ASU event to discuss American media consumption during World War II

October 25, 2018

You may think of Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck as the lovable cartoon characters you grew up watching in Sunday morning cartoons. But according to Kevin Sandler, an associate professor in the Film and Media Studies program at Arizona State University, during World War II these animated icons and their friends were pictured battling Nazis in short films made for military personnel. 

“World War II permeated all genres of Hollywood production, perhaps unlike any time in Hollywood’s history. Certain genres arose during World War II — the combat film and the home-front dramas — but war themes abounded in established genres like the musical and the screwball comedy as well as Hollywood’s secondary products like newsreels, serials and cartoons,” said Sandler. New Bedford Theatre in 1934 New Bedford Theatre, 1934. Photo courtesy of Spinner Publications Download Full Image

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will co-host a program with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum titled  “What Were We Watching? Americans’ Responses to Nazism Through Cinema, Radio and Media.” 

Sandler will be joined at the event by Daniel Greene, a curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Mi-Ai Parrish, a Sue Clark-Johnson Professor for Media Innovation and Leadership in ASU's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, ASU Regents’ Professor of history at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and director of the Center for Jewish Studies, said the Holocaust must be understood in its proper historical context, first and foremost in Europe and secondarily in the U.S. 

“In the context of European history, the Holocaust has to be understood in terms of the long history of anti-Semitism, German history, the processes of modernity and the rise of the nation-state and nationalism. In the context of the United States, the Holocaust should be viewed more in terms of perception, namely, what was known about Nazism and the Final Solution at the time and how did Americans — including American Jews — respond to the information. America is also crucial to understanding Jewish life in the post-Holocaust years. We are now over 70 years beyond the horrific events of the Holocaust and we need to ponder how the Holocaust shaped the identity of Jews and the interpretation of Judaism,” Tirosh-Samuelson said.

While the upcoming event will look at media consumed at a specific time in history, it’s a topic very relevant to students and citizens today.

“Students today live in a culture that is saturated with images; they need to be very sophisticated interpreters of images,” Tirosh-Samuelson said. “They can’t just believe what they see, since images are easily manipulated by new technologies. The fact that you see an image or have something available on your screen in your palm doesn’t mean that image is factual. Students need to become critical interpreters of cultural imagery as well as of written texts and auditory messages.”

Tirosh-Samuelson stressed the importance of attending events such as this one to deepen understanding of the world’s history and Jewish history so as to understand their implications for current events.

“Students should come to a university not merely for the sake of earning a degree that secures employment but to acquire the skills, attitudes and values necessary for becoming responsible citizens,” Tirosh-Samuelson said. “Understanding how American media covered the Holocaust is part of that civic education.”

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information or to get tickets, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Parent-child relationship predicts depression, anxiety in teens attending high-achieving schools

October 25, 2018

What causes some adolescents to thrive while other teenagers struggle with substance abuse and mental health? Through years of research, the scientists who study development and the clinicians who treat troubled teenagers have developed a list of risk factors that predict the problems faced by adolescents.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an influential philanthropic organization that focuses on health, recently published a report on adolescent wellness that prioritized risk factors for adolescents. The top three — poverty, racism and discrimination — have been on the list for many years, but the 2018 report included a new factor: ongoing pressures to excel that occur in high-achieving schools in mostly affluent communities. Researchers in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology have found the quality of the parent-child relationship steadily declined starting in grade 6, and levels of alienation, trust and communication in middle school predicted depression Researchers in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology have found the quality of the parent-child relationship steadily declined starting in sixth grade, and levels of alienation, trust and communication in middle school predicted depressive symptoms and anxiety in 12th grade. Photo by Fancycrave/Unsplash Download Full Image

Although attending a high-achieving school might not seem as risky as living in poverty or facing racism or discrimination, decades' worth of research has shown that in fact it is.

“Teens in high-achieving schools face different kinds of pressure, but it is substantial pressure nonetheless,” said Ashley EbbertArizona State University psychology graduate student .

Ebbert has worked with Frank Infurna and Suniya Luthar in the ASU Department of Psychology to examine how the quality of the parent-child relationship influenced the mental health of adolescents who attend high-achieving schools. She is first author on a paper in Development and Psychopathology that was published on Oct. 25.

A long-term predictive study of adolescence

The researchers used data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY), a long-term study of adolescents led by Luthar, Foundation Professor of Psychology at ASU and co-author on the paper. Participating students came mostly from two-parent families where the parents were white-collar professionals and well-educated. Each school year the NESSY participants completed questionnaires that included measures of their mental health and assessed the quality of their relationships with others. The ASU researchers used assessments of the mental health and quality of parent relationships from 262 children.

“Parent-child relationships continue to serve as instrumental sources of support throughout adolescence,” Ebbert said. “The quality of these connections can have ripple effects on adjustment and mental health outcomes.”


Psychology graduate student Ashley Ebbert.

The researchers used data from seven years — sixth grade through senior year of high school — to look at how the children’s feelings about the parent-child relationship affected their mental health as seniors in high school. The yearly assessments evaluated feelings of alienation from each parent, how much trust the child felt with each parent and how well the child and parents communicated.

“We wanted the child’s perspective on the relationship with their parents because ultimately it doesn’t matter much how parents think they are doing,” Luthar said. “It’s what the children experience that is far more important in terms of effects on their mental health.”

During the senior year of high school, the participants’ mental health was assessed with surveys that measured depressive symptoms and anxiety levels.

The interplay of alienation, trust and communication

Starting in the sixth grade, the children reported growing disconnect with their parents. During the middle school years, the participants indicated increases in feelings of alienation from both parents as the levels of trust and quality of communication decreased.

“Kids pulling away from parents is a well-known phenomenon of adolescence, but we found that it really begins in early middle school,” Luthar said.

The pulling away from parents associated with adolescence happens as the teenagers, or even pre-teenagers, begin to explore self-sufficiency and independence. Ebbert said a natural inclination of parents is to give their child space to navigate independence, but she added that if this response is seen as disengagement by kids, it can lead to problems like the ones the researchers found in the NESSY participants.

“We wanted to understand how the changes in the children’s feelings of alienation, trust and communication with both parents affected their development, so we examined whether the reported changes could predict depressive symptoms or anxiety by the end of high school,” said Infurna, associate professor of psychology and co-author on the paper.

Increases in alienation from both parents and decreasing trust between children and their mothers were related to higher levels of anxiety in 12th grade. Depressive symptoms in 12th grade were also predicted by increasing alienation and decreasing trust with mothers during the high school years.

The researchers found gender differences, in both the student participants and in the effect of parents. Middle-school girls reported experiencing greater increases in alienation from both parents and greater decreases in trust with their mothers. Symptom levels at age 18 also differed, with girls experiencing higher levels of anxiety than boys during the senior year.

There were differences in the average quality of the relationship with mothers and fathers. Overall, the participants reported feeling closer to their mothers, which the researchers suggested might explain why the changes in alienation, trust and communication were greater between children and their mothers.

“Our findings emphasize the importance of parents constantly working on close and supportive relationships with their children, even if the teenager or pre-teen is pulling away,” Ebbert said. “The teen might be pulling away as part of the natural process of developing into an individual separate from their parents, but parents remain a primary influence and the primary source of support for the teen.”

The NESSY study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA014385).

Science writer, Psychology Department