Research & Action ReportFall/Winter 2014


The Brain and Relationships

Amy Banks, M.D., authored with Leigh Ann Hirschman, Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships, forthcoming from Penguin Random House (February 2015). Research shows that people cannot reach their full potential unless they are in healthy connection with others. In this book, Banks teaches readers how to rewire their brains for healthier relationships and
happier, more fulfilling lives.

We all experience moments when we feel isolated and alone. A 2006 Purdue University study found that 25 percent of Americans cannot name a single person they feel close to. Yet every single one of us is hardwired for close relationships. The key to more satisfying relationships—be it with a significant other, family member, or colleague—is to strengthen the neural pathways in our brains that encourage closeness and connection. There are four distinct neural pathways that correspond to the four most important ingredients for healthy and satisfying relationships: calmness, acceptance, emotional resonance, and energy. This groundbreaking book gives readers the tools they need to strengthen the parts of their brain that encourage connection and to heal the neural damage that disconnection can cause.

The foreword was contributed by Daniel Siegel, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller, Brainstorm, who writes, “I love this book! It is beautifully written, engaging, and inspiring. Want more happiness? Want to live longer? Want to be healthier in mind and body? Then learning these four ways to click into more meaningful and rewarding relationships is your passport to achieving these goals. Let Amy Banks be your guide to a better life of love and laughter. Enjoy!”

Learn more about Banks’ C.A.R.E. program, the basis for a related webinar series which begins in early spring, and advance ordering details at


Parental Depression Impact on Family

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., co-authored two chapters for the forthcoming book, Parental Psychiatric Disorder: Distressed Parents and their Families, edited by Andrea Reupert, Daryl Maybery, Joanne Nicholson, Mary Seeman and Michael Gopfert. “Interventions for Families Where a Parent Has Depression,” written by Gladstone, William Beardslee, M.D., and Anne Diehl, focuses on children of depressed parents who are at “a four-fold increased risk of developing depression themselves”—making “parental depression one of the most potent risk factors for the disorder. Parents with depression often experience disruptions in parenting, characterized by withdrawn and/or intrusive parenting behaviors. Such behaviors create a stressful environment for youth, and have been demonstrated to significantly mediate the relation between parental depressive symptoms and offspring psychopathology (Jaser et al., 2008). Research indicates that family factors maintain depression in children (Brent at al., 1997), and that intrusive and withdrawn parenting behaviors can continue in parents even after their depression has remitted (Seifer et al., 2001). Recently, several depression prevention programs have been developed to address specifically the risk factor of parental depression, utilizing a family-based approach. In such prevention programs for children of depressed parents, children can be taught skills of resilience, and parents can learn how to adjust parenting behaviors to support their child’s development and resilience, even while they themselves are struggling with depression.”

The three also authored “The Impact of Parental Depression on Children” for the book (in press). They write, “Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a highly prevalent and disabling mental illness. It is estimated to affect 17 percent of the U.S. population within their lifetime, and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44. (Kessler et al., 2005; The World Health Organization, 2008).” This chapter describes “three preventive interventions for children of depressed parents, all of which are either family-based or incorporate some form of parental involvement. This chapter also describes family-based depression prevention programs for children of parents experiencing other forms of adversity (i.e., bereavement an divorce). These descriptions are followed by a summary of clinical implications.”


Better Health Practices in Out-of-School Time

Georgia Hall, Ph.D., published a research brief, Physical Activity Assessment of BOKS Using Accelerometers in October 2014. Hall and a research team from the
National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for
Women studied the physical activity levels of 112 Kindergarten and first grade children from September 2013 through May 2014 in Natick, MA. Fifty-two of these children were participants in the BOKS before-school physical activity program and the other 60 comprised the comparison group. This study specifically examined time spent in sedentary, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity during three waves of data collection. The research findings highlight the potential benefits to youth who regularly engage in physical activity through a before-school physical activity program like BOKS. Previous research recommends selected cut points for daily steps for 6-12 year olds of 12, 000 and 15,000 steps for girls and boys, respectively. Achieving 1,807 steps during program time would account for approximately 15 percent and 12 percent of girls and boys recommended daily steps, respectively. Significant differences in mean daily step count and daily moderate to vigorous physical activity minutes at the third observation suggest prolonged participation in a program such as BOKS can stimulate noteworthy differences in physical activity for participating children, including differences which persist on non-program days. Read the full research brief online:

Jean Wiecha, Ph.D., Hall, and Michelle Barnes, M.P.H., authored “Uptake of National AfterSchool Association physical activity standards among US after-school sites” included in Preventive Medicine (available online July 2014 at In 2011, the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) adopted standards to guide delivery of physical activity (PA). The team assessed afterschool sites’ uptake of the five PA standards. The researchers conducted a descriptive study in fall 2013. NAA emailed 14,000 members requesting that afterschool site directors complete an online questionnaire regarding site characteristics, awareness and use of the standards, and implementation. The team calculated implementation scores for each standard by summing points for their component best practices, and examined associations among site characteristics, implementation scores, and awareness and use of the standards.

Among 595 respondents, 60 percent were aware of the PA standards and 43 percent used them for program planning. Awareness and use were significantly higher among NAA members and among sites that were accredited, licensed, or operated by a parent organization. PA content and quality scores were higher among those aware of and using the standards (p < 0.01) and correlated with scores for staff training and for program, social, and environmental support (p < 0.0001). The researchers concluded that they observed high recognition and use of the NAA PA standards in a national convenience sample of afterschool programs. Their uptake and use are promising lever for increasing the quality of PA in the afterschool setting.


Efficacy of Middle School Sex Education

Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., Allison Tracy, Ph.D., Amanda Richer, M.A., and Sumru Erkut, Ph.D. authored “The role of extended family in teen sexual health” included in the Journal of Adolescent Research (November 2014).

Despite increasing extended family involvement in childrearing, particularly in minority families, few studies investigate their role in talking with teens about sex or how this relates to teens’ sexual behavior. This mixed methods study assesses extended family sexuality communication through a survey of 1,492 diverse middle school students and interviews with 32 students. Logistic regression shows that participants who report having had sex are more likely to report talking with extended family than those who report not having had sex. Interview themes explored reasons for and content of teen sexuality conversations with extended family. More sexually active teens reporting communication with extended family is interpreted as extended family members gaining importance in sexuality communication as teens become sexually active. (Read more about related research on page 12.)


Race and Privilege

The New Yorker posted an interview May 12, 2014 between Joshua Rothman, the magazine archive editor, with Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D. which focused on privilege systems. Rothman wrote, “The idea of ‘privilege’—that some people benefit from unearned, and largely unacknowledged, advantages, even when those advantages aren’t discriminatory—has a pretty long history. In the 1930s, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the ‘psychological wage’ that enabled poor whites to feel superior to poor blacks; during the civil-rights era, activists talked about ‘white-skin privilege.’ But the concept really came into its own in the late eighties, when Peggy McIntosh, a women’sstudies scholar at Wellesley, started writing about it.” The article is available online:

McIntosh was interviewed by Hugh Vasquez and Victor Lee Lewis in July 2014 for their video series on anti-racist activists. She was also interviewed by Teaching Tolerance on a show which spotlighted Christopher Avery, a SEED staff member and four other teachers in the United States who have received awards from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Teaching Tolerance magazine for outstanding multicultural teaching. This online event included dialogue with some university scholars in multicultural fields: Sonia Nieto, Howard C. Stevenson, Kevin Kumashiro, and McIntosh, as well as June Christian of Teaching Tolerance magazine.


Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program Study

Nan Stein, Ed.D. co-authored (Bruce Taylor, Elizabeth Mumford, Stein) “Effectiveness of Shifting Boundaries teen dating violence prevention program for subgroups of middle school students” which has been accepted by the Journal of Adolescent Health for a forthcoming special supplement on teen dating violence. In this article, the authors examine whether the Shifting Boundaries (SB) intervention, a primary intervention to prevent youth dating violence and sexual harassment (DV/H), is differentially effective for girls compared to boys, or for youth with a history of DV/H experiences. Researchers randomly assigned SB to 30 public middle schools in New York City, enrolling 117 sixth and seventh grade classes to receive a classroom, building, combined, or neither intervention. The SB classroom (SBC) intervention included six sessions emphasizing the laws/consequences DV/H, establishing boundaries and safe relationships. The SB school-wide/building (SBS) intervention included the use of school-based restraining orders, greater faculty/security presence in unsafe “hot spots” mapped by students, and posters to increase DV/H awareness and reporting. Student surveys were implemented at baseline, immediately post-intervention, and six months post-intervention. Among the findings six months post-intervention, the SB building-level intervention was associated with significant reductions in the frequency of sexual harassment (SH) perpetration and victimization; the prevalence and frequency of sexual dating violence (SDV) victimization; and the frequency of total dating violence victimization and perpetration. The researchers conclude that SB can provide effective universal prevention of middle school DV/H experiences, regardless of students’ prior exposure histories, and for boys and girls.


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