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Bronfenbrenner talk highlights inequalities in children’s health

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_R2T0680.jpgBy Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

University of Pittsburgh professor Karen Matthews explored biological links to persistent social inequalities in childhood health during the 2017 Bronfenbrenner Lecture, held June 15 in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall.

Hosted by the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in the College of Human Ecology, Matthews guided nearly 50 audience members through the most recent research on the inequality in health between children in different socio-economic groups.

“I was given the task of trying to lay out some of the key biological pathways that might be important in understanding connections between the social environment and children’s health,” said Matthews, a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and professor of epidemiology, psychology, and clinical and translational science at Pittsburgh. “And this is really a daunting task because there are so many things that impinge on children’s development that are important in this context; one could spend an entire semester on this topic.”

The lecture highlighted the mission of the Bronfenbrenner Center and the work of the late Cornell scientist Urie Bronfenbrenner, whose ecological systems theory recognized the need to consider multiple levels of interacting influences on a child’s development, including family, community and the greater culture.

Matthews’ work addresses the psychosocial and biological connections between socio-demographic factors and poor health; the development of cardiovascular behavioral risk factors in childhood and adolescence; the influence of menopause on women’s health; and the role of stress-induced physiological responses and sleep in the etiology of heart disease and hypertension.

Matthews stressed that poverty and low socio-economic standing are about more than dollars and cents; they also involve a slew of environmental and psychological factors that can impact a child’s development. Family turmoil, exposure to community violence, early childhood separation, substandard housing and exposure to toxins, noise and crowding all can impact a child’s health, she said.

“As you can imagine, poverty in childhood is not simply low income relative to needs, but also exposure to disadvantaged environments more generally,” she said. “Research points to 65 percent of median-income children in the analysis had zero or one of these particular exposures, whereas the poor had three to four.”

Matthews also reviewed how day-to-day factors can impact several of a child’s physiological systems including the cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and sympathetic nervous systems.

“A number of the theories of how low socio-economic status or poverty gets under the skin of children have to do with exposure to chronic stress,” Matthews said. “Emotional stressors impact the cerebral cortex, which in turn impacts the hypothalamus, which activates corticotropin-releasing hormone and eventually leads to the release of cortisol.”

Cortisol, a byproduct of chronic stress, increases the risk of numerous health problems including anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain and concentration impairment, she said.

“You can imagine that this environment would not be conducive to positive children’s health,” Matthews said.

Matthews concluded the lecture with ideas for, and a small discussion about, future research focusing both on additional physiological parameters as well as holistic data measurement and research design that narrows down models for easier analysis.

She also discussed interventions that are considered low-hanging fruit. These include policy changes to prevent exposure to toxins, such as lead exposure through water pipes, and public service commitments to inform families about the research to help them make changes at home.

Bronfenbrenner talk highlights inequalities in children's health - Cornell Chronicle

 

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2017 Bronfenbrenner Lecture: Karen Matthews, Thursday, June 15, 2017

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Karen Matthews

Biological Pathways in Childhood Poverty, Health, Well-being, and Behavior
Karen Matthews, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Thursday, June 15, 2017
9:00 - 10:00 AM
G71 MVR Hall



There are strong and ubiquitous social gradients in childhood health. This talk will examine underlying biological explanations for social inequalities in child health and lay out some strategies for improving research on these pathways. Professor Matthews will review several physiological systems including HPA axis, cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory, and the sympathetic nervous system. She will then go in detail about sleep, the brain, and metabolic dysregulation including obesity. Ideas for future research will focus both on additional physiological parameters as well as measurement and research design issues.

Dr. Karen Matthews is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Epidemiology, Psychology, and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is Program Director of the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Training Program.  Her work addresses the psychosocial and biological pathways connecting sociodemographic factors and poor health; development of cardiovascular behavioral risk factors in childhood and adolescence; the influence of menopause on women’s health; and the role of stress-induced physiological responses and sleep in the etiology of heart disease and hypertension.   Dr. Matthews is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.  She has previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Health Psychology, and as President of the American Psychosomatic Society and the Health Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association (APA).  Dr. Matthews has won a number of honors, including the 2005 American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology and awards from the American Heart Association, APA Health Psychology and Pediatric Psychology Divisions, Society of Behavioral Medicine, North American Menopause Society, American Psychosomatic Society, and the Association of Psychological Science.  She received her B.A. degree from University of California at Berkeley, her Ph. D. from the University of Texas, Austin, and a Ph.D. (Honoris Causa) from University of Helsinki, Finland. 

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View videos from fall BCTR talks

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Videos from our fall events are now online, in case you missed them or want to revisit the events. Videos are embedded below (when possible) and all are permanently archived in our media library.

 

2015 Iscol Lecture:
Workforce of the Future

October 7, 2015
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code

 

 

2015 Bronfenbrenner Lecture:
The Obama Evidence-Based Revolution: Will It Last?

September 16, 2015
Ron Haskins, Center on Children and Families; Budgeting for National Priorities; Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

 

View video

 

Talk at Twelve:
Helping Parents Help Their Teens: Lessons Learned about Parent Stress and Support from Research on Self-injury and Families

November 12, 2015
Janis Whitlock, BCTR, Cornell University

 

 

Talk at Twelve:
Trauma-informed Hospice and Palliative Care: Unique Vulnerabilities Call for Unique Strategies

September 10, 2015
Barbara Ganzel, BCTR, Cornell University

 

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2015 Bronfenbrenner Lecture

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The Obama Evidence-Based Revolution: Will It Last?
September 16, 2015

Ron Haskins
Center on Children and Families; Budgeting for National Priorities;Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

 

 

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2015 Bronfenbrenner Lecture: Ron Haskins, Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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The Obama Evidence-Based Revolution: Will It Last?
Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
12:00PM
G10 Biotech Building



This talk is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required, but please let us know about groups of 10 or more by emailing bctr@cornell.edu.

This talk will be live streamed here (link not live until talk date).

Scholars, advocates, and others have long fought to expand the role of social science evidence in the formulation of social policy. Significant strides toward this goal have been achieved in recent years. The most important expansion of evidence-based policy has been the creation of six social policy initiatives by the Obama administration. The Obama programs were designed to establish two central features of evidence-based grant making by the federal government. First, most of the grant money is spent on model social programs that have strong evidence of impacts, often from randomized controlled trials, on the problem they were designed to address. Second, program operators who receive the funds are required to evaluate their programs to determine whether they are achieving their intended results. If not, they are expected to make changes in the program and continue evaluating outcomes. There are now more than 1,440 projects operating model programs based on these two principles of evidence-based policy. The programs address a range of social issues including preschool and K-12 education, teen pregnancy prevention, employment and training, and others. After reviewing the Obama evidence-based initiatives, Haskins will examine both additional initiatives by prominent organizations that are contributing to the rising influence of evidence-based policy as well as threats to the growth of the evidence movement.

Ron Haskins holds the Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he co-directs both the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project. He is also a senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He is the author of Show Me the Evidence: Obama’s Fight for Rigor and Evidence in Social Policy (Brookings, 2014), Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (2006), co-author of Creating an Opportunity Society (2009), and a senior editor of The Future of Children. In 2002 he was the senior advisor to the President for Welfare Policy at the White House. Prior to joining Brookings and Casey he spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, serving as the subcommittee’s staff director between 1995 and 2000. In 1997, Haskins was selected by the National Journal as one of the 100 most influential people in the federal government. He holds a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Ron Haskins to deliver 2015 Bronfenbrenner Lecture

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The BCTR is pleased to announce that Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution will deliver this year's Bronfenbrenner Lecture on September 16. His recent book, Show Me the Evidence: Obama's Fight for Rigor and Results in Social Policy, tells the story of how the Obama administration planned and enacted several initiatives to fund social programs based on rigorous evidence of success and thereby created a fundamental change in the role of evidence in federal policymaking. Here he discusses the book:

 

 

Ron Haskins is a senior fellow in the Economic Studies program and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. From February to December of 2002 he was the senior advisor to the president for welfare policy at the White House.

Prior to joining Brookings and Casey, he spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, first as welfare counsel to the Republican staff, then as the subcommittee’s staff director. From 1981-1985, he was a senior researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also taught and lectured on history and education at UNC, Charlotte and developmental psychology at Duke University.

Haskins was the editor of the 1996, 1998, and 2000 editions of the Green Book, a 1600-page compendium of the nation’s social programs published by the House Ways and Means Committee that analyzes domestic policy issues including health care, poverty, and unemployment. Haskins is a senior editor of The Future of Children, a journal on policy issues that affect children and families. He has also co-edited several books, including Welfare Reform and Beyond: The Future of the Safety Net (2002), The New World of Welfare (2001) and Policies for America’s Public Schools: Teachers, Equity, and Indicators (Ablex, 1988), and is a contributor to numerous edited books and scholarly journals on children’s development and social policy issues. He is also the author of Show Me the Evidence (2014), Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (2006) and the co-author of Creating an Opportunity Society (2009) with Isabel Sawhill and Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America (Pew, 2008). He has appeared frequently on radio and television and has written articles and editorials for several newspapers and periodicals including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Policy Review, State Government News, American Enterprise, National Review, and the Weekly Standard.

His areas of expertise include welfare reform, child care, child support, marriage, child protection, and budget and deficit issues. In 1997, Haskins was selected by the National Journal as one of the 100 most influential people in the federal government. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (2000); the President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Human Services from the American Public Human Services Association (2005); and the Lion Award from the Grantmakers for Children, Youth, and Families (2010).

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History, a Master’s in Education, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, from UNC, Chapel Hill. Haskins, who was a noncommissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps from 1963 to 1966, lives with his wife in Rockville, Maryland and is the father of four grown children.

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Center fall event videos now online

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Three videos from our major fall events are now online in case you missed them, or want to revisit the events. All are permanently archived in our media library and direct links to the videos can be found below.

 

Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service (IFPLDPS) Lecture [BCTR]2014 Iscol Lecture: WAKAMI: A Value Chain that Connects and Transforms People and the Earth
Monday, October 6, 2014

Maria Pacheco, Founder and CEO, Wakami

 

 

 

Bronfenbrenner Lecture [BCTR]2014 Bronfenbrenner Lecture: "Making Human Beings Human:” Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Vision for Understanding and Enhancing Positive Human Development
September 23, 2014

Richard M. Lerner, Applied Developmental Science; Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University

 

 

2014_0824_041.jpgThe Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner
September 18, 2014

Welcome by John Eckenrode, director, BCTR
Panelists:
Stephen Ceci, Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology
Gary Evans, Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology
Robert Sternberg, Professor of Human Development
Elaine Wethington, Professor of Human Development; associate director, BCTR
Moderated by Stephen Hamilton, Professor of Human Development; associate director, BCTR

 

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2014 Bronfenbrenner Lecture

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"Making Human Beings Human": Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Vision for Understanding and Enhancing Positive Human Development
September 23, 2014

Richard M. Lerner
Applied Developmental Science; Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University

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2014 Bronfenbrenner Lecture: Richard Lerner, Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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"Making Human Beings Human:” Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Vision for Understanding and Enhancing Positive Human Development
Richard M. Lerner, Tufts University

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
12:00pm
G10 Biotech Building



This event will be live streamed here.

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological theory provides a model for linking theory and research in the service of enhancing human development and promoting social justice. The key feature of this theory involves the Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) model. The model is an instance of action theory, in that process pertains to actions involving developmental regulations marked by bidirectional, individual-context relations (represented as individual/context relations); as such, the model accounts for both individual and contextual outcomes across human ontogeny. In the model, individual ontogenetic characteristics and temporality represent person and time; and the complexity of engagement by the person with the multi-level and nested ecology of human development, which includes historical temporality, represents context and time. Bronfenbrenner’s theory is an exemplar of the relational developmental systems metamodel that is a focus of much of contemporary developmental science and, as such, his theory provides a key frame for conceptions of development that seek to describe, explain, and optimize humans’ lives. The Positive Youth Development (PYD) perspective is a sample case of this contribution of Bronfenbrenner’s theory. Accordingly, I describe the PYD perspective, and review data from the 4-H Study of PYD to illustrate how ideas associated with the PPCT model enhance understanding, and the promotion, of thriving among adolescents. Such use of Bronfenbrenner’s theory has important implications for future research and for policies and program seeking to optimize the quality of the lives of diverse individuals, that is, to make human beings human.

 

Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He went from kindergarten through Ph.D within the New York City public schools, completing his doctorate at the City University of New York in 1971 in developmental psychology. Lerner has more than 500 scholarly publications, including 70 authored or edited books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science, which he continues to edit. He was a 1980-81 fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science.

Prior to joining Tufts University, he was on the faculty and held administrative posts at The Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University, and Boston College, where he was the Anita L. Brennan Professor of Education and the Director of the Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships. During the 1994-95 academic year, Lerner held the Tyner Eminent Scholar Chair in the Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Lerner is known for his theory of relations between life-span human development and social change, and for his research about the relations between adolescents and their peers, families, schools, and communities. As illustrated by his 2004 book, Liberty: Thriving and Civic Engagement among America’s Youth, and his 2007 book, The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myth of the Storm and Stress Years, his work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society.

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2013 Bronfenbrenner Lecture

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Fifty Years of Family Change: From Consensus to Complexity
September 11, 2013

Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr.
Sociology Department, University of Pennsylvania

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