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CIRP Welcomes Three New Committee Members

A primary focus of Dr. Maureen Black's international work has been the investigation of micronutrient deficiencies and child development. With funding from NIH, she was the principal investigator of a micronutrient supplementation trial in India.

By Amena Hassan

Each year, the Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) welcomes three new members, elected by the APA Council. Psychology International spoke with the newest colleagues, who begin their three year terms in 2009, about their backgrounds in psychology and the work they have done internationally: Maureen Black, PhD, Deanna Chitayat, PhD, and Florence Kaslow, PhD.

Dr. Maureen Black, University of Maryland

My interest in global issues began during graduate school when I took a semester off to study nutrition and child development in Bangladesh. I studied the language, made many friends, and learned first hand the central role that nutrition plays in the lives of children in developing countries. My career has continued to be focused around strategies to promote children’s nutrition and development both in the United States and in developing countries. Most of my publications are focused on nutrition and child development, including the role of maternal mental health and caregiving. Several years ago, the Scholl family endowed a professorship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to focus on the health and well-being of young children. I am honored to serve as the Scholl professor. I am a pediatric psychologist, meaning that I am interested in children’s behavior and development in the context of health and illness. I direct a Growth and Nutrition Clinic for children with poor growth (failure-to-thrive) and study the long term consequences of early growth failure and strategies to promote recovery. About 10 years ago, the directors of Growth and Nutrition Clinics in 5 cities throughout the country formed a network called the Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program (C-SNAP); soon to be renamed Children’s HealthWatch, headquartered at Boston Medical Center. We study how public policies are related to the health and well-being of young children and have collected data on over 30,000 low-income children and families. We examine the consequences of environmental threats, (e.g., food insecurity) and public assistance programs (e.g., WIC) on children’s health and development, and publish the findings in peer-reviewed journals and policy briefs.

On the other side of the nutritional spectrum, I am the principal investigator of two NIH and USDA-funded projects to evaluate obesity prevention projects among children. One project evaluates the impact of teaching parents of toddlers to use behavioral strategies, rather than food, to manage their children’s behavior and the other is a multi-level health promotion/ obesity prevention project among 6th and 7th grade girls in urban middle schools. I am also the principal investigator of an NIDA-funded project to examine the long-term consequences of prenatal substance exposure on adolescent brain and behavioral development.

A primary focus of my international work has been the investigation of micronutrient deficiencies and child development. With funding from NIH, I was the principal investigator of a micronutrient supplementation trial in India. In January 2007 several international colleagues and I, representing multiple disciplines, published a three-paper series on child development in The Lancet. The series concluded that over 219 million children in developing countries under age 5 are not meeting their developmental potential, that there are modifiable risk factors, and that although there are effective intervention programs, the implementation is low. The Lancet series attracted a lot of attention. Our team was invited to give over 20 presentations throughout the world and to consult with multiple countries on their plans for early child development programs.

I continue to be very involved in global issues related to nutrition and early child development. In the past year, I organized a meeting in Bellagio, Italy “Child development from a global perspective” sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation; edited a special issue of the European Journal of Nutrition on nutrition and cognition (August 2008); and organized a symposium entitled “Maternal and Child Mental Health: The Role of Nutrition” that was presented at the Experimental Biology meetings in San Diego (April 2008). The papers from the symposium will be published in a special section of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March 2009.

I work with several international agencies, UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, and GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) on initiatives promoting nutrition and child development. I am the chair of the Child Health Foundation, a non-profit organization to prevent and treat life-threatening communicable diseases of infants and children in the United States and abroad and I am the secretariat of a recently formed group of professionals interested in infant feeding, the International Responsive Feeding Consortium.

I have been involved with APA for many years. I served as president of Divisions 37 (Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice) and 54 (Society of Pediatric Psychology); fellow in Divisions 7, 37, 53, 54; and member in Division 52. I am honored to serve on the Committee of International Relations in Psychology. My goal is to focus attention on strategies to promote early child development in developing countries by ensuring healthy nutrition and support for maternal mental health and caregiving.

Dr. Deanna Chitayat, Hofstra University (emeritus)

I received my PhD in experimental psychology from the New School for Social Research, where I did a dissertation on Perceptual Adaptation. What I do now is a far cry from what I did then. I spent quite a few years at the CUNY graduate center where I was awarded many grants, in fact, mostly everything I applied for. It was the beginning of the women’s’ movement and I became interested in doing programs for women and minorities at all stages of their career development, including a mentoring program for female and minority faculty at CUNY, as well as state-wide programs in sex equity. During the years I was there I was awarded 21 grants and 2 million dollars in funding.

My interest in international psychology developed incrementally. While at CUNY Graduate Center, I participated with a group of anthropologists who were studying the Black Lahu tribe living in the hills of Thailand, on the Myanmar border. I worked with the adults and children doing Piaget tests, observing women’s and men’s roles, and becoming entirely fascinated with that whole experience. It was one of the highlights of my life, in fact. Several years later I met Kurt Salzinger who was then President of the New York Academy of Sciences and who had been invited to the Soviet Union to meet with the head of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. I went along as a friend of Kurt’s but also as a colleague and a fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. Both of us participated in high level meetings with the President of the Soviet Academy. Dr. Salzinger engaged them on the issue of Dr. Sakharov and refusenik scientists. They asked me to participate on the subject of women, so I gave talks there and got to observe children’s preschool programs. We had a lot of interaction with Russian psychologists.

I left the graduate center of CUNY when I was offered a position as the Dean of University College at Hofstra University, where I remained for 21 years until my retirement in 2003. During that time the Soviet Union was dismantled. Suddenly Russians became interested in capitalism! With the assistance of the School of Business I quickly developed new programs that met their needs. I had 12 groups of 30 to 40 Russians (about 400 Russians) visiting the Hofstra Campus in the first year. We also had people coming in from Egypt and other areas, again enhancing my interest in international affairs. In 2005, I became a member of the APA-UN/NGO team and have been working extensively mostly on women and minority issues. When John Anderson [Director, APA Office on AIDS] asked us to keep an eye on HIV/AIDS issues, I became involved with that also, subsequently becoming vice chair of the HIV/AIDS committee. In the last 3 years I have organized and/or participated in at least eighteen programs and various panels that deal with women, minorities, or HIV/ AIDS. I’m just beginning to get involved in the UNICEF Working Group on Girls, especially in the area of violence against children. You can attend many different meetings at the UN but if you want to do a good job and really make a contribution one should focus on only two. So my focus will continue to be on the Committee on the Status of Women and the Committee on HIV/AIDS.

For CIRP, I do know I can bring a realistic view about what we do at the UN, what happens at the UN and how to make contact. I hope to be using CIRP as a resource for the programs and panels I put together and am hoping that members of CIRP know people who can help me fill these panels, since I am always looking for psychologists to speak at the UN. It’s been wonderfully interesting to work on issues that are in the news every day. Even though we are not working in politics, at the UN, we are working on policies related to social and economic issues. You meet people from every corner of the world and every kind of group—not just professional groups and NGOs but everything from the Homemakers of America to the AARP. I’ve also had more contact with religious groups— anything from Baha’i to Catholic nuns whom I work with all the time. Each day offers new opportunities to participate and to learn.

Dr. Florence Kaslow, Couples and Family Institute, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and Mercer Medical University

I think I wanted to be a psychologist since I was very young. I was sort of the “family psychologist” for my own family, growing up, trying to solve problems and trying to interrelate and stay close to a large extended family of origin. I was taught a great deal of respect for my family and for my elders. Both of my parents emigrated with their families from Eastern Europe when they were less than five years old. There was always that influence of hearing about the old country, how things were different, how wonderful America was, and we were taught to really revere growing up in a democratic country. That started my interest very early in other places in the world and multiculturalism. However, we were too poor to travel so that did not start doing that until I got married. But before I got married, my interest was expressed and nurtured when I was an American hostess at Temple University’s Freshman Camp and many of the students who attended were there from other countries. When I went for my master’s degree at Ohio State University, I decided that I wanted to live at the Zonta International house – which was a women’s international house. I was one of four American students in a house of sixteen women so I had loads of living experience with women of other countries, which was marvelous. I also attended social events with them and shared many confidences. After I graduated and got married, my husband and I (and later with our children) served as a host family for international students through the University of Pennsylvania, each year hosting a student from another country. So my international interests and activities go back many decades.

Soon after I got my doctorate I started travelling on professional trips as I was invited to other countries. I was fortunate that my husband and children usually travelled with me overseas and that opened many doors because there weren’t many women at that time who were invited to foreign countries and it made me seem more acceptable and respectable. My first trip was in 1974 to Japan and we were invited to colleagues’ homes, which was a high honor, because I was with a family! It was delightful because we got to see the typical tourist items but we also were able to participate with the families who took us around and hosted us in their own surroundings. That has been true for all of my travels and has been a special privilege.

In 1987 I was at an international conference in the Czech Republic and realized there was a need for an International Family Therapy Association. We formed it and I was the first president for four years. I stayed on that Board for 16 years. Then in 1990, IAAP met in Japan and another group decided it was time to have an organization for just family psychologists. I was asked to be the only female member of that board and then later became its president. One of the books that came out of my work with colleagues around the world was Together Through Thick and Thin: A Multinational Picture of Longterm Marriages. Colleagues from eight countries participated in that and the research has now been replicated in a ninth country. One of the interesting things that eventuated out of IFTA is that I led, at the international family therapy meetings, an annual Holocaust Dialogue Group between colleagues from Israel, Germany and Austria. That work has been very significant for me and for the participants and two of the people who authored Together Through Thick and Thin were an Israeli and a German who originally met in that group.

Another example of research with international collaborators is a book called Welcome Home: An International and Non-Traditional Traditional Adoption Reader. It’s about international adoptions, written primarily by people who did the adopting. I was coeditor with Dr. Lita Linzer Schwartz. Although all of the contributing authors are professionals, they wrote as parents. Several of the chapters were written by colleagues from Sweden so we have a cross cultural book about international adoption from many countries. There were over 20,000 international adoptions in 2004 in the United States alone. A third international book is the Handbook of Family Business and Family Business Consultation: A Global Perspective. I was editor as well as a co-author and some of the chapters are written by colleagues from 12 different countries. These are three examples of what I have researched and written on international topics with colleagues, many from other lands.

I also served on CIRP in the 1980s and enjoyed it very much. I think it has changed enormously since then. Two of the things I would like to work on are a closer relationship between CIRP and APA’s UN/NGO delegation and to see CIRP have an opportunity to give more reports at Council, especially since I’ve just finished six years on the APA Council. I think many people on Council, are unaware of all that APA is doing in international psychology. In 2007, when President Sharon Brehm invited presidents from the psychology associations of other countries, it was a marvelous start. I’d like to see CIRP’s influence continue to emphasize these types of contacts. Along with that, and our support of being represented at the International System for Diagnois and Classification (ICD) conferences—I want us to continue having as much representation in international forums as we can, as well as bringing guests here to promote a two-way exchange. Ψ