Tag Archives: Jane Mendle

FEATURES

Qi Wang Retraces Her Path to Memory Research

Qi Wang, an Association for Psychological Science (APS) Fellow esteemed for her scientific contributions on culture and autobiographical memory, reflects on her career path in an interview with Suparna Rajaram, the President of APS.

 


Special Issue on Women in Science 

Wendy Williams, founder, and director of the Cornell Institute for Women in Science (CIWS) has edited a special edition of a journal on evidence-based research about factors that affect the academic and professional lives of women in STEM fields. In her editorial of Underrepresentation of Women in Science: International and Cross-Disciplinary Evidence and Debate, Williams provides a framework for understanding some of the issues and viewpoints that surround the debate of women in science.


Mothers Instill Eco-Awareness

Gary Evans and colleagues are the first to show that parenting can have long-term effects on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood. This has important implications for education and public policy.

 


Long-Term Depression Risk for Girls Who Start Puberty Early

In his blog, The Methods Man, F. Perry Wilson MD, commends the quality of Jane Mendle's research on how early puberty may lead to depression in adulthood. Her results have important implications for depression screening recommendations of girls in early puberty.

 


Too Young to Plead

In a recent paper, Valerie Reyna and Rebecca Helm reported that adolescents are more likely than adults to plea guilty to crimes they have not committed. They argue that the decision-making processes involved with plea-bargaining are developmentally immature in adolescents and they are vulnerable to pleading to a lesser charge even if innocent.

 


Mapping Emotion in the Brain

Daniel Casasanto and graduate student Geoffrey Brookshire propose an exciting new theory that, contrary to the prevailing view that different emotions are localized in specific areas of the brain, emotions are “smeared over both hemispheres” depending on an individual’s handedness.

 


The Accents We Trust

Katherine Kinzler studies the development of social cognition, with particular emphasis on exploring infants’ and children’s attention to the language and accent with which others speak as a marker of group membership. A recent article by the BBC explores her research and its implications for empathy, cultural learning, and trust.

 


 

In his blog, The Methods Man, F. Perry Wilson MD, commends Jane Mendle's research on how early puberty may lead to depression in adulthood. Her results have important implications for screening girls in early puberty for depression.


Several animal studies and basically all of human experience have taught us that puberty is a particularly difficult stage of life psychologically. A new study appearing in the journal Pediatrics now suggests that early puberty in girls can lead to depression and anti-social behavior well into adulthood, suggesting that the difficulties of those teenage years are far from fleeting.

Jane Mendle

Researchers led by Jane Mendle, at Cornell used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative survey study which ran from 1994 to 2008. More than 10,000 girls, average age 16 years, were interviewed at the start of the study and followed into their late 20's. Over that span, they were asked about depressive and antisocial symptoms. They also reported the date of their first period, which is a proxy for pubertal development.

The average girl reported the onset of menarche at around 12 years, but there was a wide distribution, with about 10% of girls reporting a first period at age 10 or younger.

The study showed that a younger age of menarche was associated with greater depressive symptoms in the later teen years.

Perhaps more interestingly, it showed that younger age at menarche was associated with more depressive symptoms even as the women approached 30 years of age.

In an elegant analysis, the authors went on to show that the driver of that elevated depression rate in later adulthood was the depression in the teenage years. In other words, girls who develop early are more likely to get depressed as teenagers, and that depression may set the tone for decades to come.

Now there are some factors here that were unaccounted for, body weight being a major one. Overweight and obese girls go through puberty earlier, and body weight is a risk factor for depression. I asked Mendle about this potential confounder.

"We know that people treat girls who look very physically mature different from girls who do not look physically mature and that is not purely attributable to weight. We know that parents do it and we know that teachers do it. There is also not any good evidence that weight would be influencing the antisocial and externalizing behaviors that were seen".

Clinically, whether early puberty is a sign of other stressors or a cause of distress in itself might not matter. If early puberty is associated with depression, the implication is that pediatricians should start screening for depression earlier in girls who develop earlier. The United States Preventative Services Task Force currently recommends screening for depression starting at age 12. For some girls, an even earlier intervention may have long-lasting effects.

F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, is an assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. He is a MedPage Today reviewer, and in addition to his video analyses, he authors a blog, The Methods Man. You can follow @methodsmanmd on Twitter.

FEATURES

Stephen Ceci awarded APA's highest honor for developmental psychology

Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the Department of Human Development, will receive the American Psychological Associations’ G. Stanley Hall award for distinguished contributions to developmental science at APA’s August 2018 meeting in San Francisco.


PRYDE forum focuses on youth and social media

More than 50 Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and 4-H program leaders, youth service providers from community agencies and Cornell faculty members discussed productive social media use and youth development.


The lasting effects of childhood poverty

Gary Evans is interviewed about his research on the influence of childhood poverty on biology, health, and development.


The "Diana Effect" - How Princess Diana helped many seek help for bulimia

On the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, Jane Mendle credits Diana with helping remove the stigma of mental illness and bulimia.


Aging brains make seniors vulnerable to financial scams

SprengIn a new paper, Nathan Spreng reports that some seniors are more at risk than others to scams because of age-related changes in their brains.


STUDENTS IN THE NEWS

Lindsay Dower - Outstanding Senior Award 2017

Lindsay Dower ‘17 spent her four years at Cornell working to improve the lives of both those within the College of Human Ecology and in the broader Ithaca community, truly embodying the mission of the college.


MULTIMEDIA

Valerie Reyna - member of the National Academy of Medicine

 


 

Jane Mendle, professor of Human Development, urges people to speak out about their mental illness and encourage others to seek help.

Reprinted from Motto from the Editors of Time, August, 30, 2017.

Jane Mendle, associate professor of human development

by Jane Mendle

A very specific image of Princess Diana comes to mind as we recognize the 20th anniversary of her death. We remember her as the “people’s princess” — from her jewel-studded wedding to her petrified final minutes in a Parisian tunnel. She walked through fields of landminesembraced an AIDS patient, introduced us to the vicious tenacity of the tabloid press and embodied the most glorious aspects of 1980s fashion.

But what is often forgotten is that Diana was also a paradox: under the magnificently poised image she presented to the world, she struggled with bulimia, self-injury and lingering feelings of worthlessness.

Princess Diana

In the early 1990s, toward the end of her marriage, Diana gave a series of interviews to promising to share “her true story.” In 1992, Andrew Morton published Diana: Her True Story (based on secret recordings Diana had an intermediary make for the author), which revealed that the princess was living with the eating disorder. In an 1995 interview with BBC, she described bulimia as a “symptom of what was going on in my marriage.”

Diana’s candid self-disclosures in these interviews may be her most powerful and unrecognized legacy. Her honesty helped chip away at the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraged others to get help. It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people changed their lives because Diana talked about hers.

Today, nearly one in six adults in the U.K. and one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness. Millions in the U.K. and the U.S. currently have an eating disorder, which is often accompanied by depression or an anxiety disorder. But only a relatively small percentage of people will actually seek treatment. One of the biggest barriers is not access to help, but rather fear, shame and embarrassment. While a number of celebrities, including Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have spoken out about living with mental illness in recent years, such frank disclosures were far less typical when Diana first opened up about her life experiences.

Even more unexpected was the clarity, honesty and depth with which Diana described her bulimia.“That’s like a secret disease,” she told the BBC in that 1995 interview. “You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day — some do it more — and it gives you a feeling of comfort.”

“It’s like having a pair of arms around you,” she added, “but it’s temporarily, temporary.”

She said that she often came home from her official engagements “feeling pretty empty” and that she felt immense pressure to keep her marriage together despite the couple’s well-documented problems. “I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable,” she said.

For people who don’t understand why someone would feel compelled to binge and purge, Diana’s shockingly vulnerable explanations provided a simple answer. Binging, she said, functioned as a release valve for pressures and problems that seemed otherwise insurmountable. The stigma surrounding mental health can often be exacerbated by a lack of knowledge, and Diana’s candid interview allowed others to empathize and understand what it’s like to live with bulimia.

Diana’s disclosure had even more value for people with first-hand experience with bulimia. During the second half of the 20th century, rates of bulimia in Western, industrialized nations rose dramatically. Yet many women viewed bulimia as a private and deeply humiliating experience that should be kept hidden.

Remarkably, in the years during which Diana spoke publicly about her bulimia, rates of womenseeking treatment for bulimia in Great Britain more than doubled. The press dubbed this phenomenon the “Diana effect.” Mental health practitioners credited this shift to greater public awareness and dialogue about bulimia, as well as women identifying with Diana. If a princess could be bulimic, so could they. If she could explain why she hurt herself, they could recognize that side of themselves too. If she could overcome her eating disorder, they could too.

Self-disclosures, particularly of people in positions of power or visibility, can change how other people approach their own psychological health. Researchers have found that knowing someone else with a mental illness can encourage others to get help. “It is notable that the Princess’s death in 1997 coincided with the beginning of the decline in bulimia incidence,” researchers wrote in a 2005 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on time trends in eating disorder incidences. “Identification with a public figure’s struggle with bulimia might have temporarily decreased the shame associated with the illness, and encouraged women to seek help for the first time.”

Unfortunately, after Diana’s death in 1997, those rates slowly returned to baseline. By 2000, the “Diana effect” had vanished. Currently, in the United States, we are in the throes of a new mental health crisis. A study published in Pediatrics last year found that between 2005 and 2014, there was a 37% increase in the number of individuals aged 12-20 reporting a major depressive episode. But there hasn’t been a corresponding rise in treatment rates.

Hopefully, the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death will reignite conversations about why it’s so important to speak openly about mental health and encourage others to seek help. Her sons have already taken up that task. Earlier this year, Prince Harry spoke frankly about seeking counseling to address his grief over his mother’s death. Meanwhile, Prince William appeared in a documentary about anorexia, where he discussed his mother’s experience with bulimia.

“We need to normalize the conversation about mental health,” Prince William said in the documentary. “We need to be matter-of-fact about it, and not hide it in the dark where it festers.”

Diana did not set out to be a mental health advocate. She simply told her truth and her narrative resonated. These days, we could use more truth-tellers like her.

FEATURES

Charles Brainerd elected to national education academy

Charles Brainerd was elected to the National Academy of Education (NAEd) for his scholarly contributions in the field of education research. Brainerd’s research has had a deep impact on educational, developmental and cognitive psychology.


Robert J. Sternberg receives lifetime achievement award

Robert J. Sternberg, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, has been selected to receive the 2017 William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science. The award honors members for their lifetime of outstanding intellectual contributions to psychology.


Jane Mendle awarded Weiss Junior Fellow for teaching

Jane Mendle was awarded the Stephen H. Weiss Junior Fellowship which has a term of five years. She was recommended by the selection committee for her passion for her subject and for teaching, her interactive lectures and creative assignments.


For Asian-Americans, daily racial slights invade the nights

In a new study by Anthony Ong, one of the first to link daily racial slights and insults to quality of sleep. The more instances of subtle racial discrimination the participants experienced, the worse the effect on how long and how well they slept.


Female STEM leaders more likely to back policies aiding women

A study by Wendy Williams of college and university administrators has found that female department chairs, deans, and provosts have different attitudes and beliefs than their male counterparts about hiring women professors in STEM fields - women administrators emphasize policies that attract and retain women.


Update on Irlen Research at Cornell University

Adam Anderson, in Human Development's Human Neuroscience Institute, has received a grant from the Irlen Syndrome Foundation for an fMRI project being conducted at the Cornell MRI Facility on the relationship between color processing and other cognitive processes in the brain.


Eve De Rosa: Neurochemicals on the mind

Eve De Rosa, associate professor of human development and an expert in the neurochemistry of cognition explains how her research on the neurochemical acetylcholine led her to Cornell.


STUDENTS IN THE NEWS

Law School commends dual PhD/JD development psychology and law student

Amelia Hritz, the first student in Human Development's Dual PhD and JD Program in Developmental Psychology and Law, was honored at the Law School graduation celebration.


Human Development honors 2017 undergraduate seniors

The Department of Human Development commended the graduating seniors of 2017 who made exceptional contributions to research and outreach.


MULTIMEDIA

Listen to Camille Sims (HD'15) talk about being an HD student and her advisor Anthony Burrow.


Watch Eve De Rosa and Adam Anderson talk about how emotion affects our vision and perception of reality.


Listen to Katherine Kinzler talk about how child food preferences are linked to how children learn about people.


Watch Ritch Savin-Williams' Chat in the Stacks at Mann Library - Becoming Who I am: Young Men on Being Gay.

Jane Mendle

Reprinted and abridged from the Cornell Chronicle, February 9, 2017.

by Daniel Aloi

Jane Mendle, associate professor of human development, was awarded the Stephen H. Weiss Junior Fellowship which has a term of five years.

The fellowship winners were announced by Interim President Hunter Rawlings at a recognition event in the Groos Family Atrium in Klarman Hall.

Established in 1992, the Weiss Presidential Fellowship was conceived by the late Stephen H. Weiss ’57, chairman emeritus of the board of trustees, to recognize tenured Cornell faculty members for the teaching and mentoring of undergraduates. Two or three recipients are named each year; in addition to a respected scholarly career, the recipients have sustained records of effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching and contributions to undergraduate education.

The Junior Fellows Award is given to two recently tenured associate professors each year for excellence in teaching and notable scholarship.

Jane Mendle is a New York state-licensed clinical psychologist who joined the human development faculty in 2011. She directs the Adolescent Transitions Lab, and her research in adolescent psychology includes a focus on how aspects of puberty relate to psychological well-being. She was recommended by the selection committee for her passion for her subject and for teaching, her interactive lectures and creative assignments. Her students describe her as enthusiastic and approachable, and noted her dedication to advising and devoting time to students needing extra help. Colleagues also praised her service on her department’s undergraduate education committee.

Mendle’s research has been profiled by The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, The Economist, USA Today, Newsweek and other media outlets. She has awards from the Society of Research on Adolescence, the Behavior Genetics Association and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, and was named a rising star by the Association for Psychological Science.

Reprinted from the New York Times, June 6, 2016

by Perri Klass, M.D.girl alone 2

When girls come in for their physical exams, one of the questions I routinely ask is “Do you get
your period?” I try to ask before I expect the answer to be yes, so that if a girl doesn’t seem to know about the changes of puberty that lie ahead, I can encourage her to talk about them with her mother, and offer to help answer questions. And I often point out that even those who have not yet embarked on puberty themselves are likely to have classmates who are going through these changes, so, again, it’s important to let kids know that their questions are welcome, and will be answered accurately.

But like everybody else who deals with girls, I’m aware that this means bringing up the topic when girls are pretty young. Puberty is now coming earlier for many girls, with bodies changing in the third and fourth grade, and there is a complicated discussion about the reasons, from obesity and family stress to chemicals in the environment that may disrupt the normal effects of hormones. I’m not going to try to delineate that discussion here — though it’s an important one — because I want to concentrate on the effect, rather than the cause, of reaching puberty early.

A large study published in May in the journal Pediatrics looked at a group of 8,327 children born in Hong Kong in April and May of 1997, for whom a great deal of health data has been collected. The researchers had access to the children’s health records, showing how their doctors had documented their physical maturity, according to what are known as the Tanner stages, for the standardized pediatric index of sexual maturation.

Before children enter puberty, we call it Tanner I; for girls, Tanner II is the beginning of breast development, while for boys, it’s the enlargement of the scrotum and testes and the reddening and changing of the scrotum skin. Boys and girls then progress through the intermediate changes to stage V, full physical maturity.

In this study, the researchers looked at the relationship between the age at which children moved from Tanner I to Tanner II — that is, the age at which the physical beginnings of puberty were noticed — and the likelihood of depression in those children when they were 12 to 15 years old, as detected on a screening questionnaire.

“What we found was the girls who had earlier breast development had a higher risk of depressive symptoms, or more depressive symptoms,” said Dr. C. Mary Schooling, an epidemiologist who is a professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health, and was the senior author on the study. “We didn’t see the same thing for boys.” Earlier onset of breast development in girls was associated with a higher risk of depression in early adolescence even after controlling for many other factors, including socioeconomic status, weight or parents’ marital status.

Other studies, including in the United States, have shown this same pattern, with girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence. Some studies have found this in boys, though it’s not as clear. But there is concern that girls whose development starts earlier than their peers are at risk in a number of ways, and across different cultural backgrounds.

“Early puberty is a challenge and a stress, and it’s associated with more than depression,” said Dr. Jane Mendle, a clinical psychologist in the department of human development at Cornell University. She named anxiety, disordered eating and self-injury as some of the risks for girls. In her studies of puberty, she has found associations between early development and depression in both genders in New York children. In boys, the tempo of puberty was significant, as well as the timing; boys who moved more rapidly from one Tanner stage to the next were at higher risk and the increased depression risk seemed to be related to changes in their peer relationships.

Before puberty, Dr. Mendle said, depression occurs at roughly the same rate in both sexes, but by the midpoint of puberty, girls are two and a half times more likely to be depressed than boys.

Some of these children may already be at risk; Dr. Mendle said that early puberty is more common in children who have grown up in circumstances of adversity, in poverty, in the foster care system. But some of it is heredity and some of it is body type and some of it, probably, is chance.

Researchers have wondered about hormonal associations with depression; Dr. Schooling pointed out that their study found that depression was associated with early breast development, controlled by estrogens, but not with early pubic hair development, controlled by androgens. “There is no physical factor that we know about that would explain this; estrogen has been eliminated as a driver of depression in earlier research,” she said in an email. “We probably need to explore social factors to seek an explanation.” They also plan to follow up with their study population at age 17.

The biological transition of puberty, of course, occurs in a social and cultural context. One very important effect of developing early, Dr. Mendle said, is that it changes the way that people treat you, from your peers to the adults in your life to strangers. “When kids navigate puberty they start to look different,” she said. “It can be hard for them to maintain friendships with kids who haven’t developed, and we also know that early maturing girls are more likely to be harassed and victimized by other kids in their grade.”

Parents should be aware of the difficulties that children may experience if they start puberty earlier than their peers, but lots of children handle early development with resiliency, and even pride.

Children who start puberty early – say, 8 instead of 12 — are faced with handling those physical changes while they are more childlike in their knowledge and their cognitive development, and in their emotional understanding of what goes on around them.

Parents should keep in mind that the same protective factors that help children navigate other challenges of growing up are helpful here: All children do better when they have good relationships with their parents, and when they feel connected at school. And we should be talking about the changes to their bodies before they happen, and make it clear that all of these topics are open for discussion.