Reviewed Books & Films

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October 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Should Adolescent Bullies Be Punished As Criminals?

APA Suicides committed by adolescent victims of bullying have made national headlines; currently in the news is the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old girl who was bullied by two female classmates (12 and 14 years old) in Florida. The bullying behavior appears to have started because of a dispute that Rebecca had with the 14-year-old classmate over a boy they both dated. The 14-year-old took to Facebook after learning of the suicide, posting a message admitting that she bullied Rebecca with no indication of remorse or sadness about the tragedy. Subsequently, the two girls accused of bullying were arrested and charged with felony stalking. Is charging these two juveniles with felonies the right response to their bullying? Author Emily Bazelon argues against the criminalization of bullying behavior in her book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. Instead, Bazelon supports sanctions that do not shame, particularly in light of what reviewer Michael Greene points out, that "the attribution of bullying as the exclusive or primary cause of suicide is simply wrong and dangerous."

Bazelon also tackles cyberbulling, with particular focus on Facebook. She discusses some of the key dangers of cyberbullying compared to in-person bullying, including that it is harder to escape than in-person bullying and that it can have a much farther reach, maximizing the humiliation felt by the victim. In his review, Greene adds that inhibitory responses for those engaging in cyberbullying are even more limited than in the case of in-person bullying.

What are your views on the criminalization of adolescent bullying? What is the appropriate response to this behavior by law enforcement, schools, and parents? What is the responsibility of social media websites like Facebook in terms of both preventing cyberbullying and intervening when it occurs?

Read the Review
ReviewSorting Out the Pieces: Bullying, Drama, Suicide, and School Climate
By Michael B. Greene
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(43)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Whose Perspectives on What

APA In his review of A Borderlands View on Latinos, Latin Americans, and Decolonization: Rethinking Mental Health, C. Albert Bardi discusses Pilar Hernández-Wolfe's efforts to explore the ways that bicultural identity is lived and experienced in Latin@ communities. Bardi describes the book as a "broad, politicized, postmodern perspective of social circumstances that negatively impact the lives of Latin@s."

Among his critiques, Bardi says that the book provides information on political and social circumstances that affect Latin@s, but does not provide much information on how to help members of these communities. Another critique focuses on the author's failure to invite "the reader/clinician to cultural self-consideration."

The critiques of this book led me to reflect on the theorizing, research, and writing that have focused on multicultural issues over the last two decades. There are now many books designed to increase awareness of multicultural issues in psychology and cultural competence in practice. Given past efforts, what should we now expect of new offerings? Have we seen enough texts that address the historical and social factors structuring the lives of individuals who live in marginalized communities? Do we have enough evidence to state how clinicians and practitioners can assist members of the communities discussed, whether the issues are race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, or immigration status or some intersection? Perhaps what we need is an assessment of where we are and where we need to go.

Read the Review
ReviewSearching for Cultural Competence With Latin@ Clients
By C. Albert Bardi
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(38)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Perpetrators or Victims: Shifting Perceptions of Women and Violence

APA In his review of the book Perceptions of Female Offenders: How Stereotypes and Social Norms Affect Criminal Justice Responses, Thomas Schacht notes,

Despite the relative statistical underrepresentation of women in many areas of criminal behavior, there are now hundreds of empirical studies demonstrating significant and in some instances increasing roles for women as criminal offenders, including as perpetrators of violent offenses in which women have prototypically been regarded as victims.
This notion is quite evident in the discussion of intimate partner violence (IPV). Schacht notes that the authors of three chapters in the book provide empirical evidence of the gender-neutral nature of IPV. Yet, the media and scholars continue to focus on IPV as an issue about battered women. An important question posed by a chapter author with an opposing view is to what extent we have confronted and addressed social attitudes and conditions that resulted in the physical violence, "sexual coercion, reproductive control, abuse during pregnancy, and strangulation" of women in our society.

Given the quality and strength of the data, is it time to move to gender-neutral interventions and solutions to violence? Or, is it important to consider the status of women in our society and continue to focus on women victims of IPV? The important question for psychologists is, how should we train a new generation of clinicians, researchers, advocates, and so forth to think about violence and gender, particularly IPV? Are we prepared to meet the needs of male and same-sex victims?

Read the Review
ReviewBad Girls for Better or Worse
By Thomas E. Schacht
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(35)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do We Really Need Meaningful Work?

APA In his review of Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace, Karl N. Kelley states,

[T]he contributors to the volume argue that a person's work is more than a collection of tasks performed for money: It is an important part of how individuals create and explain their identity. As the title of the book suggests, work has the potential to give an individual a sense of purpose and meaning.
Do we need work, meaningful or otherwise, to help us form our identity? Can't work just be work and we rely on the other factors to form identity such as family, involvement in church or other community organizations, hobbies, and leisure activities? I often hear people say something to the effect that, "My work is just my work. My life is my family," with the idea that work just pays the bills, but their identity is formed by being a good spouse, parent, sibling, son/daughter, etc.

Relatedly, is there any good evidence that being chronically unemployed has negative consequences for mental health?

Read the Review
ReviewMore Than Money: How Work Shapes Our Identity
By Karl N. Kelley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(39)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Peril of the Paranormal

APA In his engrossing critique of Peter Lamont's Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem, Jonathan Smith argues that the book shares a common deficiency in paranormal scholarship: overlooking the potentially dangerous consequences of paranormal beliefs. Pointing out that paranormalists still deny global warming or the rights of minorities, Smith proposes:

In this age of toxic true belief and dehumanizing superstition, I think the pressing questions go beyond the realm of mind-reading tricks or communication with the dead. We need to know: "Does the evidence support any useful paranormal claim?" "Why do some paranormalists persist in ignoring clear, contrary evidence?" "When do paranormal beliefs become dangerous and stir antisocial and personally harmful behavior?" and "What are effective strategies for teaching and encouraging open-minded critical thinking?" Such questions are topics of urgent consequence, worthy of our most serious scholarly efforts.
How would you respond to Smith's challenge?

Read the Review
ReviewWeird Paranormal Beliefs: They Never Seem to Go Away
By Jonathan C. Smith
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(39)

Author Response:

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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