BY JAMIE CHAMBERLIN AND DEBORAH SMITH BAILEY Monitor staff
APA President Diane F. Halpern, PhD, has planned diverse presidential-track programming for members who attend APA's Annual Convention in Honolulu, July 28-Aug. 1. Here's a preview:
The day care scare
In the latest installment of the nation's debate over child care, research published last summer in Child Development (Vol. 74, No. 4) by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found that young children who spent more time in nonmaternal care were more likely to have conflicts with adults in kindergarten--even when controlling for the quality of care and family background.
However, the researchers characterized the effects as "modest," noting that factors like socioeconomic status and "maternal sensitivity" were more predictive of problem behavior. Moreover, children in nonmaternal care did better cognitively than their mother-raised peers.
The mixed findings did little to shed light on parents' perennial question: Is day care good or bad for my child?
Psychologists at a presidential-track session at APA's Annual Convention will argue that Americans should be asking different questions--given that for many parents, working outside the home is an economic necessity.
"The way this has been framed in terms of the 'mommy wars'"--that pit stay-at-home moms against working ones--"is incredibly counterproductive," says Nora S. Newcombe, PhD, the James H. Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Psychology at Temple University. The real debate, Newcombe argues, should center on Americans' beliefs about work.
"Americans work more hours than any other people in the entire world," she explains. "That diminishes our ability to have healthy families and to do a good job of being parents."
Creative alternatives are needed at work so that employees can better integrate work and family, adds session moderator Stewart Friedman, PhD, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and co-author of "Work and Family--Allies or Enemies?" (Oxford, 2000).
"Organizations are rewriting how to break out of the traditional models of employment," he explains. Many are developing policies--such as options to work at home and flexible scheduling--so their employees can be productive workers and meet their children's needs.
Indeed, parents' needs are often overlooked in examinations of child care, says session speaker Sandra Scarr, PhD, a University of Virginia emerita psychology professor who spent nine years on the Board of Directors of KinderCare Learning Centers, the nation's largest child-care company.
"We can advise parents about what kinds of child care will best meet their children's needs--bearing in mind that any one family has only a limited number of choices available to them," she explains.
To do that, psychologists and others must continue their research on child care's benefits and drawbacks, adds speaker Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD, a University of Michigan emerita psychology professor. For example, she says, researchers need to further analyze the ample data from the Child Development study, exploring such questions as which children were most vulnerable to the negative outcomes. Researchers can use that data to explore how day care settings can better help those children develop social skills.
* National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network. (2003). Does amount of time spent in child care predict socioemotional adjustment during the transition to kindergarten? Child Development, 74, 976-1005.
Presidential-track speaker Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, PhD, will discuss her work with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was set up by the government to help the country deal with and heal from the human rights abuses that happened under apartheid. In fact, the commission's hearings--held in the late 90s--offered an opportunity for victims of apartheid to confront perpetrators--"not in the adversarial context of a courtroom, but a process that seeks redress through public accountability," says Gobodo-Madikizela, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Cape Town.
In her talk, Gobodo-Madikizela will examine the psychological consequences of this type of victim-perpetrator encounter for both parties and the long-term benefits of publicly acknowledging human rights violations. She argues that these public encounters can break the cycle of violence that often repeats itself historically. And, she adds, they "ensure that yesterday's victims do not become tomorrow's perpetrators."
Gobodo-Madikizela's work with the TRC is described further in her book "A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness" (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003), which features interviews with the former apartheid government's chief assassin Eugene de Kock.
Gobodo-Madikizela is also a senior consultant with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, which runs a fellowship program on reconciliation and peace-building for young leaders from countries that have a history of violent conflict. Gobodo-Madikizela provides group therapy to the fellows, who come this year from Rwanda, Bosnia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burundi and Northern Ireland.
Life beyond the streets
In her presidential-track session, Norma Hotaling will address a different sort of trauma--that experienced by women and teenagers who work as prostitutes and live on the streets. Hotaling, a former prostitute herself, is the founder of the SAGE Project Inc., a San Francisco rehabilitation center that offers prostitutes mental health counseling and drug rehabilitation services to help them leave prostitution, heal from the trauma of sexual exploitation and transition into other jobs.
In her talk, she will discuss the types of services SAGE offers and describe how the center's unique approach to trauma recovery through peer education and holistic healing has helped former prostitutes begin new lives. She estimates that SAGE helped more than 2,000 women, men and teenagers last year.
Before founding SAGE in 1993, Hotaling worked as a prostitute and was addicted to heroin for more than 20 years. "We have trauma survivors and former prostitutes as staff, so the shame and stigma is alleviated immediately," says Hotaling. "We make sure when they come in the door they are celebrated and know that we are just happy they walked through that door alive."
The center also offers a holistic program that includes acupuncture, yoga, massage, and art and dance therapy. All of SAGE's 38 counselors, instructors and staff are former prostitutes, and SAGE also offers job opportunities as peer-counselors to clients.
Other featured speakers
Halpern has also selected the following speakers, which were featured in the February Monitor, to give lectures in her presidential-track sessions:
* Albert Bandura, PhD, on the use of social cognitive theory in entertainment-education--radio and television programs that model how people can improve their lives by, for example, encouraging national literacy.
* Sheldon Cohen, PhD, on the types of social interactions that ought to be considered when designing health-improvement interventions.
* Louis M. Herman, PhD, on the rational behavior of dolphins. Herman's studies have revealed that dolphins have rich cognitive potential.
* Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, on the psychology of fear that has followed Sept. 11, 2001.