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4-H intern on The Chew with Carla Hall

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By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

news-4h-carlahall-inpostA 4-H intern from Brooklyn spent the day learning about cooking and entertainment from chef and TV personality Carla Hall thanks to a national 4-H mentoring program.

4-Her Jasmine Roberts is a dietician student at Brooklyn College. She spent a day shadowing Hall – a finalist on the cooking reality show Top Chef and co-host of the talk show The Chew – through the National 4-H Council's “Day in the Life Experience,” which connects youth with 4-H alumni.

Roberts is an intern with 4-H in New York City. She is currently mentoring high school students about the importance of nutrition and health through the 4-H Choose Health Action Teens program. She spent the day shadowing Hall at The Chew television set and then visiting Hall’s restaurant in Brooklyn.

Hall, herself, participated in 4-H cooking competitions as a youth, and said she appreciated the opportunity to give back to the program.

“Some of the skills I learned in 4-H that have helped me in life are being adventurous and trying something new,” she said. “Now, it’s about opening up the 4-Hers eyes to where they can go, and to the potential and to have no limitations.”

About 190,000 youth ages 5-19 participate in 4-H programs throughout New York each year. The program – housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research – serves as the youth outreach component of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

A major focus of 4-H is to help youth experience hands-on learning opportunities in science and technology, healthy living and civic engagement that help them grow into competent, caring and contributing members of society, says Andy Turner, New York State Leader for 4-H at Cornell University.

“Jasmine’s experience highlights core elements for 4-H,” he said. “It was hands-on and empowering.  You can see a powerful connection developing that could make a huge impact on how Jasmine thinks about her future goals.  That process of youth and adult partnership and mentoring lies at the heart of the 4-H program. “

 

The Chew’s Carla Hall Is Thankful for 4-H - Parade Magazine

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Videos on purpose and youth development

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By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

 

 

Having a purpose in life is vitally important to youth’s health and wellness. That was the take-home message from the first annual conference hosted by the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE) in the BCTR.

The conference – held last fall in California – focused on purpose and health across the lifespan. It included researchers working in areas of education, psychology, biology, and public health from leading universities throughout the country. The conference was hosted by PRYDE co-director Anthony Burrow, an associate professor of human development whose research focuses on purpose as a psychological resource.

All of the full-length talks given by the researchers at the conference are available online, and each presenter also created short videos to explain their work to a wider audience. Motivating the conference was a desire to translate the latest research on purpose into an easily-understandable form for educators, social workers, and program directors.

“The amount of scientific evidence being produced showing the benefits of purpose is staggering,” Burrow said. “Yet, there is some distance between what researchers are finding and what the public knows about these findings. We believe this is unfortunate, and therefore designed a conference that invited leading purpose researchers share their insights, and then asking them to further unpack their findings for a wider audience.

“This is the kind of translation and information delivery PRYDE is well-positioned to do, and it is an exciting and enjoyable experience to be out front in making importance science more accessible to all,” he said.

Thanks to the conference’s success, PRYDE established it as an annual event, Burrow said. Its second conference on purpose – “Purpose in a Diverse Society” – will take place this October in St. Louis. This time, a new group of researchers will present their work on purpose and diversity in a variety of settings including university lecture halls, a museum, and a public library.

You can also find two playlists of the short videos – which include topics such as identity, work and family life, health and social and emotional learning - on the PRYDE YouTube channel.

PRYDE is a program created to promote positive youth development through empirical studies and by providing evidence-based best practices for 4-H and other youth organizations. Its goal is to generate new knowledge about youth development that will directly benefit 4-H participants in New York State and beyond.

 

 

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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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NY 4-H student shadows MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin

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John Gabalski at MSNBC studios, NYC. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for National 4-H Council)

John Gabalski at MSNBC studios, NYC. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for National 4-H Council)

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

A 4-H student from Orleans County learned about broadcasting last month from an accomplished role model: NBC news anchor Craig Melvin.

Fifteen-year-old John Gabalski was selected to spend the day at NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center with Melvin, who anchors MSNBC Live on weekdays and co-anchors the Today Saturday edition. The visit was part of the National 4-H Council’s “Day in the Life Experience,” which connects youth with 4-H alumni.

Gabalski, who is interested in a career in journalism, had the chance to watch Melvin’s one-hour broadcast live and learn about what it takes to work at a major news network. “It was very interesting to see how everything works behind the camera, the way they handle the cameras and the lighting,” Gabalski told his local newspaper, orleanshub.com.

Gabalski is a member of the Orleans County Rabbit Raisers and Outback Orleans 4-H Clubs, and is also a member of Orleans County 4-H Senior Council.

John Gabalski with Craig Melvin on set at MSNBC. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for National 4-H Council)

John Gabalski with Craig Melvin on set at MSNBC. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for National 4-H Council)

About 190,000 youth ages 5-19 participate in 4-H programs throughout New York each year. The program – housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research – serves as the youth outreach component of Cornell Cooperative Extension.  

A major focus of 4-H is to help youth experience hands-on learning opportunities in science and technology, healthy living, and civic engagement that help them grow into competent, caring, and contributing members of society, says Andy Turner, New York State leader for 4-H at Cornell University.

“One of the core foundations of 4-H is to connect youth to caring adult mentors who can help them explore interests and potentially help them shape their college and career pathway,” he said. “Although John’s experience with Craig Melvin was unique and exceptional, it represents the ideals and goals we are seeking for all youth involved in 4-H.” 

 

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Doris lecturer discusses recipe for moral improvement

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John M. Doris speakingBy Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

On April 12, what would have been professor emeritus of human development John L. Doris’ 94th birthday, his son, John M. Doris, delivered the 10th annual John L. Doris Memorial Lecture hosted by the College of Human Ecology’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Taking its cue from John L. Doris’ work in human development, the Doris Lecture series showcases speakers who study and promote the well-being of children, youth and families.

John M. Doris, professor in the Philosophy–Neuroscience–Psychology Program and Philosophy Department at Washington University in St. Louis, presented “Marking Good: Can We Realize our Moral Aspirations?,” a talk that incorporated the fields of human development and moral philosophy, to a full room at the Cornell Botanic Gardens Nevin Welcome Center.

“The task of making children’s lives better is making them better people, and that’s what I’m going to wonder about with you today,” he said. “Today, I’d like to take some hesitant steps towards articulating a ‘recipe’ for moral improvement.”

Doris set the tone of the lecture with what he described as an obvious fact – some people are better than others. According to Doris, there are individual differences in moral functioning and, therefore, for example, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks would be considered “better” than Pol Pot, the genocidal Cambodian tyrant.

“What accounts for individual differences in moral functioning? Often we think about the question: Is it grace or grit? Are moral differences just a matter of genetic endowment or is it something we can sort of work for and earn?” Doris asked. “If our aspirations are to make ourselves, our youth and each other morally better, then the question is 'how?' Is there some kind of recipe for moral goodness?”

According to Doris, since the time of the Greeks, philosophers have proposed that moral functioning be understood as a skill, like making music or playing chess. But after 2,500 years, the evidence is far from clear on what the acquisition and development of moral skill requires.

Doris pointed out that simple theories are bad theories; there are just too many factors to be considered.

Does intelligence improve morality? Not really. Does reading literature help? No sufficient evidence. Are parents influential on a growing child’s morality, in normal circumstances? Basic parenting differences don’t matter that much. How much does early education and early socialization play in moral development? Modest at best. Does socialization impact morality from a young age? Mixed results.

According to Doris, there is no magic bullet and prerequisites for obtaining moral skills are unclear. There is not going to be one exercise to do to make our children, ourselves and the world better, he said.

“The best we can say, I think, is that many simply small influences make combined influence levels of moral skill,” Doris said. “There may be many not-so-magic bullets, and we want to know what those bullets are and how best we can deploy them. After all, piecemeal solutions are by definition solutions, and probably the best we can do is find little ways to improve moral skill and leverage them as much as we can.”

The lecture’s namesake, John L. Doris, was professor emeritus of human development and founding director of the Family Life Development Center, one of the precursor centers to the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and served as a resource for extension work, research and teaching on issues of family stress and child maltreatment. Doris joined the Cornell faculty in 1963 and served as director of the center from its establishment in 1974 until his retirement in 1993, though he continued to work on center programs until his death in 2008.

 

 

Doris lecturer discusses recipe for moral improvement - Cornell Chronicle

Making Good: Can We Realize Our Moral Aspirations? - video of Bronfenbrenner Lecture

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Talks at Twelve: Jennifer Agans

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The Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE): Integrating Research and Practice
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jennifer Agans
BCTR, Cornell University

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Whitlock on teen self-injury, anxiety, and depression in Time

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time coverIn a recent Time Magazine cover story on Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent, the BCTR's Janis Whitlock describes the effect of current technology and social media on adolescent mental health:

"If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.

Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, goes on to describe why youth self-injure:

The academic study of this behavior is nascent, but researchers are developing a deeper understanding of how physical pain may relieve the psychological pain of some people who practice it. That knowledge may help experts better understand why it can be hard for some people to stop self-harming once they start. Whitlock, the director of the self-injury research program at Cornell, explains that studies are pretty consistent in showing that people who injure themselves do it to cope with anxiety or depression.

It’s hard to know why self-harm has surfaced at this time, and it’s possible we’re just more aware of it now because we live in a world where we’re more aware of everything. Whitlock thinks there’s a cultural element to it. Starting in the late 1990s, the body became a kind of billboard for self-expression—that’s when tattoos and piercings went mainstream. “As that was starting to happen, the idea of etching your emotional pain into your body was not a big step from the body as a canvas as an idea,” she says.

The idea that self-harm is tied to how we see the human body tracks with what many teens told me when I interviewed them. As Faith-Ann describes it, “A lot of value is put on our physical beauty now. All of our friends are Photoshopping their own photos—it’s hard to escape that need to be perfect.” Before the dawn of social media, the disorders that seemed to be the quintessential reflection of those same societal pressures were anorexia or bulimia—which are still serious concerns.

whitlock

Janis Whitlock

Whitlock says there are two common experiences that people have with selfharm. There are those who feel disconnected or numb. “They don’t feel real, and there’s something about pain and blood that brings them into their body,” she says.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who feel an overwhelming amount of emotion, says Whitlock. “If you asked them to describe those emotions on a scale of 1 to 10, they would say 10, while you or I might rate the same experience as a 6 or 7. They need to discharge those feelings somehow, and injury becomes their way,” she explains.

The research on what happens in the brain and body when someone cuts is still emerging. Scientists want to better understand how self-harm engages the endogenous opioid system—which is involved in the pain response in the brain—and what happens if and when it does.

Some of the treatments for self-harm are similar to those for addiction, particularly in the focus on identifying underlying psychological issues—what’s causing the anxiety and depression in the first place—and then teaching healthy ways to cope. Similarly, those who want to stop need a strong level of internal motivation.

 

Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright - Time Magazine (subscription required)

Photos by Lise Sarfati from the article - Time Magazine

How social media and tech impacts young minds - Morning Joe, MSNBC (video - discussion of Time cover story)

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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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PRYDE inaugural explores the future of youth development research

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prydepanel

L-R: Lisa Lauxman, Lawrence Aber, Robert Sellers

The inaugural celebration for the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE) featured three eminent speakers in a panel discussion on “The Future of Youth Development Research: Perspectives from Research and Practice.” This panel uniquely reflected the mission of PRYDE in that it brought research perspectives (Dr. Robert Sellers from University of Michigan and Dr. Lawrence Aber from New York University) together with the perspective of policy and practice (Dr. Lisa Lauxman of the Division of Youth and 4-H in the US Department of Agriculture). Significantly, the event was also attended by both Cornell faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators from across New York State, resulting in a rich discussion of the relevance of youth development research and its translation to practice. In keeping with the mission of PRYDE, this event featured innovative research and highlighted the importance of partnering with youth-serving organizations in order to understand and improve the lives of youth.

The full event video, including introductory remarks by College of Human Ecology Associate Dean for Research and Outreach  Rachel Dunifon and PRYDE co-directors Anthony Burrow and Karl Pillemer, can be viewed here:

 

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New video: Judith Smetana on adolescent-parent relationships

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Video from the 2016 John Doris Memorial Lecture, Adolescent-Parent Relationships: Developmental Processes and Cultural Variations, by Judith Smetana of the University of Rochester is now online. The lecture was held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

 

 

About the talk:
Adolescence is often seen as a difficult time for both adolescents and their parents. Although current psychological research suggests that problems during this developmental period are often overstated, adolescent-parent relationships do go through significant transformations that pose challenges for the family. In her talk, Judith Smetana discusses findings from an ongoing program of research focusing on normative changes in different aspects of adolescent-parent relationships, including conflict and disagreements between parents and teenagers, adolescents’ disclosure, secrecy, and information management with parents, and adolescents’ and parents’ beliefs about parents’ legitimate authority to make rules about adolescents’ lives. She describes research with American families from diverse backgrounds and families from different cultures and discusses the significance of these findings for adolescent development and family functioning.

 

doris smetana eckenrode

L-R: Ellen Doris, Judith Smetana, and John Eckenrode.

About Judith Smetana:
Judith Smetana is professor of psychology and Director of the Developmental Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester, where she has held the Frederica Warner Chair of Human Development. She obtained her B.A. with highest honors in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, she moved to the University of Rochester, where she has received several mentoring and leadership awards. Dr. Smetana’s research focuses on adolescent-parent relationships and parenting in different ethnic and cultural contexts and on children’s moral reasoning and behavior. She has published numerous articles and chapters on these topics. Her authored books include Adolescents, families, and social development: How children construct their worlds (2011), and several edited volumes, including the Handbook of Moral Development (2006, 2014), and Adolescent vulnerabilities and opportunities: Constructivist and developmental perspectives (2011).

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