Mind Matters: Recent psychological observations

From family dinners to telecommuting, psychologists have done their homework, according to research summarized in the October, 2019, issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology.

According to family therapist Anne Fishel, research on the importance of family meals notes that “regular family dinners are associated with less depression and anxiety, lower rates of substance and tobacco use, lower rates of teenage pregnancy, and fewer behavioral problems at school.” It also may be that having regular family meals is a more positive influence on academic success than doing homework or extracurricular activity, such as sports. Of course, the benefits depend on there being a “warm and inviting atmosphere” at the table — not high conflict or abuse.

Unfortunately, abuse delivered as “physical discipline” still abounds. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, damaging physical discipline is still the global standard, despite decades of evidence showing not only that “physical punishment is not effective,” but that it also leads to aggression and negative behavior by the child, notes psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff. Neuroscience weighs in as well: researchers are observing that “harsh corporal punishment might change the brain in maladaptive ways.”

Dire conditions and decades of trauma and violence due to socio-political unrest and vast income inequality also do no good for children or for the adults who care for them, for that matter. Zara Greenbaum writes in the article, “Support for Central America” that such unrest, as well as climate change’s effects on farming, has forced many Central Americans to migrate north. Psychologist M. Brinton Lykes, of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at  Boston College, says that it is also “time to start considering another inalienable right — the right to remain.” Noting that the work situation to remain is beyond bleak, she does question what options do people have to stay and “why aren’t we more concerned about that?”

Mauricio Gaborit is a psychologist who studies the migration of children and adolescents in El Salvador. He notes that to be a youth in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras is “extremely stressful. …so stressful…that the migration route with all its perils barely registers above the daily pressures children and their families face here.”

Guatemalan psychologist Cóbar Catalán urges “if we understand the individual reasons that force people to migrate, we may be closer to finding the interventions that are relevant and effective...Listening and telling people’s stories is a first step to start humanizing migrants in a society where blaming the victim tends to be the norm.”

Not about migration but about staying home is the report filed by Zara Greenbaum on the future of remote work. More than 26 million Americans (16 percent of the workforce) work remotely at least some of the time. Not every job is suitable for remote work. However, researchers Ravi Gajendran and Timothy Golden found that jobs that were complex yet did not require much social support were well suited to telecommuting. Jobs that require concentration and focused problem-solving fare better away from a distracting office environment.

The downside to telecommuting is social isolation and the blurring of boundaries between family and work. According to Gajendran, the bottom line is that “it’s time for organizations to move beyond seeing it [telecommuting] as a family-friendly work arrangement. When done well, remote work has the potential to improve performance, increase employee satisfaction and benefit a business.”

What of these vignettes of research resonate with you? Family dinners or parental discipline? The plight of Central Americans leaving home or how to work from home?

Articles referenced from Monitor on Psychology (October 2019):

  • Zara Greenbaum
    “The Future of Remote Work”
    “5 Questions for Anne Fishel”
    “Support for Central Americans”
    ·         Stephanie Pappas
    “Teaming Up To Change Child Discipline”
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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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