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Coordinated team action best addresses elder abuse

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news-pillemer2-inpostThe Cornell Chronicle reports on a recent publication, co-authored by BCTR director Karl Pillemer, outlining the likely traits of victims and perpetrators of elder abuse and the best approach to addressing the problem. The findings from the review of current research suggests that a team approach is most effective:

As many as one out of 10 people age 60 and older will experience some kind of abuse, most often in the form of financial exploitation, says a new Cornell study. Prevalence rates were previously thought to be 4 percent to 6 percent.

“It’s not that the rate of elder abuse has gone up. It’s that with improved research, we now know definitively that this is a very serious public health problem,” said Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development and a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“Elder Abuse,” appearing Nov. 11 in The New England Journal of Medicine, pulls together research from 46 studies from around the world. Pillemer is co-author with Mark Lachs, professor of medicine and co-chief of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

A profile of those likely to be abused also has emerged, the authors say. At greatest risk are women and elders with physical or cognitive impairments, low incomes or dementia. Those who live with others, such as a spouse or adult children, are also at higher risk; people who live alone are much less likely to be abused because there is simply less opportunity for abuse. On the other side of the coin, perpetrators tend to have mental illness and abuse substances.

“So you can get a picture of an older woman, who is beginning to experience an impairment, lives with a relative (who is likely to be the abuser) and otherwise is socially isolated, and may have some form of dementia. The perpetrator has their own problems. That is what elder abuse looks like,” Pillemer said.

The abuse can take many forms: physical, sexual, psychological or verbal mistreatment, as well as financial exploitation and neglect. The study found that in nursing homes, there are high rates of violence and aggression toward older adults. In particular, residents abusing other residents is more common than staff mistreating residents.

The findings also suggest that doctors play a crucial role in recognizing abuse and intervening, said Lachs. “A physician may be the only person who ever gets the chance to detect elder abuse, because these people can become so socially isolated with just the abuser that often no one else sees them,” he said. And given the prevalence of the problem, a doctor who is seeing 20 patients per day could see several potential victims of elder abuse per week, he added.

Simply removing the victim from their situation rarely works. Some older people, if they have no other choice, would prefer to rely on an abusive caregiver who is also providing care than have to move out of their home or into a nursing home, Pillemer said. “These cases are often unbelievably difficult to resolve. It’s hard for an agency to resist the temptation to move the person into the nursing home. Usually that’s not what the older person wants, and often it’s not the most appropriate place for them.”

Instead, doctors can be most helpful by spearheading a multidisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, hospitals, police, district attorneys and lawyers to help victims get the services they need. One of the paper’s strongest recommendations is for each city to create this type of team. “It’s a simple intervention, but it turns out to really work wonders,” Pillemer said. “The expression ‘It takes a village’ is true for the prevention of elder abuse.”


Experts recommend team approach to thwart elder abuse - Cornell Chronicle
Nursing home residents abusing one another and scammers ripping off the elderly, new study finds - Daily News

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BCTR in the Fall 2015 Human Ecology Magazine

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The BCTR's New York State 4-H Youth Development Program is featured on the cover of the Fall Human Ecology Magazine. Also inside, an article introduces the BCTR Faculty Fellows program.


news-2015-fallhemag-cover-inpostLighting a Fire: 4-H programs spark New York youth to pursue STEM careers and higher education (pp. 20-25)


Linking Research and Real Life

In New York, 4-H reaches 170,000 youth across 62 counties. The state organization is anchored at Human Ecology’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, where researchers partner with 4-H community educators to develop programs, test new ideas in youth development, and measure outcomes.

Together, BCTR faculty and 4-H leaders are studying the best ways to recruit and retain youth and offering professional development opportunities to 4-H educators, including conferences where faculty share the latest youth development research to educators and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county leaders.

“BCTR is a natural place for 4-H,” says Elaine Wethington, Bronfenbrenner Center acting director. “Part of the process of translating research is to have faculty interact with practitioners on the ground to co-develop new projects. Connecting with 4-H and its programs provides opportunities to benefi t many more New York youth by allowing our researchers to learn from 4-H and also helping 4-H to improve its programs.”

Andy Turner, New York state 4-H program leader, agrees the partnership is a two-way street that benefi ts 4-H and the College of Human Ecology.

“There are strong similarities between the positive youth development framework that is guiding 4-H and the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of human development,” he says. “Bringing 4-H into the BCTR allows us to look for ways to integrate youth development practice with emerging research and evidenced-based practice. It’s clear that 4-H is a major player in the extension and outreach mission of the college”


news-2015-fallhemag-fellows-inpostCommunity Connections: Bronfenbrenner Center launches Faculty Fellows program (p. 41)


Pairing faculty members with community members and extension staff, the college’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research this year named three professors to two-year terms as Faculty Fellows. The new program, funded in part by a gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman ’60 and Stephen Milman ’58, MBA ’59, allows professors to pursue research in response to public needs.

“Our aim is to embed the fellows and their students in BCTR activities and have them learn from others doing translational research,” says Elaine Wethington, acting director of BCTR and professor of human development and sociology.

For more on the new fellows, see our recent news post.


Human Ecology Magazine - Fall 2015


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CUCE-NYC present at urban farming symposium

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CUCE-NYC associate Philson A.A. Warner, left, speaks to a guest at the Grow: Urban Garden Symposium in NYC, Oct. 14.

CUCE-NYC associate Philson A.A. Warner, left, speaks to a guest at the Grow: Urban Garden Symposium in NYC, Oct. 14.

From the Cornell Chronicle:

There is more to urban agriculture than just food production. Urban farming introduces communities, children and adults to the value of green spaces in a city such as New York and allows for the creation of an educational environment where children can come and learn the sciences in an engaging way, according Zach Pickens, an urban farmer at New York City-based Riverpark Farm.

Pickens was one of four panelists talking about “Advanced Urban Farming Techniques” Oct. 14 during the Grow: Urban Garden Symposium in New York City. Also speaking was Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC (CUCE-NYC) associate Philson A.A. Warner, who spoke at an advanced urban farming techniques panel. Warner, the founding director of CUCE-NYC’s Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics Learning Lab, addressed an audience of about 250 when he described ways to get his pioneering technologies into classrooms across the city.

“We need more experiential learning in classrooms, and we need to engage youngsters in real-time with real technology,” Warner said.

The urban garden symposium was organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office – in collaboration with CUCE-NYC, Randall’s Island Park Alliance and the American Museum of Natural History, which also served as the venue for the event. Its purpose was to identify resources for people wanting to start an urban garden or to take their existing gardens to the next level. Said Brewer: “If we can do something right in our neighborhoods then we can do so much good for everyone.”

“It is wonderful to co-sponsor an event that brings together so many New York City residents who are passionate about urban gardening,” said Jennifer Tiffany, CUCE-NYC executive director. “The participants in this symposium show the powerful connections between ‘growing food’ and ‘growing people.’” The symposium kicked off with the “Urban Gardening 101: Where To Start?” panel moderated by Cornell Small Farm Program Director Anu Rangarajan, who questioned the panelists about the key things they did to be successful at urban gardening, the biggest lessons learned, and surprises or benefits they noticed to urban farming.

“We are all about pathways,” Rangarajan said. “We want to support people so that they can get into agriculture and urban gardening.”

“Community gardens registered with New York City Parks GreenThumb have access to soil, resources and connections to organizations such as Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Kenneth Williams, Manhattan outreach coordinator at GreenThumb, told the audience. Some of the biggest lessons Williams said he learned after urban gardening were that it was important to assess the assets in a community and have enough support from other partner organizations and politicians to ensure ongoing preservation.

Addressing a question from an audience member about challenges associated with implementing hydroponics and aquaponics in schools, Cornell scientist Warner said that the learning curve was the biggest drawback. “We at Cornell changed our strategies because we trained teachers in the science department in schools and we went from the community aspect to teaching young people how to producer cleaner, safer food using hydroponics,” he said. Warner also demonstrated his hydroponics technology at the urban garden fair during the symposium using his mini-hydroponics unit. Participants met with exhibitors like Warner and watched live demonstrations.

“Promoting healthy human development and building strong secure food systems are key objectives of Cornell University's research, teaching and outreach programs and of Cornell University Cooperative Extension's work in the city and statewide,” Tiffany said. “Part of our mission is to bridge Cornell research on urban gardening and urban agriculture with the New York City community programs highlighted today. We hope to continue to partner with Gale Brewer and her staff on the work launched with the GROW report on urban gardening and with today's symposium.”


Cornell staff advise NYC urban farmers at symposium - Cornell Chronicle

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Introducing the first BCTR Fellows

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Casasola, Wildeman, and Seguin

Casasola, Wildeman, and Seguin

The BCTR is proud to introduce our first faculty Fellows, who will work closely with the center from 2015-2017. Acting director Elaine Wethington notes, “our aim is to embed the fellows and their students in BCTR activities and have them learn from others doing translational research.” The Fellows Program will help further the center's translational mission by bringing faculty members in the College of Human Ecology into the orbit of the BCTR, actively encouraging their engagement with the center and it's projects, and deepening their knowledge and use of translational research.

BCTR Fellows receive two years of support that includes:

  • An academic-year graduate research assistant (GRA)
  • Pilot study funding
  • Additional funding upon request for costs related to translational research activities (for example, developing relationships with community agencies or dissemination of research to practice audiences)
  • Access to proposal-writing support, including assistance with accessing community populations, working with agencies, IRB issues in translational research, consultation on proposals (including a “mock study section” review)
  • Space for fellows' GRAs in Beebe Hall

Our inaugural fellows are Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development, Rebecca Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, and Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management. A recent article in Human Ecology Magazine presents each fellow's plans for their time in the center:

Casasola plans to continue her research on how to most effectively engender spatial skills and language in children, including their comprehension of words such as ‘rectangle,’ ‘horizontal,’ and ‘corner,’ and their mental rotation abilities.


Seguin will continue her research on evaluation measures designed to support healthy living in rural areas, including an objective audit tool to assess environmental factors that make healthy eating and physical activity easier or more difficult for local residents.


Wildeman...will co-organize a BCTR conference on children of incarcerated parents, followed by an edited book on the topic. He plans to study whether teachers perceive children with incarcerated parents differently and is working on a proposal to renew the BCTR’s National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, a resource for researchers nationwide.

The new Fellows program is partially funded by a gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman ’60 and Stephen Milman ’58, MBA ’59.


Community Connections: Bronfenbrenner Center launches Faculty Fellows Program - Human Ecology Magazine

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NY State 4-H on PBS for American Graduate Day

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Soledad O'Brien, Jamila Simon, and Nosa Akol

Soledad O'Brien, Jamila Simon, and Nosa Akol

As part of PBS American Graduate Day 2015 on Saturday, Oct. 3, Broome County CITIZEN U leader Nosa Akol and Jamila Simon, New York State 4-H citizenship and civic engagement specialist, spoke to a national audience about the power of youth development programs.

American Graduate Day 2015 celebrates the exceptional work of individuals and groups across the country who are American Graduate Champions: those helping local youth stay on track to college and career successes. Hosted by journalist Soledad O’Brien, the broadcast featured seven hours of national and local programming, live interviews, and performances.

Simon and Akol, a graduate of Binghamton High School, represented CITIZEN U and 4-H during their interview. A native of South Sudan, Akol shared how Cornell youth development programs helped her to gain confidence and communication and leadership skills to overcome painful bullying about her dark skin tone. In 2015, she won the 2015 4-H Youth in Action Award, the organization’s highest honor.

(Above story from the College of Human Ecology tumblr)

Video of Jamila and Nosa on PBS American Graduate Day:



Nosa Akol received the 2015 4-H Youth in Action Award, the highest 4-H honor, for her exemplary leadership in creating positive changes in her community, empowering peers, and overcoming personal challenges. The video below was created at the time of the award. In it Nosa discusses the influence 4-H and CITIZEN U have had on her life and others express their admiration for Nosa and her work.



Teen leader Nosa Akol takes her message to PBS - Cornell Chronicle
PBS spotlights Cornell youth development success - Cornell College of Human Ecology tumblr

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4-H at the 2015 New York State Fair

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Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett visits with 4-H members at the State Fair.

Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett visits with 4-H members at the State Fair.

As always, the 4-H building at the New York State Fair was lively with activity and VIP guests. The ever-popular Dairy Cattle Birthing Center featured many 4-H youth with their cows. Visitors could view a domed incubator with hatching chicks. Another favorite annual event, the Robotics Challenge had teams competing for prizes. For the Junior Iron Chef competition, youth took Fair foods with little nutritional value and added healthy ingredients to create a new, tasty, and nutritional dish. A Fashion Revue featured runway models working 4-H youth designer creations.

Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett stopped by the 4-H Youth Building and was interviewed by 4-H members, saying,

[This is] a great opportunity to learn leadership skills, gain confidence and the ability to speak in public, and to think on your feet. It’s really great to see how many women are involved in 4-H – along with some terrific young men. My sister was involved in 4-H … and it seems to me it’s really changing from how I knew it 30 or more years ago. It has many more women involved than when I remember – and I’d like to see that continue.

College of Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios also dropped in and was interviewed by 4-H youth.

Nearby the Fashion Revue Cornell researchers offered a glimpse of fashions and fabrics of the future including clothing that illuminates in sync with sound. Juan Hinestroza, associate professor of fiber science and apparel design, showcased work from his Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory, including functional cotton that repels bacteria, eliminates noxious gases, and conducts electricity.

4-H Media Corps interview with Juan Hinestroza:

The New York State 4-H Facebook page has many more videos from the Fair, including the Fashion Revue, Robotics Challenge, and Dog Show.


Garrett savors New York State Fair's Cornell connections - Cornell Chronicle
Future fabrics dazzle at New York State Fair - Cornell Chronicle


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Addressing scars as lingering reminders of the pain of self-injury

(0) Comments  |   Tags: CRPSIR,   Janis Whitlock,   media mention,   self-injury,  

Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

Even after doing the emotional work to heal from self-injury, scars can remain as a reminder of a painful time for many who self-injure. Tattooing has emerged as a potentially helpful tool for people with a history of self injury to cover, and reinterpret, their scars.

Janis Whitlock, director of the BCTR's Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, is quoted in a post about coping with self-injury scars. There is a biochemical payoff to self harm, notes Whitlock, "You are basically relying on your body's own chemical-producing capacity to generate a set of drugs that change your consciousness."

Whitlock also responded to the idea of warning youth about the visibility and stigma of future scarring as a deterrent to self-injurious behavior. She noted that, due to the developmental stage of the teenage brain, it is nearly impossible for youth to absorb that kind of message about the future when they're flooded with emotion.


How tattoos can ease the emotional pain of self-harm scars - Vice

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The midlife crisis myth

(0) Comments  |   Tags: aging,   Elaine Wethington,   media mention,  

Elaine Wethington

Elaine Wethington

Do a significant number of people experience stress about aging in midlife, leading to sudden life changes and sports car purchases? They do not, according to a new study. A recent post on explains that there is no evidence that people experience greater stress or more major life changes in midlife as opposed to other ages. BCTR acting director Elaine Wethington is referenced in the post, further clarifying another factor that may lead to belief in the myth of the midlife crisis:

Cornell University sociologist Elaine Wethington talks about the midlife crisis as a case of “expected stress.” You think everyone will have a midlife crisis so you feel you have to fit into the mold. If you don't, you think there's something wrong with you.

Worried about a midlife crisis? Don't. There's no such thing. - Psychology Today

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Schools learning to address rising student self-injury

(0) Comments  |   Tags: CRPSIR,   health,   Janis Whitlock,   media mention,   school,   self-injury,   youth,  

"Schools around the country have begun offering new classes and mental-health programs to help stem a sharp rise in the number of adolescents found to be engaging in self injury, especially cutting," begins a recent Wall Street Journal article. The piece goes on to outline the use of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in schools across the country to offer kids other tools to deal with overwhelming emotions.


Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, was a resource for the "Teen Cutting: Myths & Facts" sidebar on the article:

Myth: Cutting is a kind of suicide attempt.
Fact: Cutting usually isn’t intended to be life-ending. It is a coping mechanism used by young people who are stressed, overwhelmed or in emotional pain. It helps them manage their emotions and feel temporary relief.

Myth: Self-injury is something girls do, not boys.
Fact: Therapists and school officials often see more self-injuring girls than boys, but it may be that girls are more willing to ask for help. In many research samples of self-injuring people, there is a small, or no, difference in the proportion of males versus females. Girls are more likely to cut; boys are more likely to hit or burn.

Myth: Self-harm is a problem among teens but not younger children.
Fact: In a sample of 665 youth surveyed for a 2012 paper in Pediatrics, 7.6% of third graders, 4% of sixth graders, and 12.7% of ninth graders reported engaging in non-suicidal self-injury. Self-harming behaviors included cutting, hitting and scratching.

Myth: Self-injury is a problem among social misfits and struggling students.
Fact: People who self-harm include excellent students and those who struggle; youth who have a hard time fitting in, as well as leaders with a wide circle of friends; and those from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Myth: People who cut are looking for attention.
Fact: Most people who do it say cutting, while painful, makes them feel relief temporarily. Young people often do it secretly: In one study, nearly a quarter of adolescents who reported self-injuring said they were sure nobody knew or suspected. Some say the physical pain distracts them from emotional pain, or that it makes them feel more alive.


Schools face the teen cutting problem - Wall Street Journal

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Two in five African-American women know a prisoner

(0) Comments  |   Tags: article,   Christopher Wildeman,   incarceration,   inequality,   media mention,   race,  

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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