turning two (I know, I feel bad for me too!). He is like a little mini sponge. He watches everything everyone does and he tries to imitate it. I admit, I am guilty; I have swatted at his little hands when he does something I do not like. Do you know what he does? He swats back at me. In that instant I think about how I just taught him the very thing I was trying to stop him from doing. My husband loves video games, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), guns, and knives, you name it and if it screams "I'm the alpha male!", then he loves it. My son walks around the house swinging his arms making the same noise his beloved daddy makes when he is being his macho-self and punching at the air. He picks up sticks and points them at me and says "ba ba ba ba" (bang, bang, bang, bang). He loves to get on the floor and wrestle his mommy to the ground and he thinks it is hilarious. I am lucky, to say the least, that he is not doing the same things to his "classmates" at daycare. It just goes to prove that by observing, and perhaps having the "right" genes, children are very susceptible to violent acts. It is up to us to teach them what is appropriate and what is not...it is just too bad that not all the world feels this way.

Children are sponges. It is up to parents, guardians, teachers, and family members to filter whatever they absorb. We live in a very violent society and I am not sure it is getting better--despite all of the knowledge we have. In fact, I feel like the more knowledge we gain, the worse it gets for some reason! Three, four, and five year olds are still up watching scary movies around Halloween and they are still able to access inappropriate video games etc. etc. etc. With growing technology and dry sense of humor in addition to lack of consideration or maybe overestimation of maturity of our youth, aggression is a growing problem amongst our youngsters of today.

 

References:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (p224)

Media -- Cultivation off the couch!!

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There has always been a fascination of the American public and the television.  According to A.C. Nielson, Co. Americans spend on average of 153 hours watching television every month.  Because of this one's views of reality and perceptions of the world can get altered.  Thus causing first  and second order effects that "cultivate distorted estimates but also contributes to the formation of a suspicious conservative outlook at the world, is weaker and more inconsistent" (Boob & McDonald, 1979; Hawkins, Pingree, & Adler, 1987).  Where when we watch too much television, it changes how we think.

This distortion can be seen by perceptions of how others view crime and violence and other social issues such as flooding, terror attacks and lawyers just to mention a few.  This change of mindset has spun a new fear in our society that has given a rise to fears and mistrust that even reach how we perceive the most protective aspect of our society, the criminal justice system.  This gives light to the Cultivation Theory that states that TV operates as the primary socializing agent in today's world (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005 p. 162).

This issue gives rise to asking ourselves why do we watch so much TV?  Countless reasons could be given with even more justifications as well.  As the field of psychology tends to look for the whys of an issue, a solution for this would be to create a campaign to counter the effects of the media with the media's support.  Even though one would counter with a response of "that's preposterous" it already occurs on a few select channels with the support of the President's council on Physical Fitness (PCFSN 2011)!  Even though this campaign is geared towards one of our youngest age groups, there is no reason why it could not be geared towards our busy everyday lives.  As to date there are no programs developed for adults.  Creating this program would give another resource to helping curve distortions that effect us from too much television.

 

References:

Boob, A. N., &McDonald, G. E. (1979).Television viewing and fear of victimization: Is the relationship casual? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 170-179.

Hawkins, R. P., Pingree, S., & Adler, I. (1987). Searching for cognitive processes in the cultivation effect. Human communication Research, 13, 553-577.

President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (March 23, 2009) What is President's Challenge? Retrieved from http://fitness.gov/presidents-challenge/about/

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

The Nielsen Company., (2011). Americans Watching More TV Than Ever; Web and Mobile Video Up too. Retrieved from http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/americans-watching-more-tv-than-ever/

Winning by Failing?

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I think by this point in school we've all had a few exams or assignments that have been much harder than the others. I would like to think that I put in enough effort to get a good grade on the assignment or exam and that hard work paid off. Obstacles like work and home life are just things that need to be worked around in order to finish everything I needed to do. But there have been times where I've gotten a grade that wasn't up to the standards I'd set for myself too. But would I ever intentionally try to place an obstacle in my way so that if I failed I would have an excuse? It sounds strange that anyone would actively try to prevent themselves from achieving the best grades or the best athletic performance or the best attempt at any other aspect of their lives but it does happen. It's called self-handicapping.

Mark Zuckerman and his associates, in a 1998 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explain that self-handicapping is a tendency to place an object, task, obstacle, or condition in your way to prevent you from being successful in an attempt to protect your self-esteem (Zuckerman, Kieffer & Knee, 1998). All right, that seems a little weird. Wouldn't most students want to spend any extra time and effort they had into actually trying to get a good grade instead of using that effort to make sure they have an excuse ready when or if they fail? 

Test Fail-.jpgSo how are these obstacles created? Another study in the Journal of Social Psychology explains that there are two different ways that adult self-handicappers can produce an "obstacle" (Kimble, Kimble & Croy, 1998). First, they can behaviorally self-handicap. That means they are actually participating in a behavior that will lead to a disadvantage. It can be something like drinking too much, taking drugs, or attempting to study in poor environment, or just knowingly not preparing enough (Ferguson & Dorman, 2002). The second route is  self-reporting self-handicapping. That means a student claims that there was a disadvantageous condition that limited their ability to do well on an exam or assignment. The neighbor's music was too loud, someone stole my notes, or anything else that is seemingly out of their control.

But the problem isn't exclusive to high school or college age students. Children as young as third grade have exhibited self-handicapping tendencies. The study from the Journal of Social Psychology tested third and sixth graders to see if children that young would already take steps to protect their self-esteem. They told half of each grade level that they were going to take part in a game. The "Picture Matching Game Practice Booklet" was given to them and they were allowed to practice. The other half of the students were given the "Test of Integrative Orientation Practice Booklet" and told to study for an upcoming intelligence test instead of a game. Personally, when I was in third and sixth grade I wouldn't have the first clue what a "integrative orientation" test was. I still don't think I know. I'm pretty sure integrative orientation is a button my  car's GPS. But the researchers found that high self-esteem third graders acted adaptively by practicing more for the evaluation task whereas high self-esteem sixth graders prepared more only if they had been reminded of their personal resources. That means that the younger kids who wanted to do well put in the effort to do so regardless of the group and the older kids needed to be reminded that they were capable of doing well in order to prompt them to put in the work.

So what does that mean for us? If we feel like we're capable of doing well on something, most of us are going to put in the effort. Self-esteem plays a large part in self-handicapping so believing we can achieve may be enough of a motivating factor to prevent any self-handicapping. Seeing an assignment as a goal instead of obstacles and that learning in an to get a certain grade may not be as important as learning to master a subject that will help us after college. Anyway, I'll end this post early. The neighbor's dog is making too much noise.

Resources:

Ferguson, J., & Dorman, J. (2002). The self-handicapping phenomenon. Kappa Delta Pi Record , 38(2), Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/232049619/fulltextPDF/132A7B141915F1B864F/1?accountid=13158

Kimble, C., Kimble, E., & Croy, N. (1998). Development of self-handicapping tendencies. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138(4), 524-534. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/199794053/fulltextPDF/132A7B502AF648CB9C1/1?accountid=13158

Zuckerman, M., Kieffer, S., & Knee, C. (1998). Consequences of self-handicapping: Effects on coping, academic performance and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1619-1628. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1619

Facebook and our Youth

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Facebook is a powerful media influence in our youth today.  Teens will post comments and pictures on Facebook and don't realize the outcome that some of these actions might have.  The stories of teens getting into trouble on or through Facebook seem to be getting more numerous by the day (Nicole, 2009).  Teens often post pictures or videos of themselves engaging in acts that they feel are harmless, but in reality they are not, and these videos are often made public for anyone to view, which leaves that teen to suffer consequences for the actions that they committed; that can entail being their parents seeing their behaviors or far worse being arrested for something that was criminal. 

Social networking sites like Facebook are an open ground for teens to bully other teens.  These types of actions can also lead to a teen being arrested.  In an article about cyber-bullying the bullying started on Facebook and continued in face to face confrontations that lead others to follow (Stewart, 2011).  This is just another example of the drawbacks social networking sites can have on our youths.  In this particular case the bullying continued even after the case was heard in front of a judge, and then ultimately another Facebook page was created by the person that was responsible for bullying the individual, the page was titled; "Not being friends with the annoying drama queen from Makoura".  The page had 100 members (Stewart, 2011).  After this recent display of bullying a verbal confrontation broke out which ended in the one being bullied to be punched and kicked, which lead her parents to ultimately remove her from the school (Stewart, 2011).  With incidents like these that are children are faced with it makes it a difficult situation whether or not social networking sites are a good idea for our youths to participate in.  I have three daughters and I worry constantly every time they are on a computer, whether they are posting things they shouldn't be or are saying things to people they shouldn't be or are they being bullied.  I think protecting our children is the main priority and when they are online you have to hope that they know the people they are talking too and that they take privacy settings seriously, because you never know who could be on the other end of a conversation.  I know for me I take an active parenting style and I make sure that privacy settings are set and I monitor what they do on Facebook, it might make them angry and they might feel I'm violating their privacy, but in the end I know they are safe and in this day and age I feel safety is more important than my child being angry with me for a time being.

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-teens-wild-crazy-and-busted-2009-01

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/5851254/Cyber-bullying-victim-removed-from-school

The Facebook Monster

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Although I'm not too proud to admit it, the first thing that I usually do when I open my laptop isn't checking email or my bank account, it's checking my facebook account.  As I currently type this blog post I have another browser window open with facebook.  I think that social networking sites, facebook in particular provide a new way for people to connect with each other no matter the distance, through not only just text but with photos, videos, links, basically anything you could think to share.  The course commentary mentions the figures, over 750 million active users on facebook as well as the fact that "People who were once isolated due to their beliefs or interests not fitting into their local community/culture can now find others who share those beliefs or interests and reduce their own loneliness" (Redmond, 2011).

I think an important point to make is that you can make facebook what you will.  If you desire, you can import thousands of photos and constantly update your status, effectively forming a part of your identity through the site.  The study by Manago, Greenfield, Graham and Salimkhan (2008) points out that self-presentation was the most talked about topic during their focus group.  Also, they show that "virtual reality creates opportunities for identity exploration" (Manago, Greenfield, Graham & Salimkhan, 2008).  To further this point, an article by Hyllegard, Ogle, Yan and Reitz (2011) mentions Shao's (2009) analytical framework where users manage information, find entertainment and manage moods through user-generated media like facebook.  They also express their identity and "enhance social connections" (Hyllegard, Ogle, Yan, & Reitz, 2011).  So we can see that people, young adults specifically use social networking sites to create a sense of personal identity but once again I would argue that it's only to the extent that they want to.  The mere existence of these sites doesn't require one to fill out a profile and update it frequently.  Like the course commentary states, "A primary preventive intervention would be to "just say no" to using these technologies" (Redmond, 2011).  Although I'm sure there is a degree of peer pressure for young adults to create profiles when everyone around them has one. 

 I do know some people who have resisted the pressure and not created a facebook account.  I'm not sure they know what they're missing, purely from an easy communication standpoint.  I personally use facebook more as "email on steroids".  They are not the same thing but when logged onto facebook, the site also serves as an instant chat service and it also has a private messaging system along with a system that makes it easy to search for anyone you are friends with and even those you aren't.  This makes it easy to communicate whether it's professional or purely social.  The issues presented by Kruger, Parker and Ng (2005) concerning parties decoding messages in undesired ways are still going to be present because we are still dealing with electronic communication through text (unless you count the new videochat application that facebook just added).  However the variety of ways in which you can connect and find people on facebook makes it a valuable tool in this modern society.  It looks as if the trend of social media is only going to continue to go deeper and deeper with new sites that do different things.  Nobody is forced to use this media and if they do, they can get in however deep they wish.


References

Mango, A.M., Graham, M.B., Greenfield, P.M., Salimkhan, G. (2008) Self-presentation and gender on MySpace Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 29 (2008) 446-458

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J. & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89(6), 925-925-936. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.925

Hyllegard, Karen H; Ogle, Jennifer Paff; Yan, Ruoh-Nan; Reitz, Amy R. College Student Journal45. 3 (Sep 2011): 601-616.

Shao, G. (2009). Understanding the appeal of user-generated media: A uses and gratification perspective. Internet Research, 19(1), 7-25.

Redmond course commentary (2011)




Does Facebook effect our moods?

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How many times do you go on to Facebook and get angry about something? Maybe you see an ex pop up in your "might Know" box on the right, you click on it and see their new girlfriend /wife. Maybe you are playing a game and keep losing, or you get in an argument with a friend and it is all you can think about all day. Obviously Facebook has become a focal point of many people day, according to Nielsen "the average American spends 421 minutes on Facebook per month". There must be some effect from measures of memory, attention, mood, academic skills and personality.

I have been working a research project concerning the effects of Facebook on things such as cognition and memory. The participants take tests, use a form of media, and are retested. Many of the tests come from standardized intelligence measures such as the WAIS III, WMS III, WTAR, and other selective batteries such as the POMS, MCMI, Nelson Denny, UCLS, RCBS, Future Scale, and COWAT. The participant fills out a demographic questionnaire that includes basic demographics plus GPA, how much time they spend on Facebook, what they do on Facebook, any mental disorders, etc. The tests are administered and they fill out the selective batteries. This is followed up with one of three types of media (television, internet browsing, or Facebook) or the control of playing cards for a period of twenty minutes. This is followed by a variable delay period before administering all the measures a second time. The completed tests are placed in a packet and scored by two different people to account for error. Those scores are then entered into SPSS and double checked also for error. A few weeks ago we began analyzing the data for a local conference despite only have data entered for 55 participants. Three of us looked at three separate areas and made poster presentations for the conference. My poster was on the effect of Facebook on mood. The POMS measure is what I focused on. It measures anger, tension, depression, confusion, vigor, and fatigue. The test uses a five point Likert scale. After entering the data we had so far there wasn't much to be seen (Statistically) for most of the measures of mood. Anger and tension, however did approach statistical significance. What we saw was those who went on Facebook did not have a decrease in tension as did when watching TV, playing cards, or browsing websites. Anger on the other had a slight increase after using Facebook. It can be inferred that with more participants these effects would likely be significant.

I am hoping the find findings of this study will give us a hint as to what kind of people we are becoming as people who live primarily online. In other categories of the project such as cognitions there were no current statistical significance but there looks to be a change.  The way I look at it is nothing me do is without consequences. As we become more online based and less real life based we are going to see problems. Just thinking about the scenarios I presented in the beginning there are huge problems with this. I think about all the times I have gone on Facebook as a method of relaxing for a few seconds when working on hard homework- -- Was it really that relaxing? Did it make me get anything done faster or was it just a distraction? When something does make me angry does it affect the way I treat others in my real life? I can think of many times that something made me upset enough on Facebook that I couldn't concentrate for hours. If Facebook has this kind of pull in my brain how is it affecting my real life relationship? I assume I am testier with my family when I get angry on Facebook. Maybe I am rude to people when I am out shopping?

The Bigger question seems be how do we fix the issues that Facebook creates? I don't really have a solution. It would be impossible to regulate time Spent on Facebook. Things may be too late for current generations but the solution may lie in the new generations to come. Hopefully more and more studies will become available and we can truly learn what Facebook (and other social networking sites) are doing to us so we may prevent it in the future. I know that my children will not be spending every waking hour on the computer or on cell phone. I know d will regulate how much time they do spend or Facebook and d will make sure they know how to really talk to a real person. Sometimes solutions must come from within the home.

table for blog.jpgthis is the P values for the study so far.

tension graph for blog.jpg

This shows that all other conditions showed a change in Tension

anger graph for blog.jpg

This one shows that Anger in the Facebook condition increased. The graph is a bit misleading because we took the first score minus the second score which made the score negative.

NOTE: I had a lot of trouble finding information on all the tests that are included in the Facebook study, I had to use Wikipedia for the COWAT despite knowing it is not always a viable source of information. I did read the Wiki site I used and the information seemed to correct (as far as I understand the test anyways). A few of the measures I was unable to find anything for (UCLS, RCBS, and Future Scale) but I am told they measure personality. 


Reference

Verbal fluency test. (2011, October 19). Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbal_fluency_test

Brown, J. I., Fishco, V. V., & Hanna, G. S. (2010). Nelson-Denny Reading Test™ . Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Riverside: http://www.riversidepublishing.com/products/ndrt/index.html

Lorr, M., McNair, D. M., & Droppleman, L. F. (2004-2011). Profile of Mood States . Retrieved October 24, 2011, from MHS: http://www.mhs.com/product.aspx?gr=cli&id=overview&prod=poms

Millon, T., Millon, C., Davis, R., & Grossman, S. (2011). Millon™ Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III™). Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Pearson: http://www.pearsonassessments.com/hai/Templates/Products/ProductDetail.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID={4DB6CC4B-D482-4DFD-A1BB-F7E2657F3EB2}&NRORIGINALURL=%2fHAIWEB%2fCultures%2fen-us%2fProductdetail.htm%3fPid%3dPAg505&NRCACHEHINT=NoModifyGuest&Pid=PAg5

Parr, B. (2010, February 16). Facebook Is the Web's Ultimate Timesink [STATS]. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from Mashable Social Media: http://mashable.com/2010/02/16/facebook-nielsen-stats/

Wechler. (2011). Wechsler Memory Scale - Fourth Edition (WMS-IV). Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Pearson: http://psychcorp.pearsonassessments.com/haiweb/cultures/en-us/productdetail.htm?pid=015-8895-800&Community=CA_Psych_AI_Memory

Wechsler. (2011). Wechsler Test of Adult Reading™ (WTAR™). Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Pearson: http://www.pearsonassessments.com/HAIWEB/Cultures/en-us/Productdetail.htm?Pid=015-8990-145

Wechsler, D. (2011). Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale® - Third Edition (WAIS®-III). Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Pearson: http://www.pearsonassessments.com/HAIWEB/Cultures/en-us/Productdetail.htm?Pid=015-8980-727

 


Cell Phones and the Media

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In the year 2011, it would seem that we all have seen what a cell phone does or can enhance all sorts of media.  At the current point there probably isn't anything you could find through your cell phone that you couldn't find on the news.  In a way that is the problem in the current day.   So the question has to be asked "Is the technological advancements in cell phones outdating the usages of textbook media such as newspapers, magazines, and even news channels?"   This question comes to mind because of all the resources we use wireless technology to help us everyday.  Cell phones years ago where just used to record important moments and to simply communicate with one another but now not only do they open up worlds of media information such as electronic news, sports, and up to date new events but has also taken over the social media as well.  Today all cell phones commercial have default applications that everyone seems to use.  Think about it; how many times one person pulls out there phone to check for "Facebook updates" or text messages.  I feel for some people it doesn't affect them that much but to some others who are always "dependent" on phones, they could not live out a normal day without it.  We all have one or two friends that are like that.  A person who gets all there knowledge or news from not just the media but everything from the comfort of there own phone.  In a way I feel it is unhealthy to rely so much, but in a bold way I feel some people use it to "stay in the loop" and know what's going on.

                This brings me to my next point.  Not only does a the medium from computer devices make things such as newspapers and regular broadcasting but people live in a whole different world when it comes to socializing.  It used to be just texting and voice mail but now there's aim, bbm, sms; is there really a need for all of this.  What happens if we add all this resources to our mobile device and the others become obsolete, and worse what happens when we forget to use other forms of information resources?   The human population relies to much on social media and not enough on other resources to get by.  I don't find myself to be such a media/internet crazed fan however I know from experience I too rely on electronica resources more then the original library resources when it comes to my history in assignments.  I admit even when given the opportunity to do work and look up "library references" or "magazine articles", I and others have sometimes chosen the faster method and simply looked them up online however it has never gotten to the point of looking information through phones.  It is true we are able to access information quickly through mobile devices such as important world news of war, politics, and current events which is always a plus, but with the increasing use in our mobile devices and news, its possible that technology of the mobile device has shaped a change in news and media for everyone.

References:

Weinreb, A. (2005, July 22). Cell phones change the media Media / Media Bias , Retrieved from http://www.canadafreepress.com/2005/media072205.htm

How has art imitated life due to the spiraling economy?  While references to our dwindling economy are found in many television series, perhaps one that is most evident is The Office.  For those of you who do not watch, The Office centers around the daily interactions between office mates a small paper company in Scranton, PA.  The series debuted in 2005, when the economy was at a high and unemployment was low.  The program showed how bored these workers were with their jobs, and didn't strain themselves to cover any disdain for each other, their boss, their employment with the company, or any dissatisfaction with their current position or any hope of advancement.  The employees joked about performance issues, layoffs, and their financial security.  
As the economy began to tumble and unemployment rates jumped, the show responded by not only focusing on how horrible work life was.  All of a sudden, characters became increasingly neurotic about their job security, and were willing to put up with more negative aspects of their jobs and workplace.  More story lines on the show surrounded the characters in their personal lives instead of only focusing on the previous premise that being a working stiff is just that:  you work, and then you die. 
Reality bled into The Office by mirroring the current goings-on at our real-life companies.  Speaking from personal experience, having been laid-off 4 times since 2005, I have become increasingly neurotic about job security, and so have most of my co-workers.  As someone who has been in these situations, it is actually a little comforting to me that the media has responded in a realistic way in this case by mirroring the current economic climate.  I enjoy watching The Office and may have tuned out had this story line transition not taken place, and the characters simply continued to complain about their jobs and workplace without being affected by the current marketplace.  Media is often a way for us to escape reality, and disengage from our more pressing concerns, if only for 30 minutes.  I'm glad that The Office remained more based in reality than just ignoring the elephant in the room.  I still turn to True Blood and Boardwalk Empire for my drama fix, but there is comfort in commiserating with Jim, Pam, and Dwight.


References:
Wanczyk, D.  (2011).  "We Need Jobs":  The Office and the Collective Attitude Change Towards Work.  Splitsider.com.  Retrieved from:  http://splitsider.com/2011/05/we-need-jobs-the-office-and-the-collective-attitude-change-towards-work


Change of mind about treatment of past offenders...

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Currently there is a returning trend in the field of corrections as to the approach of the treatment of inmates in the correctional environments that is for the better.  Through the use of the Therapeutic Communities (TC) approach there has been evidence of a decrease of recidivism among offenders.  The real problem lies in the stigma that is associated with this such as un-employability, undereducated and not sociable with mainstream society.  As most offenders have to deal with less than ideal circumstances due to their incarceration, TC programs teach inmates life skills that are of a pro-social behavior and not ones that are associated with Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) which is characterized by chronic and continuous antisocial or delinquent behavior not due to severe mental retardation, schizophrenia, or manic episodes (Corsini 2002).

As California was the home to the TC concept that was created by Kenyon Scudder (1952) while he was the superintendant of Chino prison, his concept of treating an inmate with a more humanistic approach paved the way for reducing this stigma.  Because of his actions there have been numerous studies conducted (Morgan and Flora 2002, Martin, Butzin, Saum & Inciardi 1999, Zhang, Roberts, & McCollister 2009) that have shown the 12 month, three year and five year outcomes and the positive effects respectively.

Because of these studies being conducted in academia, this information needs to be delivered to society as a whole and used for the removal of this negative stigma.  Even though past offenders have committed crimes of which some are heinous, if we as a community are to continue to evolve and allow these members of society to be reintegrated with us after incarceration then programs need to be put in place to allow them opportunities to prevent their recidivism.

References:

Corsini, R.J., (2002). The Dictionary of Psychology, Brunner Routledge, New York: Taylor & Francis Group

Martin, S., S., Butzin, C., A., Saum, C., A., & Inciardi, J., A., Three-Year Outcomes of Therapeutic Community Treatment for Drug-Involved Offenders in Delaware: From Prison to Work Release to Aftercare, The Prison Journal, (1999). DOI: 10.1177/0032885599079003002

Morgan, R., D., and Flora, D., B., Group Psychotherapy With Incarcerated Offenders: A Research Synthesis, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, (2002). Vol. 6, No. 3, 203-218

Scudder, K. (1952) Prisoners are People. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Zhang, S., Roberts, R., E., L., & McCollister, K., E., Therapeutic Community in a California Prison: Treatment Outcomes, Crime & Delinquency, (2011). originally published online 29 January 2009, DOI: 10.1177/0011128708327035

Elderly stereotypes

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            In the United States, 18.5% of the population is over the age of 60 (U.S. Census, 2010).  I live in a county that has a higher percentage of senior citizens, 22% (U.S. Census, 2010).  In addition to my older family members, I have had the opportunity to work with our county's senior population in varying capacities.  I have worked with them and for them.  I have provided services (social support, emergency) to them, advocated for them, and trained and educated them.  I have found this population to be engaging, helpful, wise, and quite active.

            Society however, has tended to overlook, undervalue, and stereotype the elderly.  The stereotype is often based on myths and assumptions.  Seniors are often thought of as unproductive, alienated, and ineffectual.  Parsons (1993) notes that society views the aged as an "increasing burden on society because they are unproductive, increasingly frail, and vulnerable with their decreasing ability to perform activities of daily living, and frequently poor mobility".      

Reality is that the percentage of elderly working has risen substantially since 1994.  The U.S. Labor Force Participation Rates reports that 58% of men and 45% of women between the ages of 60-64 are employed.   The number of those that are employed full time is also increasing. 

            Society assumes the elderly have greatly reduced physical or mental capacities that have resulted in the need to live in nursing homes.  The fact is only 5.4% of the aged are placed in institutions (nursing homes) due to either physical or emotional reasons (Butler et al. 1998).  That leaves 94.6% that are choosing assisted living, living independently in their family home or a downsized apartment, with extended family or joining economic forces with a friend.  Regardless of where seniors live, the majority are far from alienated.  Those that are not working are caring for their families and volunteering in numerous capacities.   I have encountered seniors who are going to other senior's homes to assist with their care.  I see seniors volunteering at schools, daycares, hospitals, libraries, and civic service organizations.  Some seniors are even continuing their education by taking college classes.  Regardless of where they are working and living, or what they are doing, seniors are engaged.   

            I think it is time to stop regarding seniors citizens in terms of what they no longer do but in terms of what they are now doing.  To do otherwise, to perpetuate a negative stereotype of this population is reinforcing ageism.  Just like any form of negative stereotyping, it can have an effect on society and the individual.   Levy (2002) stated that negative stereotypes are internalized at a young age and reinforced over time.  Levy (2002) found that people 50 years and older who had a more positive self-perception of aging lived 7.5 years longer than people with negative self-perceptions about aging.  That's incredible.  We have the opportunity to contribute to longevity simply by valuing and revering our aging population in the way they should have been all along.  

 

                 

References

 

Butler, R. N. (1993). Dispelling ageism: The cross-cutting intervention. Generations, 17(2):75.

 

Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-261-270. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.261

 

Parsons, A. (1993). Attitudes to the elderly. St. Vincent's Nursing Monograph 1993 Selected Works.   

 

Population Reference Bureau. (2006).  Retrieved on October 21, 2011 from          

 http://www.prb.org/Articles/2006/FullTimeWorkAmongElderlyIncreases.aspx      

 

United States Census Bureau  (2010).  Retrieved on October 21, 2011from

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_10_1YR_S0101&prodType=table

 

United States Census Bureau (2010).  Lycoming County.  Retrieved on October 21, 2011 from

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

 

Bystanders and Criminals vs. Peer Pressure

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Upon reading the material for this week, a coworker and I got into a discussion about crime. I distinctly remember looking at the topic for lesson 8 and saying, "Oh, this looks really boring." My coworker, Mary, asked what the subject was and I told her it was the criminal justice system. "That sounds interesting to me," she said.  I kind of grunted and then proceeded to read. "Ohhhh," I said, "maybe this won't be bad." I told her the story about Dimitri Baranovski and she began to tell me a story that she studied in her social psychology class about a pregnant woman who got beaten to death right outside of a courthouse by her ex-boyfriend and no one did anything. Weren't there any policemen at the courthouse that day? How about judges, lawyers, or just a nice law-abiding citizen...where were they? Why wouldn't anyone stop to help a pregnant woman? How could someone hear a teen struggling and ASKING for help and not stop or at the very least call the police? The bystander effect, diffusion of responsibility, deindividuation, and social facilitation are all things that one can take into consideration when asking questions such as these.

Upon researching, there are many examples of the  bystander effect which is characterized by people being less likely to help in an emergency when other bystanders are present (Scheider et. al., 2005). One example I thought to be particularly interesting was one on YouTube where a life-like baby is left in a car unattended on a hot summer day (YouTube, 2009). With only a baby most people do not notice that there is even a baby in the car. After all, how many people peer into cars as they walk by them?  So the researchers put a speaker in the front seat with sounds of a baby crying. This catches some attention, but many witnesses continue walk by. One woman was asked why she didn't open the door and she simply stated, "It's not my car." She goes on to say that she was about to call her mother to see what she should do (YouTube, 2009).  As a mother, I cannot imagine for the life of me, why any sane and able bodied human being would ever leave an infant or young child in a car all alone whether awake or sleeping.  It is hard to say what one would do in situations such as the baby, Matti, or the pregnant woman unless they are actually presented with the situation. I'm sure we would all like to think that if there were some sort of emergency, we would all do our best to help those in need especially if their age or medical state left them more vulnerable.  However, this is not the case. I personally feel like the bystander effect is mostly a result of peer pressure. Everyone stands around and does not see anyone else doing anything, so they do not want to stand out and therefore, fall in with the crowd. Another reason is for fear of getting hurt them selves. However, at the very least, it would be acceptable to call the police.

Often times, in situations similar to the ones mentioned above, we assume that someone else is going to assist those in need.  This diffusion of responsibility is said to be more likely to occur when the bystander is anonymous, a small number of victims are present, and when the victim is perceived to be dissimilar from the bystander (Schneider et. al., 2005).  If anonymity is present then no one can link you to the scene of the crime and therefore, only you, yourself will feel the guilt of not helping. It is then easier to diffuse your responsibility. If there are a small number of victims, then it is just one person and you may be more likely to think that someone else can just swoop in and help whereas if there are many victims, then one may feel the need to assist because they see other people helping (a large group of victims is more noticeable than a small group).  Also, if you see one person struggling with three others (like Matti), you may not really see the need to intervene, as it may not necessarily seem like anything is really wrong. Teenagers joke around and play all the time. Passersby may not realize that there is any real danger and figure if there was any real danger, then someone else would be helping.  In Matti's case, there were Russian words being shouted. This shows dissimilarity between any potential helpers and the victim. I know if I was personally driving by and someone was shouting something in Russian (which I know absolutely nothing about), I would have no idea what he or she were saying and therefore would not think to help.

Now, how about we switch gears and think about the criminals and what motivates them? Why would a group of kids attack a young teen that they do not know for no reason? Why would a man beat his ex-girlfriend who was carrying his baby in broad daylight? How can anyone leave a baby in a car with all of the windows up on an 80-degree day? We have all seen various scenarios in the movies with a group of bank robbers covered with masks of some sort. Many times, I have seen something as simple as a woman's pantyhose put over a criminal's face. We all know that pantyhose are relatively see through, but they do provide some cover and would most likely cover some facial features such as freckles, moles, or scars enough to not be so recognizable. Deindividuation is a diminished sense of self-awareness (Schneider et. al., 2005). Deindividuation suggests that people with concealed identities might choose to participate in aggressive behaviors (or otherwise) that they may not do if they were not disguised. Of course this makes sense because as long as no one can see whom you are, they cannot pass judgment or say you are out of character. Not to mention, you are unrecognizable to any witnesses so you may feel "safe." How many times have you chosen to go with the crowd? Peer pressure alone has the power to influence people to participate in activities and act in ways that they would not normally act. When a group of peers come together with masks, like the Klu Klux Klan and there is virtually no chance for you to be identified, the chance of participating in risky behavior is high. This proves that there is power in numbers. As long as there are other people doing the same thing it's possible that the perpetrator feels less guilt.

Not so different from deindividuation, social facilitation suggests that the presence of others actually causes arousal and enhances performance (Schneider et al, 2005). Individuals who are susceptible to aggressive behavior or who have learned aggressive behavior and frequently spend time with others of similar backgrounds can feed off of each other. This goes especially for those who are already planning on acting out aggressively. The mere presence of others (especially others who are also planning aggressive behaviors) can enhance each other's behaviors. I don't know how many of you have been to a Penn State football game at Beaver stadium, but I happened to be lucky enough to experience my first (gasp, I know) Penn State game against Iowa this past weekend. Thinking back to the game, the whole stadium shared the excitement of success with the players. I recall, especially in the fourth quarter, that after a good play, the team members would raise their hands in the air towards the crowd prompting us to get louder and louder. They were feeding off of us and we were enhancing each other's performance, really. People who partake in aggressive behavior, such as gangs, feed off of each other.  This further proves that, socially, people are influenced by each other to an extent, which can encourage them to act in aggressive and violent ways.

The people around them influence both helpers and aggressors.  Helpers tend to do what everyone else is doing in the sense that if they do not see others helping, they do not want to stand out or they assume someone else will help the victim. Aggressors either hide behind a mask or have a tendency to feed off of their social group's energy and act out violently against others...or both! It is unfortunate that people like Matti, and the pregnant woman had to die unnecessarily. It is also unfortunate that hundreds of babies are left in cars and die of hyperthermia. All these things can be prevented if people would stop worrying about what other people think and just do what is right.

 

References:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412915397

 

McRaney, D. (Artist). (2010). Bystander effect. [Print Photo].              Retrieved from  http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/03/08/bystander-effect/ October 12, 2011.

 

(2009). Baby left in car-social experiment. (2009). [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OdKow7IAuw&NR=1 on October 12, 2011.

Powderly, H. (Photographer). (2009). Bank robbery is gender neutral. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://libn.com/libizblog/files/2009/01/355513031_344f147467.jpg on October 12, 2011

 

(2008). Klu klux klan uniform. (2008). [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.datzhott.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/kkk-uniform.jpg

 

Health

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            One of the best applications of psychology is in the area of health.  Modern psychology views the person from a perspective of monism, that the mind and body are parts of one system that have bi-directional influence on each other (Pinker, 2002).  In understanding health psychology and health behaviors, applied social psychology is in a strong position to contribute to health and well-being through prevention and intervention methods.  It is estimated that almost half of the deaths in the United States are due to preventable factors (Taylor, 2009).  The top three preventable factors are smoking, obesity, and drinking.  With the leading causes of death, heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidental injuries and chronic lung disease, all due in significant part to preventable factors, it would only be logical to focus on prevention and intervention of the risky health behaviors.

             A health-compromising behavior I once engaged in was smoking cigarettes.  I began when I was a teenager.  I was socialized in this behavior because it was a behavior that most of the people (friends, parents) around me engaged in.  At age 36, I quit engaging in the behavior. 

Some of the barriers I encountered in modifying the behavior included social influence.  Many members of my family were still were smoking.  The fact that I found the activity quite pleasurable was another barrier.  Lack of adverse symptoms and good health also proved to be a barrier that kept me from modifying the behavior. Smoking also helped me to cope with a difficult marriage.  This behavior became necessary to me to survive times of stress.  I found smoking to be an automatic behavior at certain times such as after eating and while driving in the car. 

            The theory of planned behavior (Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) describes my experience with changing my smoking behavior.  It is based on behavioral intentions and contains three components: the attitude toward the behavior, subjective norms regarding the behavior, and perceived behavioral control.  My attitude about smoking changed because I actually began to think about the health consequences after my father became quite ill and eventually died from emphysema.  Previous to this time I (intentionally or unintentionally) did not think of (or suffer from) the negative effects smoking can have on one's health.  I started thinking about how I did not want to experience the same ill effects my father had.  My attitude changed from one of disregard to one of concern for my future health.  . 

About this same time, the campaign to educate the public about the ill effects of smoking was occurring.  This was changing the way society viewed smoking.  The campaign was extended to school age children.  After my children received prevention education in school, they began requesting that I quit smoking.  These normative beliefs  influenced by my children's expectations, the change in societal views of smoking and the new motivation provided by my father's death created a new subjective norm (second component) for me. 

    After successfully maneuvering the difficulties of my marriage and divorce, I was quite confident I would be able to quit smoking.  I believed I would be successful in quitting and feel healthier afterwards.  This represented the final component (perceived behavioral control) in the theory of planned behavior.  I was eventually able to change this health compromising behavior once the stress in my life was greatly reduced after my divorce.  I systematically reduced my emotional (mind) and physiological (body) dependence on smoking until I finally quit.  I think this is a classic example of the interaction of psychological and physical behaviors that affect one's health.     


   

 

References

Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980).  Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice-Hall.

Ajzen, I., & Madden T. J. (1986).  Prediction of goal-directed behavior: Attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioral control.  Journal of Experimental Psychology, 22 153-474.

Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking.

Taylor, S. E., (2009).  Health Psychology.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


  

 


Theories of Depression

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There are many theories of depression which have different implications for the therapy that is used. All of these theories describe one or several aspects of depression and can be helpful in treatment. Social environment plays a role in depression both directly and indirectly. Theories involving social and psychological aspects fall into the biopsychosocial model where treatment focuses on talk-therapy rather than biological theories stemmed from the biomedical model (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005) that only warrant medication. I will use my friend, who- for the purpose of this entry- I will call Jenny, in order to demonstrate theories of depression and how each of those theories can be used in treatment. Because depression is multifaceted and a result of interrelated determinants, better treatment is warranted through a combination of theories encompassing and addressing the various underlying factors of depression.

In high school Jenny had many friends and was well-known throughout school. She was the star and captain of two sports teams and Treasurer of Student Council. She enjoyed being greeted while walking through the hallway. Jenny was very excited to go to college and have a new group of people to get to know and interact with. Her smooth transition did not last long; now no one knew her and she was at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Her ideal situation and what she had imagined was that everyone automatically loved and thought highly of her since that is what she was accustomed to. She could not accept or even understand her new social position and became frustrated and angry. Towards the end of her first semester of college she had become depressed. Based on this description one can apply Rank Theory of Depression to determine why Jenny became depressed. Stevens and Price (2000) proposed that when organisms are demoted to a lower social rank, they will become depressed in order to accept this fact and reduce their desire to get back on top. Moreover, depression is an evolutionary function and adapted reaction to holding a subordinate position. Its benefit in a prior context was to avoid conflict between the new and old leader (Stevens & Price, 2000). Treatment for Jenny based on Rank Theory may focus on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Through therapy she would understand that her expectation of automatically being a leader is irrational (REBT Network, 2006). Her negative emotions about the event would change because she would accept the natural order of beginning something new at the bottom.

Jenny grew up in a strictly Catholic household in an affluent community that prided itself on being perfect. The community had an open communication system and people shared all the information available about themselves and others (unsurprisingly good things about themselves and bad about others). Her mother presented nothing but a perfect family, despite her overbearing and abusive husband. Following her mother's actions, Jenny displayed only positive emotions to her parents. Her father was domineering and mother was overly protective of her children as a result. The Psychodynamic Theory of Depression, presented by Freud, states that depression is a result of anger from imbalanced cognitions and behavior in childhood. Having inconsistent parents (abusive, dominant father versus extremely loving mother in Jenny's case) causes confusion in the child and the resulting anger toward the parents is repressed and directed inward because of knowledge that parents are essential to survival. The child wants to please the parents, but is unable to do so (Nemade, Reiss, & Dombeck, n.d.a). These children strive for perfection and seek love from others around them. True to Freud's theories this occurs unconsciously. Treatment based on Psychodynamic Theory would focus on decreasing the patient's self-punishment because of simultaneous feelings of inadequacy and effort for perfection (Nemade et al., n.d.a). Jenny would consciously become to understand that her parent's contradictory outward perfection and internal struggle caused her to feel subpar. Through therapy, she would come to realize that her parent's relationship with each other as well as the community was not healthy. Perfection is not something that can be reached, so when it doesn't happen she should not be disappointed, only continue to work towards. She should learn how to set small goals to achieve and after each one allow herself to feel accomplished.

Jenny joined many clubs and organizations to meet people and signed up for difficult classes in order to satisfy her parents. She figured that the more she took on the more chances she would have to succeed. Since she was so busy she had no time to relax. In addition to the stressful time of beginning college, Jenny had come to the realization that she was gay. She had refused to previously consider it because of her upbringing, but with a new environment emerged new beliefs and general way of thinking. She saw that this could be a lifestyle and not an internal suppression. Conflicting beliefs caused her psychological distress and confusion and increased the stress she was under. The Stress-Vulnerability Model presents genetic and family history, psychological vulnerability, life events and stresses, and biological factors as causes of depression (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2009). This theory follows a sequential order; a person has a predisposition of vulnerability from genetics and stressful events cause the depression to come about.  People who encounter depression have a low tolerance for stress (Vancouver Costal Health, n.d.). Treatment for Jenny based on this model would focus on managing stress. Identifying stressors, self-monitoring, awareness of stress precursors, positive thinking, and relaxation training are effective methods of stress management (Taylor, 2012). Social support is also important in managing stress (Schneider et al., 2005).

Jenny began thinking that she would never be able to please her parents and that she would be stuck in her social position for the rest of her college career. She felt that no matter how much effort she put into her activities she would never succeed. She knew that her parents would not accept her homosexuality, and felt that her future would comprise of either defying her parents or being untrue to herself. Beck's Cognitive Theory of Depression says that the main factor of depression is negative thoughts (Nemade, Reiss, & Dombeck, n.d.b).  According to this theory, the concurrence of three thoughts results in depression: feeling inadequate, belief that all efforts result in failure, and thinking that the future is hopeless. In therapy Jenny would adopt an enhancing attributional style to feel hopeful about the future (Schneider et al., 2005). She would be taught how see failure as challenges that are possible to overcome and that she has control over her life's course.

One can see that there were a lot of factors that may have contributed to Jenny's depression and subsequently could be used in treatment. In particular, social environment plays a large role in many of the theories of depression. Continuous flawed or negative perceptions and interpretations of social surroundings can be detrimental to emotional state. In addition to social aspects, psychological and biological factors expand upon our knowledge of depression. Individual theories should be combined to obtain a comprehensive understanding of depression; much like the combination of different schools of psychology provide a holistic view of the mind.

 

References

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2009). The causes of depression- Current theories.

Retrieved from http://www.camh.net/About_Addiction_Mental_Health/

Mental_Health_Information/Depressive_Illness/depressive_ill_causes.html

Nemade, R., Reiss, N. S., & Dombeck, M. (n.d.a). Psychology of Depression-

Psychodynamic Theories. Retrieved from http://info.epmhmr.org/

poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=13003&cn=5

Nemade, R., Reiss, N. S., & Dombeck, M. (n.d.b). Cognitive Theories of Major Depression-

Aaron Beck. Retrieved from http://info.epmhmr.org/poc/view_doc.php?

type=doc&id=13006&cn=5

REBT Network. (2006). What is REBT? Retrieved from http://www.rebtnetwork.org/

whatis.html

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology:

Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage Publications.

Stevens A., & Price J. (2000). Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning. London:

Routledge.

Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health Psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Vancouver Costal Health. (n.d.). Stress-Vulnerability Model of Psychosis. Retrieved from

http://www.hopevancouver.com/Stress-Vulnerability_Model_of_Psychosis.html

Poor environmental conditions tend to be unfairly distributed amongst our population whereas children in low income families suffer the majority of unfavorable environmental circumstances.  An unfortunate reflection of poverty on the developmental outcomes of children often lies in the perilous conditions of their immediate environment.  Health risks, such as those created by hazardous lead paint and other lead-bearing substances in the environment, take a toll on the development of children as early as the prenatal stage.  Associated complications due to the overexposure of lead in children include neurologic damage, cognitive and behavioral impairment, lowered school performance and academic achievement, impaired social adaptation, and juvenile delinquency (Pichery et al., 2011). 

While several populations may be at-risk to lead exposure including: children, adolescents, adults, and upper, middle and lower class individuals, young children of low-income households have the highest risk of experiencing lead poisoning.  This imbalance, in part, is due to factors such as: the tendency for low-income families to inhabit older, neglected homes; the lower nutritional standards applied to low-income children; and increased lead levels in the immediate environment surrounding the home such as is seen in soil (Pichery et al., 2011).  While the actual injury vector, including the use of lead paint for residential use, was banned during the 1970's, there are an immense amount of homes built before the ban, which are still inhabited today.  In order to01_thumbnail_Alligatored-lead-paint-300x224.jpgprevent children from being exposed to health hazards posed by lead in the environment, awareness needs to be raised in all systems which contribute to the development of children; increasing knowledge of the problem, pathways to exposure and preventative measures, will encourage caregivers and children to demonstrate both passive and active measures towards solving this issue.

Interventions which target the most immediate influences to a child, such as caregivers and the children themselves can yield positive results when attempting to control for the pathways of exposure to lead.  In an attempt to produce downward trends in the blood lead levels of children in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, Kegler, Malcoe, and Fedirko (2010) tested a community-based intervention on its residents. 

During two phases, the intervention educated groups of helpers and lay health advisors on the sources of lead, importance of blood lead screening, hygienic prevention measures, safe play surfaces, the importance of proper nutrition, and the consequences of poor housekeeping (Kegler et al., 2010).    hand-wash.jpgFollowing the introduction of awareness to the issue, the groups interacted with the community through social networking, participation in community events, health fairs, the county fair, kindergarten screenings and block parties.  By training two small groups of 64 individuals on information relating to lead and lead exposure, they were able to raise awareness to almost 40,000 people in the community. 

The effectiveness of the intervention was measured by comparing outcome variables between communities where the intervention did and did not occur.  Such variables representing the effectiveness of the intervention included: blood lead levels in young children, frequency of use of lead exposure preventative behaviors, and blood lead level screening rates.  The outcome of the intervention reported significant increases in passive measures of caregivers such as instructing children to wash their hands before meals and increases in active measures of children such as washing their hands on a more frequent basis in comparison to the non community-based education group; significant increases were also seen in blood lead screenings among both groups which may be in part due to the intervention, as well as annual testing being promoted by the county health department for the non intervention group (Kegler et al., 2010). 

noLead5.jpgWhile targeting the direct caregivers to children provides for effective prevention strategies for lead poisoning, targeting indirect caregivers, such as medical personnel, can also have an impact on exposure rates and outcomes.  Polivka et al. (2009) used an intervention which targeted medical professionals as an important mediator in the prevention and treatment of childhood lead poisoning.  The Pediatric Lead Assessment Network Education Training (PLANET) program increased awareness, to medical professionals, of preventative methods to exposure, the importance of lead screenings, and the effects and outcomes of elevated blood lead levels in children (Polivka et al., 2009).  Through pre and post measures of participants, as well as screening rates reported by the health department, the effectiveness of the intervention was seen in the increased attitudes and knowledge of participants versus non participants as well as the improved screening rates among physicians who had participated in the PLANET program versus those who had not.  It seems it would be safe to say that the most effective interventions to combat occurrences of childhood lead poisoning would be to approach all of the systems which contribute to the development of the child; by increasing awareness of the issue, including pathways to exposure and preventative methods, caregivers and children alike will be able to implement both passive and active measures towards prevention of exposure.
            Similar to the PLANET program, through
Americorps, I have personal experience being part of a lead poisoning prevention and remediation program which included physician participation in its design.  CLEAR Corps (Community Lead Education and Reduction Corps) is a program which takes a whole systems approach to childhood lead poisoning prevention and remediation.  Through partnerships with health departments, government assistance agencies, schools, and the community, CLEAR Corps effectively intervenes childhood lead poisoning for low income children.  Although the overall program design does not provide direct education to health care providers, it indirectly requires health care providers to collect blood lead levels from young children receiving medical assistance through the government.  Once elevated blood lead levels are reported to the health department, they continue by assessing potential lead hazards in the home of the child.  CLEAR Corps offers in-home education to families who have children with elevated blood lead levels, as well as abatement and hazard reduction services in order to remove the injury vector; post-service assessments are then conducted by the health department as to ensure the safety of the child and family.  Additionally, with consideration to more preventative measures, CLEAR Corps frequently presents educational outreach programs in schools and throughout the community and offers HEPA vacuum loan programs so that families can safely remove lead dust from the home.  By encompassing a multitude of systems which contribute to the development of children, CLEAR Corps effectively prevents and remediates childhood lead poisoning for low-income children.

The development and continuation of programs such as PLANET and CLEAR Corps is essential in reducing occurrences of childhood lead poisoning among our children.  Research has shown that outreach programs geared towards education and awareness, favorably influence rates of childhood lead poisoning.  In order to combat instances of lead poisoning among children, and protect the developmental outcomes of children at-risk, further implementation of programs which create awareness to the systems of children should persist with full support from community members as well as government agencies.

 

 

References

Kegler, M.C., Malcoe, H.L., & Fedirco, V., (2010). Primary prevention of lead poisoning in rural Native American Children: Behavioral outcomes from a community-based intervention in a former mining region.  Family Community Health, 33 (1), pp. 32-43.

Pichery, C., Bellanger, M., Zmirou-Navier, D., Glorennec, P., Hartemann, P., & Grandjean, P., (2011). Childhood lead exposure in France: benefit estimization and partial cost-benefit analysis of lead hazard control.  Environmental Health, 10 (44).

Polivka, B.J., Chaudry, R.V., and Sharrock, T., (2009). Using mixed methods to evaluate the Pediatric Lead Assessment Network Education Training program (PLANET). Evaluation & the Health Professionals, 32 (1), pp.23-37.

A famous Latin saying by the Roman poet Juvenal states "Mens sana in corpora sano" which translates as "a healthy mind in a healthy body" (Juvenal, 55AD-127AD). This saying implies and amplifies that both mental and physical heath are essential for an individual's wellbeing. I believe this saying is relative regarding the concept of the biopsychosocial model of health and illness. This model sees health as being determined and influenced by biological, psychological and social factors and illness is a consequence of the interplay of these factors (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005; Taylor, 2012). Today we are more aware than any time before about the negative consequences that certain personal behaviors have on our health. For instance smokers have heard numerous times, from the media, friends and other sources, that smoking is bad for their heath. Similarly an overweight have heard that being overweight is not good for one's heath. Considering the biopsychosocial model one could say that there are biological variables that cause this behavior such as genetic variables, psychological variables such as copping with stress and social variables such as socioeconomic factors. A relatively new field in applied psychology that follows this model is heath psychology which examines the psychological and social factors that will help in the enhancement of health, the prevention and treatment of illness and the evaluation and modification of health policies that concern our health care system (Taylor, 2012).  Health psychology, as a field of applied psychology, is interested in both understanding issues relating heath promotion and prevention, and also in developing interventions in order to help people to maintain and improve their health. Social psychology also contributes to health related issues and it focuses on the social influences from the biopsychosocial model factors. Social influences are concerned with how the interaction with others can lead to a change in one's attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors. Considering the issue of overweight and obesity, that affects millions of people in our country and around world, social psychology focuses on the social variables that influence people to become overweight and obese. By gaining a better understanding of social factors that relate to this issue applied social psychology could develop programs that deal with heath promotion and prevention.  

Obesity is a serious heath compromising behavior and the statistical facts are alarming. Based on a national survey of health behaviors and nutrition, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), states that 66 percent of American adults are considered overweight and 32 percent are obese, and the percentages are projected to increase (Donatelle, 2008). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 500 million people worldwide are obese and 1.5 billion are overweight, including 43 million children under age 5 (World Health Organization[WHO],2011). It has been reported that obesity will soon account for more diseases and deaths in United States than smoking (Taylor, 2012; Donatelle, 2008). Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat and is related to serious health risks such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, several cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, gall stones and several more health issues (Taylor 2012; Marieb & Hoehn, 2010).

 There are several factors that could lead one to be overweight or obese and the biopsychosocial model can be used to understand these factors. One of them is biological factors   which include genetic susceptibility, increased number of adisope cells formed during childhood, hormonal imbalance such thyroxine produced be the thyroid gland, and several more (Marieb & Hoehn, 2010). Psychological factors are also responsible for obesity such as depression and stress. Each individual responds differently while being depressed or stressed regarding food consumption, and some people tend to eat more when under stress while others to eat less. However it is well established that stress affects eating and one cause is from removing one's self-control regarding how much they should eat (Taylor, 2012). Also for those who eat while depressed or stressed they are more likely to consume sweet and high-fat foods (Taylor, 2012). Many of us can probably relate with this and can think of several examples of eating under stress. For instance I always gain around two to four pounds during midterms or finals week as the chocolate cookies vanilla ice-cream seem irresistible and extremely satisfying during these periods.

The third factor of the biopsychosocial model is the social factor and as mentioned above is the main focus of social psychology. When it comes to obesity there are a great variety of social variables that contribute to one being overweight and obese. For instant today we are bombarded with advertisements for fast food restaurants and high calorie prepackaged foods. As reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the food industry spent over $7 billion in advertisement in 1997 (Gallo, n.d.). The media is able to influence our attitudes and beliefs and the clever use of persuasive messages can shape behaviors and attitudes. Additionally another norm today concerning food is the super-sized portions that contribute to an increase in caloric intake and consequently in super-sizing the consumer as well. Another social issue related to the obesity variable are socioeconomic factors. For instance a study revealed that women of low socioeconomic status (SES) are heavier than high-SES women (Taylor, 2012). An explanation for this could be the fact that high-fat and processed foods are cheaper than nutritious and fresh foods such as vegetables and fish. Also social and family interaction could affect one to become obese as eating habits can be influence by others. Other social factors could be educational level, employment and cultural influences.   

Understanding why a health problem occurs is one thing but attempting to prevent and alleviate them is another important part. Understudying the reasons for obesity is important but more important is to find ways to stop and prevent this trend. Health promotion is any effort that encourages people to engage in healthy behaviors such having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Health promotion has multiple levels and one could involve the effort of an individual to adopt a healthy life style. Furthermore medical and health practitioners could be more involved in health promotion by educating people about appropriate health behaviors and how to promote their health. Additionally the community, and government health policy makers and mass media could become more involved in health promotion by developing appropriate legislation and educational programs and appropriate communicative messages respectively (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005;Taylor,2012). An important point is that health promotion does not solely target illness prevention but also focuses on the adaptation of ways that will promote our health and wellbeing. Health promotion programs could be effective to impact the problem of obesity and could promote and educate people on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and how to combat obesity. For instance government, educational campaigns and the media could target promoting a healthy lifestyle and teach people how to adopt a healthy diet. Furthermore legislation could help towards this cause by creating standards that could help the general public health. For instance U.S. states such as New York and Californian have passed laws that ban the use of trans fat oils in restaurants and several more states are considering to do the same (The New York Times, 2008 [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/us/26fats.html]). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have established specific requirements for food labeling. An example is the requirement for all food labels to list the grams of trans fat in order to help consumer food choices (U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], 2011). All these types of legislation focus on health promotion and try to control specific factors that could lead to obesity and associated health problems. Therefore interventions that target all levels of health promotion could be effective in combating obesity.    

 When referring to prevention efforts are focused on reducing the probability and risk factors of becoming ill and also on reducing the severity of an illness once it occurs (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Prevention has several stages such as primary prevention, which aims on keeping people healthy by avoiding risk factors at the onset. Secondary prevention focuses on preventing further development of a disease once it has occurred and tertiary prevention which is the stage where focus is placed on decreasing the negative impacts of a disease that has already occurred and progressed. Regarding the issue of obesity primary prevention would be beneficial if children and young adults are targeted. As mentioned social influences could shape and affect health behaviors. Children are influenced by family, friends and school regarding many of their behaviors and habits including eating habits. Family based interventions and school bases interventions could be helpful in directing and modifying health behaviors relating to healthy eating habits. Family interventions have been considered one of the most successful ways to promote modifications in eating habits as all the family members are committed to this cause and there is great influence and support among them in order to succeed this cause (Taylor, 2012). Also as the social learning theory states people learn behaviors by observing and imitating others. Therefore it is important for parents to adopt and practice healthy eating habits as these are what their children would try to model. Furthermore consideration should be placed on the model of the window of vulnerability which states that influences of parents in health related issues will be important throughout life but there is an important critical period, mainly during adolescence, where young people are vulnerable to other social influences that may lead them to different health behaviors and beliefs (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Therefore a consistent parenting style that promotes healthy eating and behaviors is important in order to safeguard the continuity of healthy behaviors in later years. Additionally children and adolescents spend a lot of time in educational institutions and school-based programs and targeting healthy habits could be beneficial in decreasing obesity rates. A school program could focus on promoting healthy food options and increase its curriculum with options for physical activities. Adding healthy food options in school cafeterias and removing high-fat foods could help children to adapt to healthy eating. Also having classes relating to nutrition and health promotion, and include more options for engagement in sports could prove beneficial. Secondary and tertiary prevention could also be utilized to help people who are already overweight and obese. Appropriate programs could help those who are overweight and obese to recover and reach a healthy weight. Such programs could focus on increasing their motivation to change, provide adequate information on how to do this, on providing social support.

As stated in the beginning by gaining better understanding of social factors related to obesity several programs could be developed focusing in health promotion and prevention. Programs targeting increasing people's awareness about how to maintain a healthy diet and weight and also to help them change bad health habits could be beneficial towards reducing obesity rates. Certainly biological factors are relevant and are important regarding the issue of obesity. However social factors have an important role as well and appropriately developed programs targeting social influences could improve and help towards reducing the rates of obesity and enhance health promotion behaviors.   

 

  

References:

 

Donatelle, R.J. (2008). Access to health (10th e.d.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

 

Gallo, A. E. (n.d.) Food advertising in the United States. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieve from" http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib750/aib750i.pdf

 

Marieb, E.N.& Hoehn K. (2010). Human anatomy & physiology (8th e.d.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

 

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2011). Applied Social Psychology: Theory and research methods. Retrieved online at: https://cms.psu.edu

 

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

 

Steinhauel, J. (2008, July). California bas restaurant use of trans fats. The New York Times. Retrieve from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/us/26fats.html

 

Taylor, S.E. (2012). Health Psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/index.htm

 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2011). Labeling and nutrition: Food labeling and nutrition overview. Retrieve from:  http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/default.htm

 

World Health Organization. (2011, March). Obesity and overweight-Fact sheet N.311. Retrieve form:  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index.html

Gender Diversity: Long Live the Queen

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We gather industry by watching the ant.  Carrying mass far greater than its own body weight, diligently this creature works to care for today, and prepare for tomorrow. Though they may sting a predator, or an occasional foot on their home, ultimately each of these insects shows a zealous energy.  Do we know the male from the female at first sight?  Unless we happen to be an etymologist, the only thing we want to know is how to get them out of our yard or house; gender is not our concern. Yet, why do humans perpetuate the inequalities of gender?  In reality, there will always be human gender intergroup conflict.  No two people, just because of gender, will look at each situation through the same eyes. It is necessary to develop a strategy to eliminate gender bias, and see a society that recognizes attributes based on abilities, and not outward appearance.
           Though the Women's Liberation Movement may have addressed these differences, they are far from being resolved.  For instance, Time magazine relates that women, in 2008, made as much as 33 percent less than their male colleagues (Fitzpatrick, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983185,00.html).  Can this really be so in our day and time?  I thought about my own work experience for a moment. My husband and I have the same job descriptions, and work for the same company.  Granted, he has been there two years my senior, so this first statistic may not be fair; however, he makes 14.1 percent more than I do.  Taking the two year seniority into account, I factored in the company's standard raise algorithm, and projected my salary within two years; still 8.9 percent less than he makes. 

How can this be?  Are women a lesser creature?  Are we less responsible, intelligent, and articulate? Hardly can that be said. What is demonstrated is a classic social predisposition inculcated in our modern society, "benevolent sexism" (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p. 340.) This is not the outright, hostile type of gender stereotyping.  Instead, Schneider et al. believes this is a way that women are seen as "limited" and "the weaker sex" in comparison to a man (p. 343). Unfortunately, our society has allowed this comparison of gender to continue. Society has formed a bias towards diversity, and people do not like to stray from their cultural norm.  People do not want to suffer isolation even if they are defending what is right.  Remember our ant?  Let it be said, the colonies are made up of mainly females (Oster, and Wilson,1978, pp.21-22).  All that hard work, all that defense, all the preservation of the colony is typically done by the female ants.  Now, if female ants are capable of being that strong, why would we ever think less of a female human?

Emotionally, women are not a lesser creature either, just different.  Maybe a movie stirs a different feeling internally from that of a male. Nonetheless, a wide variety of feelings are instilled in a female that balances out a male.   From the emotional standpoint, females bring a balance to the testosterone-laden environment, many times buffering a potential conflagration.  This includes the environment at work.  If emotional abilities are not to blame for this bias could it have stemmed from intellectual prowess? Simply put, no. Cognitively, the double X chromosome human is among the greatest of thinkers; rivaling the so-called magnificent Aristotle. In fact, Christensen (2011) states that female world leaders represent today over 25 positions within the United Nations ( http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/index.html).  Furthermore, television sitcoms show the mother as raising children, running errands, caring for numerous domestic duties, and still capable of an empowering career.  Today, there is no question of women's intellect; less an occasional individual, and even that is not necessarily gender controlled.

 This prejudice is almost subconscious on a cognitive level. The categorical views of men versus women have been a historical injustice.  Rather than looking at the strengths of each and meshing them together for unity, the negative, selfish character has pulled them into predisposed stereotypes.   What is needed is an awakening, an answer to our why questions.  We need workable solutions resulting in symmetry.  An interesting statement is that "wars begin in human minds." (Myers, 2009, p. cdxxxv)  There is an old saying, "You cannot shake hands with clinched fists."  These statements highlight the direction humanity must go if this gender disproportion is to be rectified.   Perhaps we need to find areas that promote a goal's achievement by means of a single interest or activity, and employ a concerted effort of both genders to reach that commonality.  Is this possible?  The answer is as tangible as altruistic efforts.

In reality, there will always be conflict.  No two personalities are made from the same moral fiber.  No two people, just because of gender, will look at each situation through the same eyes. Yet, in the end, males and females must coexist.  Their common goal is to survive. Every day females are in need of role models that show their strength.  In contrast, males need experiences that reinforce their perception of women as both strong and of equal caliber.  The days of a "damsel in distress" should be replaced, in an effort, to ensure that enemy perception is no longer mirroring genders against each other. If we can solidify the image of an able-bodied, capable woman within our current society, then we can combat the stigma of a weaker woman.  To do so, we need to muster courage and endurance against current cultural norms. It is possible to change a nation and a culture, but it takes time.  Furthermore, in a colony, the female ant is queen, worker, and defender. Why can it not be so in the human species?

 

References:

Christensen, M., (2011). Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/index.html


 Fitzpatrick, L., (2010). Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men? Time. Retrieved from: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983185,00.html


Goldberg, P. (1968). "Are Women Prejudiced Against Women?". Trans-action (Philadelphia) (0041-1035), 5 (5), p. 28.
 
Meyers, D. (2009). Psychology in Everyday Life. New York: Worth Publishers
 
 Oster, G., Wilson, E.(1978). Caste and Ecology in the Social Insects. Princeton University Press, Princeton.. pp. 21-22.
 

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

The Social Construction of Gender

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Gender is socially constructed and a result of sociocultural influences throughout an individual's development (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Gender identity can be affected by, and is different from one society to another depending on the way the members of society evaluate the role of females and males. Our gender identity can be influenced from the ethnicity of the group, their historical and cultural background, family values and religion. Often people confuse or misuse the terms gender and sex. The term sex refers to the biological distinction of being male and female (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). To make the distinction clearer one could consider that we inherit the sex but we learn our gender (Boss, 2008). Gender is a structural feature of society and the sociological significance of gender is that it is a devise by which society controls its members (Henslin, 2006). Gender like social class and race can be used to socially categorize people and even lead to prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is a set of attitudes, more likely unfavorable, towards members of a group (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Discrimination is overt negative behaviors towards a person based on his or her membership in a group (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). When there is differential treatment of people based on their sex the term sexism defines this behavior. Sexism refers to any bias against an individual or group based on the individual's or group's sex (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p.340). Gender discrimination is another way one could define sexism and in particular this is associated with discrimination and stereotyped beliefs against women. Stereotypes are beliefs about the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors of members of certain groups and most of them are socioculturally based (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Stereotype ideas and beliefs regarding women, although they have been changed and improved, are still evident in our country and in other modern cultures. Unfortunately in several countries around the world such as Arabian courtiers, Africa and India things have not changed much and women are still considered a minority and do not have equal access and rights in their societies as do males (Henslin, 2006). This variation regarding gender around the world makes prominent that gender identity is influenced by social variables and has little to do with biological variables. 

The idea of social construction of gender sees society, not biological sex differences, as the basis for gender identity (Anderson, Logio & Taylor, 2005). There are many different processes by which the expectations associated with being a boy or a girl is passed on through society. For instance one could see this from the moment a child comes into the world and from the fact that he/she has to face a "blue" or "pink" reality. I recently attended a baby shower party and I was shocked first by the amount of items a baby needs and even more about the color choice of each item. Everything was pink, as a baby girl was expected, and honestly I never imaged how many different shades of pink actually exist for products such as baby clothes. The house decoration was pink, people were wearing pink or pastel colors, all the gift wrappers pink as well as the gifts themselves. My gift was one of the few items of a different color, as I chose yellow and light purple items, which was actually a challenging task to find as most of the items in the store I shopped were blue or pink. The social construction of gender could be further been seen by the way parents behave to their children, by their expectations about how their children should behave and act, and by the toys they buy for them. For example girls are supposed to play with dolls and be sweet and emotional and boys are supposed to play with action figures and be aggressive and rational. Therefore clothes, toys, and even the language used with young children follow the trend of stereotyping gender. Children learn by modeling and the messages they receive and act accordingly. An example similar to the dress code we having for children can also be seen with adults, particularly in the colors, fabrics and designs specific to each gender. Another example is the situation of a female working in the business field that is expected to dress in masculine way in order to be considered successful and to be taken more seriously. This could demonstrate again how social influences affect gender expectations and shape behaviors and norm regarding gender.

Apart from the family, which is the first agent of socialization and learning gender identity, children learn from other sources such as school. Starting from the first years of school, including day care center years, children learn their gender identity from playing and interacting with other children and care providers. By visiting a child care program one may notice that the environment is arranged in ways to promote gender identity. Most likely there will be an area staged as the housekeeping corner where girls the play and there will be another area with building blocks and tool kit items where the boys play. However it is believed by several that the kind of toys and roles children play affect their future and the skills they learn. Playing with blocks is considered giving experience in spatial relations and in mathematical concepts, where playing with dolls and dramatic role playing is associated with learning to be a nurturer (Conzalez-Mena, 2006). As children grow more stereotype ideas are involve regarding which subjects are favorable and suitable for each gender. For instance the most obvious example is math and probably all of us have heard the notion that boys are better in math than girls. Therefore one could see that again social influence affects perception about gender identity and roles. However perceptions such as this can lead to stereotype threads which are the fear or nervousness that one's behavior will exemplify a negative stereotype about his in-group and thereby in essence confirming the accuracy of the stereotype.

Furthermore the media also affects and influences gender identity. For instance children are constantly bombarded with shows depicting gender stereotype models from toys marketed as for boys or girls, to children's TV programs and shows. It is common for the children's programs to emphasize the role of the male "hero" who saves the weak female. Children interpret these messages as "real life" which shapes their reality, behavior, and expectations of their gender role. However, the social construction of gender does not happen only once and does not stop with children. It continues throughout the rest of our lives and influences our perspective and the way we view things and situations. Regarding the media one is able to see an example of gender stereotyping by observing the messages of advertisements. Recently I had conversation with my husband relating to the issue of sexism regarding a car show he was watching on TV where standing next to the new cars were beautiful female models. My comment was that is an example of benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism involves the attribution of typically positive traits or qualities towards women but these traits are derive from stereotypes that see  women in limited ways and often stem from male-centered perspectives (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). My husband did not want to accept this and he argued that male models are sometimes used as well. We end up watching the car show for over an hour in order to find a male model next to a car but we did not see any.

Additionally cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes have a serious impact on gender identity and in many cases promote stereotype beliefs against women and lead to gender discrimination. When it comes to culture and religious influences in a society regarding the view of gender I believe the concept of institutionalized sexism is appropriate to describe this situation. Institutionalized sexism is the sexist attitudes that are held by the vast majority of people living in a society where stereotypes and discrimination are the norm (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011). When a society has specific norms people living within the society will adapt to them and they will do the same even for discriminatory norms. For instance when a society, due to religious and cultural reasons, view women as weak or inferior people living within the society will develop the same views and will act accordingly. One can see this for example in many Muslim countries and also with different religious groups, even in our own country.  People tend to conform to their group and will do the same even when they engage in discriminatory behaviors as they want to fit in and be accepted by their group which is known as normative conformity (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011).

Society constructs our gender and categorizes its members similar as it does with age, ethnicity, race, social class and status. However the categorization according to gender is another way of manipulating members of a society and to promote inequalities. There are obvious biological and anthropological differences between the two sexes but we cannot use these differences to infer conclusions and provide stereotyped models about gender. As mentioned in the beginning sexism is the term that accounts for gender discrimination and has different forms. One of them already mentioned is benevolent sexism characterized by positive but stereotyped views of women. Contrarily another form is hostile sexism which is characterized by negative stereotypical views towards women. For instance hostile sexism views of women are centered on beliefs that women are inferior to men due to superficial views that one can hold again women. Lastly another form of sexism is ambivalent sexism which holds views of both hostile and benevolent sexist attitudes simultaneously (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). However no matter the form, sexism has overall negative consequences and results in stereotyping women, and even prejudice and discrimination. The United States of America and other developed countries have come a long way in trying to eliminate discrimination against women but there is still a room for improvement. Gender as mentioned above results from sociocultural influences. Research and theory derived from social psychology could be able to develop appropriate interventions that could target a vast range of individuals and institutions in order to promote equality of genders and eliminate gender discriminations.

 

 

 

References:

 

Andersen, M.L., Logio, K.A. & Taylor H.F. (2005). Understanding society: an introductory reader(2nd e.d.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. 

 

Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D. & Akert, R.M. (2011). Social Psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson.

 

Boss, J. (2008). Analyzing moral issues (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

 

Conzalez-Mena, J. (2006). The young child in the family and the community (4th e.d.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall

 

Henslin, J. M. (2006).Essentials of Sociology: A down-to-earth approach (6th e.d.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

 

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2011). Applied Social Psychology: Theory and research methods. Retrieved online at: https://cms.psu.edu

 

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

 

Today's Youth is Tomorrow's Future...

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    There is plenty of negativity that surrounds this topic. In such a highly diverse culture, it is imperative that we, as a society learn how to live with each other despite our differences. In a society that has learned to be intolerant of differences for centuries, how do we become tolerant people? I can tell you one thing, it will not happen over night. However, I firmly believe, as an early childhood educator, that if we want to defeat such problems that arise due to diversity in our culture, we need to start with the future and teach our children. I am not just talking about racism. There are millions of children and adults out there that have disabilities- cognitive and physical that are often stereotyped. People make opinions about the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors of this group of people in addition to different races and ethnicities (Schneider et al., 2005).
     Ultimately, we as humans are afraid of the unfamiliar. When faced with a fear like this, we often do not know how to react so we may act that out in hatred. In order to become familiar with individuals that are different from us, we need to come into contact with them. Only then will we learn more and even be prompted to WANT to learn more. When I was a kid I was terrified of this roller coaster called The Phoenix  (2010) at Knoeble's Grove Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. It took me a long time to work up the courage to get on that coaster. After riding one time, I immediately got off the roller coaster and ran back around to wait in line to get on for a second ride. Once I was able to get over my fear, I wanted more...and the second time was no big deal. Since that day, I have never been to that park without riding The Phoenix at least one time. While cultural diversity is no roller coaster, the same concept applies. If society can get over their fear of the unknown, then we can all function together.
    Gordon Allport's contact hypothesis is based on the belief that negative relationships can be improved by increasing positive contact between members (Schneider et al., 2005). As I stated before, I firmly believe that by desensitizing our youth to the differences between them, then it helps form future relationships and beliefs. I see this in action five days a week at my job. I work on a military base at the Child Development Center with 3-5 year olds. We are accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and have very specific requirements that we have to fulfill. Every lesson plan (weekly) must have a cultural component. We have multicultural art materials, multicultural props for dramatic play, multicultural cooking experience, multicultural books, and multicultural instruments. In addition to these materials we also have integrated small wheelchairs for the dolls, books on disabilities, and puzzles that support the integration of special needs. We hang up pictures of different cultures and disabilities for the children to see everyday. We have multiple children with autism and a child with moderate cerebral palsy that wears braces. It is truly amazing how helpful and understanding the children are of these differences just because they have been exposed to them. On any military base there are people from all walks of life and different ethnicities with different religious beliefs. I think these children get exposed to so much and hopefully, we can educate them and expose them enough that they will teach their children. I've seen the contact hypothesis in action and I think that it can work.
    The main problem with what I do at work is that I cannot follow the children home, so I cannot control what their parents teach them. However, being on a military base, I do not see a lot of issues with diversity (not saying there are none). Also, not all children attend a daycare. Not all children socialize with other children. I went to Catholic school in a small town. I could count the amount of African Americans in my school on one hand. While my parents were never outwardly racist, I do recall my mother making some stereotypical comments here and there which influenced how I thought. My own father was very against mixed race marriages and reproduction and I vividly remember him telling me that it was "not right." However, he did not seem to mind my marrying a Korean. I grew up with basically no contact with different cultures for a long time. Admittedly, I feared what I did not know. Now that I am older and have moved around and formed my own opinions and gotten to know a more diverse selection of people, I am not afraid. I guess the main point I would like to make is that I, personally had a very sheltered childhood and it did effect how I thought about the world, so we need to teach our youth that differences are okay and there is nothing to fear in hopes that they will teach each other and their offspring.





(2010). Phoenix roller coaster - knoebels - june 27, 2010. (2010). [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMuYCsJEIcQ&feature=related

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412915397

 

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