APA Resolution Supporting Marriage Equality

Yesterday the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting full marriage equality for same-sex couples by a unanimous vote of 157-0. Although the full text of the resolution is not yet available, the APA has supported same-sex marriage for several years, always citing peer-reviewed research to support their views. This quote from The Examiner is an excerpt from the proceedings of the 2010 annual convention (held last year during the California Prop 8 battle):

Research has shown that marriage provides substantial psychological and physical health benefits due to the moral, economic and social support extended to married couples. Conversely, recent empirical evidence has illustrated the harmful psychological effect of policies restricting marriage rights for same-sex couples. Additionally, children raised by same-sex couples have been shown to be on par with the children of opposite-sex couples in their psychological adjustment, cognitive abilities and social functioning.

APA has been a strong advocate for full equal rights for LGBT people for nearly 35 years, based on the social science research on sexual orientation. APA has supported legal benefits for same-sex couples since 1997 and civil marriage for same-sex couples since 2004. APA has adopted policy statements, lobbied Congress in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment, and filed amicus briefs supporting same-sex marriage in legal cases in Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, New York (three times), Maryland, Connecticut, Iowa, and California. In California, the APA brief was cited by the state Supreme Court when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in May 2008.

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It’s an age-old refrain — adults claim that kids today are completely different from when they were growing up, usually for the worse. And that claim often extends to the TV shows that kids are exposed to – more sex, less depth, endless shows about celebrities and reality TV show stars.

But hasn’t Hollywood always glamorized being rich and famous? The pursuit of fame is embedded in the fabric of our society, in America – every person, no matter where they come from, is supposed to have the opportunity to become successful and achieve to their fullest extent.

So maybe adults are just waxing nostalgic about the past, and things really haven’t changed that drastically. Our study, completed at the Children’s Digital Media Center@LA and just published in Cyberpsychology here, suggests otherwise.

We took a look at the top two shows for tweens, age 9-12, in one year of the last 5 decades. Children at these ages are beginning to form their values, as they move from their families being the most important sphere of influence to peers and other forces outside of the home gaining more influence.

We found that the most important value of tween television shows in 2007 is fame, out of a list of 16 values. Moreover, in every other decade, from the sixties to the nineties, fame ranked at the bottom of the list! So, in just one decade, from 1997 to 2007, fame went from being the least important value to the most important value. In stark contrast, community feeling, number one or two in every other decade, dropped to number 11 in 2007.  The table below shows the ranking for each decade, keyed to the 2007 ranks.

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Sexting: Should adolescents be expelled?

This post was first published on parenting in the digital age.

Phones are being used by teens for sexual exploration via the exchange of sexually suggestive content (sexting).  Sexting includes explicit text, and nude or semi-nude personal pictures or videos captured on a cell phone or digital camera and sent via personal texts, emails, and instant messages. (Uhls et al, 2011).   Pew research in 2009 found that 4% of adolescents report sending sexts while 15% report receiving them.  The report also found that there was no difference in the amount of sexts sent or received even when parents checked their children’s cell phones.  Thus, kids seem to do it, even if they know their parents may see the photos!

Yet even adults, elected officials such as Anthony Weiner, have made these kind of boneheaded moves.  And so far, he is claiming that he won’t resign.  In this environment where everyone has access to this tool and thus bad (or stupid) behavior is easily documented and passed on to many others, should youth be punished? Continue reading

Children with ADHD have greater likelihood of trying substances and developing substance use disorders.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in childhood. In fact, estimates of the rates of ADHD had found that between 5-10 percent of all children meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Children with and without ADHD, at a group level, show several differences, including poorer school performance, more peer rejection, and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and acting out behavior. Following children over time is a common way to study the long term effects associated with psychological problems. Many scientists have used follow-up (longitudinal) studies to examine whether children with ADHD are a greater risk for substance use and abuse/dependence than children without ADHD. Any single study may be imperfect, as studies differ in the way ADHD is measures, substance use or abuse/dependence is measures, the group of children that were followed, or how much time passed between the follow-up assessment. One way to help find clarity in multiple studies of the same question is to conduct a meta-analysis. Meta-analyses run one major analysis using all of the data collected using different groups – more heavily weighting the results from larger studies. Earlier this year, a meta-analysis on the association between a childhood diagnosis of ADHD and trying alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, as well as a substance use disorder (substance abuse or dependence/addiction) was conducted. Continue reading

Is Racism Really Cool? What we Know about Who Makes Cross-Ethnic Friends

From the time kids are in preschool, they tend to make and keep more friends of their own ethnicity than of others. In many schools, children form entirely separate peer groups, with European-American (white), African-American, Latino and Asian-American children sitting at separate tables in the cafeteria, participating in different clubs, and attending different social events. Nonetheless, some cross-ethnic friendships  do form and researchers have been focusing recently on what types of children tend to form them. The results might surprise you.

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Competence vs. Performance

The field of developmental psychology is fraught with some very popularized but misunderstood dichotomies.  Nature versus is nurture is probably the most well known, but another important distinction is that between competence and performance.  Jeff mentioned a little bit about this distinction a few months ago in his post about desirable difficulties in the classroom but it is worth bringing up again because it’s a dichotomy that is pervasive throughout psychology.

The basic distinction is this: whenever we want to measure whether someone knows something (a concept, a skill, a procedure, etc.), we create a task for them that should require that target knowledge for successful completion of the task, and then we measure the subject’s performance on the task in order to infer whether they have that knowledge or not.  For example, if we want to know whether a student knows how to do algebra, we give him an algebra test, and then measure how well he does.  So far we’re only talking about performance.

Competence comes into the picture when we start thinking about how good our tasks are: is it possible that a student who does poorly on an algebra test really does know algebra and the test is just a bad one?  If we acknowledge that our tests might be bad, then we might observe poor performance even when participants are actually competent.  This distinction between observable performance and underlying competence is one that drives the field to continually seek better tasks and methods to assess competence.

However, this distinction can be quite problematic.  Continue reading

What are the Areas of Study within Psychology?

The field of psychology had its modern origin just over 100 years ago, and yet interest in the field has grown rapidly. Researchers with broad and varied interests have expanded the field, and as a result there are many different subdisciplines. Highlighted here are several key areas of psychology.

Biological psychologists apply biological principles to the study of mental processes and behavior. The field examines the basic biological processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior at the level of nerves, neurotransmitters, and brain circuitry.

In clinical psychology, science, theory, and clinical knowledge are combined to improve psychological distress or dysfunction, and to promote personal well-being. Clinical and counseling psychology are similar subdisciplines.

Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems, by exploring internal mental processes in the brain.
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