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This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.

Article

Barbara A. Kerr and Robyn N. Malmsten

There are many special characteristics and needs of gifted girls and women throughout the lifespan. As young girls, gifted girls can often be identified by early language development and precocious reading, and often need early admission to schooling, the opportunity for alone time, and encouragement and specialized training in the domains of their greatest interest. Adolescent gifted girls are often bored in school, conflicted about relationships and achievement, and eager for mentoring; they may need to advance through high school and early entry to college course-taking as well as strong relationships with master teachers and mentors. Gifted teens also need clear information about sexuality and sexual identity, particularly about the association of early sexual activity with lower achievement. Gifted women struggle throughout the world with gender relations, that is, the requirements by most societies that they bear an unequal share of the work of marriage and family life. How gifted women negotiate the dual demands of their societies often determines whether or not they will achieve eminence in their fields. Long-standing controversies concerning sex differences, women’s education, and definitions of eminence continue to have an impact on the educational and career development of gifted girls and women. Moderate sex differences favoring boys and men in sub-factors of cognitive abilities, like spatial-rotation abilities, continue to be highly publicized and are often interpreted to mean that gifted girls and women are less able than men to achieve in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Differences in adult gifted women’s and men’s STEM achievement are also attributed to preferences, when research shows that the most important variable associated with highest achievements are responsibilities in marriage and child-rearing, or gender relations. Controversies over single-sex education continue, with research both supporting and disputing the superiority of single-sex education for women; it may be that gifted women benefit more that average women from this kind of higher education. Whether single-sex or co-educational, the presence of a mentor may be most important to gifted women’s academic and career development. Finally, the concepts of eminence and genius are increasingly under scrutiny by scholars who claim they are highly gendered, with genius nearly always being associated with male dominated professions. Each of these controversies can affect gifted girls’ self-confidence, engagement, and persistence.

Article

This article begins with an overview of biological development based upon empirical research. The main focus of the article is the presentation of the major theoretical frameworks that have been employed to explain the processes involved in the psychological, cognitive, moral, social, and sexual development of the adolescent and empirical research findings where appropriate.

Article

Mindfulness, adapted from ancient Buddhist thought and practice, was introduced into the West in a secularized and Westernized form during the 1980s. In subsequent decades, it spread around the world, into clinics, workplaces, and schools. The practice involves cultivating the ability to focus attention, and to notice any distracting thoughts and feelings without judgment or elaboration, in order to reduce stress and improve mental health. As such, it is a psychological phenomenon involving metacognition, or thinking about thinking, though this can be placed within a holistic framework that sees the mind as intricately linked with the body and the external world. In the early years of the 21st century, concerns grew about children’s mental health, and schools became seen as places to address this through universal programs; that is, mental health promotion programs that reach all students and that therefore do not stigmatize those who already have psychological difficulties, or are at risk of developing them. Evidence was also accruing that, with samples of healthy (non-clinical) adults, mindfulness had moderate effects on measures such as anxiety, and strong effects in reducing stress. Although research designs were generally not very strong, the positive results and public enthusiasm for mindfulness encouraged the introduction of universal programs into schools, and even preschools. However, the dissemination of school-based mindfulness programs ran well ahead of the scientific evidence examining their efficacy (under tightly controlled conditions) or their effectiveness in real-world school contexts. While studies were suggestive that mindfulness could affect many aspects of children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing and development, the body of research as a whole fell short in terms of scientific rigor. There were few well-designed randomized controlled trials that would enable firm conclusions to be drawn that any identified effects were due to the mindfulness program rather than to unknown factors. Moreover, little attention was paid to the presumed mechanisms of change or to the developmental appropriateness of programs. As more, and better-designed, studies began to emerge, accumulating results suggested that effects were generally small, but stronger for older than younger adolescents, and longer lasting for adolescents than for children. Issues that remained for further systematic attention included many matters of program design and implementation, the safety of the practice, its basis in developmental theory and research, and its ethical and political implications.

Article

From the late 1800s, under the auspices of G. Stanley Hall and then independently by others, investigations of children’s development were undertaken from the perspective of recapitulation theory. This application of the theory was guided by the overarching premises that (a) human evolution was a linear chronology of biological and sociocultural progress; (b) an individual’s abilities, behaviors, and biological development followed the same evolutionary stages as had the human species (i.e., Ernst Haeckel’s dictum that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny); and (c) the path of human evolution could be traced backward through identification of contemporary manifestations of development and behavior. An assumption of the theory was that the human species is hierarchically differentiated by race, a concept defined by physical attributes and sociocultural practices. Persons of north-western European descent were believed to be of a race that had achieved the greatest evolutionary advancement; those of African descent, as belonging to that with the least evolutionary distance from ape ancestry. Evolutionary achievement was also differentiated by gender and economic status, with Caucasian bourgeois males ranked as superior over all others. Additionally, evolutionary progress was applied to individuals in relation to their proximity to ideals of appearance, heteronormativity, behavior and well-being. Incorporation of these beliefs into the study of human development was productive of treatises and practices that had widespread influence in scientific and popular culture. Child-centred parenting advice, progressive educational reform, and youth organizations emphasized gendered behaviors that, it was believed, would ensure children’s surpassing their parent’s evolutionary attainment, resulting in continued progress toward an ideal Euro-Anglo race. The playground movement’s segregation of non-whites, the disabled, poor and unattractive from archetype white children was similarly based on the theory’s dictum that the former being seen by the latter would contaminate white evolutionary well-being. The theoretical beliefs became further rationalization for the incarceration of Indigenous children in residential facilities that through coercion and isolation from their communities were intended to abolish the ‘race’s’ genetic lineage. Even though child study regard for the theory declined by the 1920s, its regulatory prescripts endured within developmental psychology, continuing to significantly impact beliefs about women, non-whites, the economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities and those who are gender nonconforming. As example, through policies that limit access to educational funding with explanations that such opportunities fail to alter the economic trajectory of non-whites, and through educational content that presents bourgeois Euro-Anglo persons as representing developmental normality, Academic defence of the theory’s and its founding adherents includes its use to rationalize bigotry, violence and discrimination. It is a legacy that requires concerted effort to defeat.