Human Development and Family Studies News

In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, Dr. Andrea Wittenborn, associate professor of Couple and Family Therapy, discusses Williams’ last gift—the gift of raising societal awareness about the prevalence and severity of depression among men.  In her Detroit Free Press editorial, Dr. Wittenborn describes what is known about treating the complex disease, as well as the work that lies ahead to improve outcomes for those suffering.

When a graphic videotape was released by TMZ detailing severe domestic  violence perpetrated by the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice against his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, an international dialogue about domestic violence within and outside of the NFL ensued.  Dr. Amy Bonomi indicates domestic violence is a problem throughout society, not just the NFL.  However, the high profile case involving Ray Rice case permits an opening to promote constructive dialogue about violence against women throughout society.  Dr. Bonomi raises questions and considerations to move the world’s recognition of and response to domestic violence.

Two nations – separate and unequal. While this statement is based on an epic book (Savage Inequalities) by Jonathan Kozol, it reflects the reality that racial and ethnic minority youth who are involved in juvenile justice system programs experience daily. Since the adaptation of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act of 1974, jurisdictions have been required to assess disparate treatment of racial and ethnic minority compared to non-Hispanic White youth at nine particular stages of the juvenile justice system. Federal data, however, indicate that disparities across all areas of the juvenile justice continue, with significantly higher rates of arrest, adjudication, and waiver to adult courts among racial and ethnic minority youth.

Youth of Latino ancestry face additional challenges.  However, there is a dearth of information on disparate treatment across youth of Latino ancestry, specifically. Evidenced based programs have tended to neglect Latino youth in the development of models.  As well, there is lack of attention to adapting existing interventions to meet the unique needs of Latino youth from different ancestries (e.g., Mexican, Bolivian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, etc.).

Dr. Francisco (Chico) Villarruel provided testimony at the July 29th Congressional Briefing on how “tough on crime” legislation has exacerbated disproportional outcomes for Latino youth. Sponsored by Representative Cardenas (CA) and organized by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), panelist summarized issues and evolving efforts to address the challenges that Latino youth and their families experience when involved with juvenile justice system programs. Click here to read Dr. Villarruel’s full testimony.

Dr. Francisco Villarruel

Dr. Francisco (Chico) Villarruel

HDFS undergrad Jacqueline Pitone's research was selected as the First Place winner for the Social Science Posters at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum on April 4, 2014. Her research presentation was titled Early Childhood Educators' Beliefs and Practices for Teaching Letter Knowledge to Preschoolers. Jacqueline worked with Dr. Hope Gerde, her faculty mentor, on this project and poster presentation.

Jacqueline Pitone

In partnership with Michigan State Extension’s Greening Institute, Dr. Barbara Ames and a team of graduate students are evaluating the social and economic needs of un-or underemployed mature workers. In the present study, workers 30 years of age and older, currently involved in the process of foreclosure were interviewed. The goal of the project was to give voice to the struggles of these individuals and their families, and to pilot a post-foreclosure curriculum.

This study is part of a larger project investigating the multiple facets of long-term un-or underemployment, home foreclosure, and the age-specific needs of mature adults. Throughout this suite of studies, the research team, including graduate students Erica Tobe, Amanda Guinot Talbot, and Camaya Wallace Bechard, interviewed participants and key community workers throughout the state of Michigan. In total, the team has interviewed 37 un-or underemployed mature workers.

Presently, the main focus of this study is to evaluate and provide feedback on a post-foreclosure curriculum created by Extension educators trained in foreclosure counseling. The curriculum contains six units covering topics that span from (a) understanding wants, needs, values, and family strengths; (b) examining and understanding financial records; and (c) knowing available housing options.

Preliminary results reveal that mature workers are dealing with a variety of mental, emotional, and physical issues surrounding the loss of their home. Fear and anxiety for the future of their home and financial lives, feeling angry toward mortgage companies, and family stress were all prominent emotions expressed. Participants voiced that one of their greatest educational needs is information on moving forward post-foreclosure. This includes, acquiring tools for building a new and healthy financial future, plans to adjust or create a new family budget, and ways to restore damaged credit. 

A full study report will be forthcoming. For more information on this or other related projects please contact Camaya Wallace Bechard ( or Amanda Guinot Talbot (

The following related studies are currently in the process of publication.

  • Mature Workers Experiencing Under or Unemployment: Implications for Policy
  • "My home…What else do you want me to give up?": A Phenomenological Approach to The Experience of Un-or Underemployment & Home Foreclosure for Mature Adults