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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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Iscol lecturer: U.S. justice has always oppressed minorities

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By Shashank Vura for the Cornell Chronicle

glenn e martin

Glenn E. Martin

When Glenn E. Martin went to the White House last year along with 40 other experts in the field of criminal justice, his colleagues were all accorded green passes. Martin, a former prison inmate, was given a pink pass reading “needs escort.”

Despite the 21 years that had elapsed since his conviction, Martin said he was held back at one point by a Secret Service agent and prevented from going further.

“This moment speaks to barriers Americans face with turning their lives around,” he said, lamenting the “lack of second chances” in U.S. society. “Every sentence, even one day in jail, is a life sentence,” Martin said, noting the “stigma stays with you forever.”

Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Martin is a national leader and criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York state prisons. He shared his experiences in the Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service Lecture, “Mass Incarceration: An Experience Shared by 65 Million Americans,” Sept. 27 on campus. The lecture is hosted annually by the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in the College of Human Ecology.

“Is mass incarceration an insurmountable problem?” Martin asked the audience. The U.S. has “five percent of the world’s population,” he said, but accounts for “25 percent of the world’s prison population.” More than 2 million Americans languish in prison, Martin said, and 40 percent of the prison population is composed of black people, who make up 14 percent of the U.S. population. Martin attributed this to a “justice system [which] is only the newest iteration of a system of oppression that has existed for hundreds of years” against racial minorities.

He shared the story of one of his current employees, Richard Simpson Bay. After a conviction for attempted murder of a police offer, the illiterate Bay appealed cases for 24 years before a federal court found him not guilty and that the “prosecutor broke rules” and “conjured up his own idea of what happened that night.” During his incarceration, Bay’s 19-year-old son was gunned down by a 14-year-old boy.

Bay became an advocate for his son’s murderer, making that case that he, too, was a “victim, not an offender.” The prosecutor capitulated and the culprit avoided adult prison. Martin said Bay showed “great compassion” and suggested society does not invest the resources necessary to help “high-crime, high incarceration communities high in victimization,” but punishes them instead.

“Everyone has chance to turn around and change their lives, but only if those in position of privilege create a space for that to happen and are willing to invest in people,” Martin said. Only then can we “get rid of a classist, homophobic, racist and xenophobic [criminal justice] system.”

Iscol lecturer: U.S. justice has always oppressed minorities - Cornell Chronicle

 

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Fifth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference

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Minimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children

September 15-16, 2016

Conference program

The fifth biennial conference in honor of the legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner convened a panel of leading researchers in an effort to cultivate interdisciplinary perspectives and consider the micro-, meso-, and macro-level interventions that best minimize the consequences of parental incarceration for children, families, and communities. Presentations emphasized the strongest interdisciplinary research on the consequences of paternal and maternal incarceration for children (with special attention to mediators and moderators) as well as discussing policies and individual-level interventions that could help lessen the likelihood of parental incarceration or help children whose parents have experienced incarceration. The conference’s overarching goal is to strengthen the connections between research, policy, and practice in the area of collateral consequences of mass incarceration for children.

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Doing Translational Research podcast: Christopher Wildeman

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Incarceration and Inequality
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Christopher Wildeman
Department of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University

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2016 Iscol Lecture: Glenn Martin, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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Mass Incarceration: An Experience Shared by 65 Million Americans
Glenn Martin, JustLeadershipUSA

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
7:30pm
G10 Biotech Building



 

Is mass incarceration an "insurmountable problem"?  Glenn E. Martin, the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, will address this question in the 2016 Iscol Lecture. Mr. Martin is at the forefront of the effort to bring the voices of those directly impacted by mass incarceration into the criminal justice reform conversation. Hear about his goals to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030, his organization's campaign to close Rikers Island Correctional Center, and how you can work on criminal justice reform next summer.

Glenn E. Martin is the founder of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Glenn is a national leader and criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in NYS prisons. Prior to founding JLUSA, Glenn served for seven years as VP of Public Affairs at The Fortune Society, and six years as Co-Director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center. Glenn is co-founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2012 America’s Leaders of Change National Urban Fellow, and a member of the governing boards of the College and Community Fellowship, Million Hoodies, and the California Partnership for Safe Communities. Glenn also serves on Governor Cuomo’s Reentry and Reintegration Council, the advisory board of the Vera Institute’s Public Health and Mass Incarceration Initiative, the National Network for Safe Communities, the Executive Session on Community Corrections at Harvard University, and the Global Advisory Council (GAC) of Cornerstone Capital Group.

Glenn was named on the 2015 Root 100 list of most influential African Americans. In 2015, Glenn wrote an open letter to President Obama, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, after a visit as an invited guest to the White House when he was separated from his colleagues and given a special escort due to his criminal conviction. Glenn was later invited back to speak on a panel at the White House, getting the chance to meet with President Obama at an event focused on criminal justice reform. In 2016, Glenn was appointed to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal  Justice and Incarceration Reform; at the invitation of New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to look at the possibility of closing Rikers Island. Glenn regularly contributes his expertise to national news outlets such as MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Al Jazeera, and CSPAN.

 

This talk is free and open to all.

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2015 Iscol Lecture

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Workforce of the Future
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reshma Saujani
Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code

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Two in five African-American women know a prisoner

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news-wildeman-inpostRecent research findings, co-authored by BCTR affiliate and fellow Christopher Wildeman (Policy Analysis & Management), show that on average African-American adults, and women in particular, are more likely to be acquainted with someone who is incarcerated  than whites. Forty-four percent of black women and 32 percent of black men have a family member, neighbor, or acquaintance in prison, compared to 12 percent of white women and 6 percent of white men.

In a Cornell Chronicle article, Wildeman notes,

Our estimates show even deeper racial inequalities in connectedness to prisoners than previous work might have implied. Because imprisonment has negative consequences not only for the men and women who cycle through the system but also for the parents, partners and progeny they leave behind, mass imprisonment’s long-term consequences of racial inequality in the United States might be even greater than any of us working in this area had originally suspected.

These results show further racial inequality wrought by the U.S. prison boom, with potentially harmful consequences to families and communities lacking social supports to raise children and manage households.

The study was led by University of Washington associate professor of sociology Hedwig Lee ’03 and co-authored by Wildeman and was published by Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race. The article, Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States, is co-authored by Tyler McCormick at the University of Washington and Margaret Hicken at the University of Michigan. The study was unfunded.

Wildeman is co-organizer (with Anna Haskins, Sociology, and Julie Poelhmann-Tynan, University of Wisconsin - Madison) of the 2016 Bronfebrenner Conference, which will examine mass incarceration's effects on children.

 

Study: 2 in 5 African-American women know a prisoner - Cornell Chronicle
Racial inequalities in connectedness to imprisoned individuals in the United States - Du Bois Review

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Talks at Twelve: Christopher Wildeman

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Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality
Tuesday, January 27, 2014

Christopher Wildeman
Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University

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Talks at Twelve: Christopher Wildeman, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality
Christopher Wildeman, Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
12:00PM-1:00PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

In this talk, Christopher Wildeman will provide evidence supporting three claims: 1) that parental imprisonment has been transformed from an event affecting only the unluckiest of children to one that is remarkably common, especially for black children. 2) that even for already-marginalized children, paternal incarceration makes a bad situation worse, increasing mental health and behavioral problems, infant mortality, and child homelessness. 3) that these harms to children translate into large-scale increases in racial inequalities—even larger, in fact, than the consequences of mass imprisonment for racial inequality among adult men. Parental imprisonment has thus become a distinctively American way of perpetuating inter-generational inequality, one that should be placed alongside a decaying public education system and concentrated disadvantage in urban centers as a factor that disproportionately touches, and damages, poor black children.

Christopher Wildeman is an Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, a faculty fellow at the BCTR, the Center for the Study of Inequality (CSI), Court-Kay-Bauer Hall, the Cornell Population Center (CPC), and since 2013, a Visiting Fellow at the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Cornell’s faculty in 2014, Christopher was at Yale University as an Associate Professor of Sociology, a faculty fellow at both the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course (CIQLE) and the Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), as well as the co-director of the New Haven Branch of the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN). He received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography from Princeton University in 2008. From 2008-2010, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar and postdoctoral affiliate in the Population Studies Center (PSC) at the University of Michigan. His research and teaching interests revolve around the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health, and children -- especially as related to child maltreatment and the foster care system. He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology.

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Income inequality linked to higher rates of child abuse and neglect

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Eckenrode

BCTR director John Eckenrode is lead author of a new article, Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States, published in February in the journal Pediatrics. Eckenrode, who also serves as director of the BCTR's National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), co-authored the article with NDACAN researchers Elliott Smith, Margaret McCarthy, and Michael Dineen. The article reports findings from a study comparing substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect with nationwide county-level data on income equality and poverty, covering 3,142 U.S. counties. The study concluded,

Higher income inequality across US counties was significantly associated with higher county-level rates of child maltreatment. The findings contribute to the growing literature linking greater income inequality to a range of poor health and well-being outcomes in infants and children.

In a Cornell Chronicle article on the findings, Eckenrode is quoted, saying,

... reducing poverty and inequality would be the single most effective way to prevent maltreatment of children, but in addition there are proven programs that work to support parents and children and help to reduce the chances of abuse and neglect – clearly a multifaceted strategy is needed.

Support for the study came from the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Income inequality and child maltreatment in the United States - Pediatrics
Child abuse and neglect rise with income inequality - Cornell Chronicle
Child abuse rises with income inequality, Cornell study shows - Ithaca Journal
More kids struggle where the income gap widens - Christian Science Monitor
Rising child abuse linked to rising income inequality, study reports - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Kids may suffer in gaps between haves and have-nots - Reuters

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