Professor of Psychology
How are the developmental pathways of urban at-risk adolescents affected by school and neighborhood settings, and how can this knowledge inform the creation of programs and policies to promote positive youth development?
My current work reflects my long-standing interests in two fundamental issues/questions. Understanding the relationship between the pattern of transactions among people and their social contexts, or what I refer to as social regularities (Seidman, 1988), and the identification of the strategies, tactics, and loci of intervention to alter the social regularities of a setting and promote positive psychological development. I also continue to work on critical conceptual and methodological issues, e.g., culturally anchored methodology (Hughes & Seidman, 2002), holistic perspectives and methods (Seidman & Pedersen, 2003), and integrative chapters and volumes in community psychology (Rappaport & Seidman, 2000; Revenson & Seidman, 2002). I am also a member of the newly funded National Science Foundation Center of Culture, Development, & Education (CRCDE). I am particularly interested in the culture of schools and classrooms and how these "cultures" impact the well known "achievement gap."
Adolescent Development in the Urban Context
Since joining the faculty at NYU, I have been conducting a longitudinal study of over 1400 economically at-risk urban adolescents, known as the Adolescent Pathways Project (APP; Seidman, 1991). The bulk of my work on the APP has focused on several major issues: a) understanding how the normative transitions from elementary to junior high school and from junior to senior high school impact developmental trajectories; b) developing a holistic understanding of how the unique constellations of daily transactions of youth with their family, peers, school, and neighborhood are associated with different developmental outcomes; and c) discovering and understanding profiles of contextual competence.
Normative School Transitions
The transition into junior high school seems to be far more problematic than the transition into high school. While academic performance drops across both transitions, self-esteem only declines across the transition to junior high school (Seidman et al, 1994, 1996). These changes do not vary as a function of student gender or race/ethnicity. After making the transition to junior high school the students become more disengaged from the educational enterprise: They report increased academic hassles, decreased support from teachers, and reduced extracurricular involvement. Two years after this school transition, these effects are not attenuated. Currently, we are examining the long-term effects, i.e., five years later, of these normative transitions and the potential factors that moderate and mediate these effects, e.g., racial/ethnic identity..
As we have begun to look at individual trajectories of self-esteem across the transition to junior high school and beyond, we find that there are seven different patterns of change in self-esteem over time, not one. Only two of these self-esteem trajectories experience immediate and dramatic declines in self-esteem across the transition year even though they were relatively high in self-esteem before commencing the transition to junior high school. These two trajectories are not differentiated from the other two trajectories that began high in self-esteem in terms of any personality or individual demographic variables. On the other hand, the students constituting the trajectories that declined dramatically were more likely to reside in under-resourced neighborhoods and families. These families appeared too over taxed to be able to provide the support needed for youth to successfully make this difficult school transition.
Holistic Views of Family, Peers, and Neighborhood Settings
In a series of studies, we have looked holistically at youth perceived daily hassles, social support, and involvement with family, peer, and neighborhood (Seidman et al., 1998, 1999). Within each setting youth describe a series of dramatically different constellations of perceived transactions. These different constellations of transactions place youth at differential levels of risk/protection, in terms, of self-esteem, depression, and antisocial behavior. When we examine the joint effects of family and peer profiles on self-esteem, we find a strong association between family and peer profiles that are similar, yet peer transactions also partially mediate the association between family transactions and self-esteem (Roberts et al., 2000).
Most recently, we have uncovered nine distinct constellations of youths' behavioral and perceptual self-reports of engagement and performance with peer, school, athletic, employment, cultural, and religious contexts when they are 16 to 17 years of age. We refer to these as profiles of contextual competence (Pedersen et al., under review). Overall, profiles with high engagement in only a single context, such as religion or athletics, do not buffer youths from negative developmental outcomes. Profiles representing high engagement and performance with two or more contexts are associated with higher self-esteem and lower depression. At the same time, profiles marked by high engagement in the risky contexts of athletics or employment are associated with greater delinquency. These results have important implications for planning of services by youth organizations. Using these profiles of contextual competence in conjunction with the youth's time diaries, we plan to examine the association between profile and time use. We also plan to examine the direct and indirect effects of family and peer transactions during early adolescence on the profiles of contextual competence that emerge in middle adolescence.
Our research on school transitions has lead to evidence-based major policy recommendations for educational reform (Seidman, Aber, & French, 2003; Seidman, in preparation). We have found that the transition to the junior high school is riskier than the transition to senior high school because a greater developmental mismatch occurs at the time of the transition to junior high school. That is, early adolescents experience numerous biological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes. These changes occur at a time when students make the shift from an elementry school setting in which all the students and teachers are known to each other to one in which they are shuffled from one unfamiliar teacher and set of classmates to another classroom every 40 minutes. Our findings, in conjunction with other literature, lead us to recommend that: a) more resources and attention be directed toward the organization of schooling during early adolescence; b) ideally, early adolescents should attend K-8 schools; and c) when K-8 schools are not feasible, middle grades schools need to be reorganized into smaller and more stable environments attuned to the developmental needs of early adolescents to maintain their engagement in the educational enterprise.
University of Kentucky (Ph.D., 1969; Clinical Psychology & Medical
Selected Honors and Awards
Resident Scholar (2001), Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center
Exemplary Project-Adolescent Diversion Project (1978), Child Welfare Information Exchange, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare
Fulbright-Hays Senior Research Scholar (1977 - 1978), University of Athens (Greece)
Consulting Psychology Research Award, First Prize (1976), Division of Consulting Psychology, APA
Exemplary Project-Community-Based Adolescent Diversion Program (1975), National Institute of Law Enforcement Administration Agency, U.S. Dept. of Justice
My doctoral students have received first prize for their dissertations five different times - twice from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, twice from the Division of Consulting Psychology, and once from the Society for Community Research and Action.
Pedersen, S., Seidman, E., Yoshikawa, H., Rivera, A., Allen, L., & Aber, J.L. (under review). Contextual Competence: Multiple manifestations among urban adolescents.
Seidman, E., & Pedersen, S. (2003, in press). Holistic, contextual perspectives on risk, protection, and competence among low-income urban adolescents. In S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Clements, M., & Seidman, E. (2002). The ecology of middle grades schools and possible selves: Theory, research, and action. In T. M. Brinthaupt, & R. P. Lipka (Eds.), Understanding early adolescent self and identity: Applications and interventions (pp. 133-164). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
French, S.E., Seidman, E., Allen, L., & Aber, J.L. (2000). Racial/Ethnic identity, congruence with the social context and the transition to high school. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 587-602.
Roberts, A., Seidman, E., Pederson, S., Chesir-Teran, D., Allen, L., Aber, J.L., Duran, V., & Hsueh, J. (2000). Family and peer perceived transactions and self-esteem among urban early adolescents. Journal of Early Adolescence, 20, 68-92.
Seidman, E., Chesir-Teran, D., Friedman, J.L.., Yoshikawa, H., Allen, L., Roberts, A., & Aber, J.L. (1999). The risk and protective functions of perceived family and peer microsystems among urban adolescents in poverty. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27, 211-238.
Seidman, E., Yoshikawa, H., Roberts, A., Chesir-Teran, D., Allen, L., Friedman, J.L., & Aber, J.L. (1998). Structural and experiential neighborhood contexts, developmental stage and antisocial behavior among urban adolescents in poverty. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 259-281.
Seidman, E., Aber, J.L., Allen, L., & French, S.E. (1996). The impact of the transition to high school on the self-system and perceived social context of poor urban youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 24, 489-516.
Seidman, E., Allen, L., Aber, J.L., Mitchell, C., Feinman, J., Yoshikawa, H., Comtois, K., Golz, J., Miller, R.L., Ortiz-Torres, B., & Roper, G.C. (1995). Development and validation of adolescent perceived microsystem scales: Social support, daily hassles, and involvement. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 355-388.
Seidman, E., Allen, L., Aber, J.L., Mitchell, C. & Feinman, J. (1994). The impact of school transitions in early adolescence on the self-system and social context of poor urban youth. Child Development, 65, 507-522.
Seidman, E. (1991). Growing up the hard way: Pathways of urban adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 19, 169-205.
Intervention and Policy
Seidman, E. (in preparation). Urban adolescents, school transitions, and educational reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Seidman, E., Aber, J.L., & French, S.E. (2003, in press). Restructuring the transitions to middle/junior high school: A strengths-based approach to the organization of schooling. In K. Maton, C. Schellenbach , B. Leadbeater., & A. Solarz (Eds.), Investing in children, families, and communities: Strengths-based research and policy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Salem, D., Seidman, E., & Rappaport, J. (1988). Community treatment of the mentally ill: The promise of mutual help organizations. Social Work, 33, 403-408.
Rappaport, J., Seidman, E., Toro, P.A., McFadden, L.S., Reischl, R.M., Roberts, L.J., Salem, D.A., Stein, C.H., & Zimmerman, M.A. (1985). Collaborative research with a mutual help organization. Social Policy, 15, 12-24.
Task Force on Psychology and Public Policy (Reppucci, N.D., Kimmel, P., Korchin, S.J., Saks, M.J., Seidman, E., Serrano-Garcia, I., & Tangri, .S.). (1986). Psychology and public policy. American Psychologist, 41, 914-921.
Seidman, E. (1981). The route from the successful experiment to policy formation: Falling rocks, bumps and dangerous curves. In R. Roesch, & R. Corrado (Eds.), Evaluation and criminal justice policy (pp. 81-102). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Rappaport, J., Seidman, E., & Davidson, W.S. (1979). Demonstra-tion research and manifest versus true adoption: The natural history of a research project to divert adolescents from the legal system. In R.F. Munoz, L.R. Snowden, & J.G. Kelly (Eds.), Social and psychological research in community settings: Designing and conducting programs for social and personal well-being (pp. 101-144). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Seidman, E., Rappaport, J., & Davidson, W.S. (1976). Adolescents in legal jeopardy: Initial success and replication of an alternative to the criminal justice system. Invited address to the American Psychological Association.
Delaney, J.A., Seidman, E., & Willis, G. (1978). Crisis interven-tion and the prevention of institutionalization: An interrupted time series analysis. American Journal of Community Psychology, 6, 33-45.
Davidson, W.S., Seidman, E., Rappaport, J., Berck, P.L., Rapp, N., Rhodes, W., & Herring, J. (1977). A diversion program for juvenile offenders. Social Work Research and Abstracts, 13, 40-29.
Alden, L., Rappaport, J., & Seidman, E. (1976). College students as interventionists for primary-grade children: A comparison of structured academic and companionship programs for children from low-income families. American Journal of Community Psychology, 3, 261-250.
Seidman, E. & Rappaport, J. (1974). The educational pyramid: A paradigm for training, research, and manpower utilization in community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 2, 119-130.
Conceptual Frameworks and Integrative Chapters and Volumes in Community Psychology
Hughes, D.L., & Seidman, E. (2002). In pursuit of a culturally anchored methodology. In T.A. Revenson, A.R. D'Augelli, S.E. French, D.L. Hughes, D. Livert, E. Seidman, M. Shinn, & H. Yoshikawa (Eds). Ecological Research to Promote Social Change: Methodological Advances from Community Psychology (pp. 243-255). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Revenson, T.A, & Seidman, E. (2002). Looking backward and moving forward: Reflections on a quarter century of community psychology. In T.A. Revenson, A.R. D'Augelli, S.E. French, D. L. Hughes, D. Livert, E. Seidman, M. Shinn, & H. Yoshikawa (Eds), A Quarter Century of Community Psychology: Readings from The American Journal of Community Psychology (pp. 3-31). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Revenson, T.A., D'Augelli, A.D., French, S.E., Hughes, D.L., Livert, D., Seidman, E., Shinn, M., & Yoshikawa, H. (Eds.) (2002). A quarter century of Community Psychology: Readings from the American Journal of Community Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Revenson, T.A., D'Augelli, A.D., French, S.E., Hughes, D.L., Livert, D., Seidman, E., Shinn, B., & Yoshikawa, H. (Eds.) (2002). Ecological Research to Promote Social Change: Methodological Advances from Community Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Rappaport, J. & Seidman, E. (Eds.), (2000). Handbook of Community Psychology. New York: Kluwer/Plenum Publishers.
Seidman, E., & French, S.E. (2000). School transitions. In A. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology: Vol. 7 (pp. 185-188). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Seidman, E., & Chesir-Teran, D. (2000). Prevention with school-aged children. In A. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology: Volume 2 (pp. 197-200). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Seidman, E., & French, S.E. (1998). Community mental health. In H.S. Friedman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of mental health, Volume 1 (pp. 509-519). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Ruble, D., & Seidman, E. (1996). Social transitions: Windows into social psychological processes. In T. Higgins & A. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: A handbook of basic principles (pp. 830-856). New York: Guilford.
Seidman, E., Hughes, D., & Williams, N. (Eds.), (1993). Culturally-anchored methodology: A special issue. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21 (6).
Seidman, E. (1990). Social regularities and prevention research: A transactional model. In P. Mueher (Ed.), Conceptual research models of the prevention of mental disorders (pp. 145-164). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Seidman, E. (1990) Pursuing the meaning and utility of social regularities for community psychology. In P. Tolan, C. Keyes, F. Chertok, & L. Jason (Eds.), Researching community psychology: Integrating theories and methods. (pp. 91-100). Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.
Seidman, E. (1989). A preferred route to substantive theorizing. American Journal of Community Psychology, 17, 555-560.
Linney, J.A., & Seidman, E. (1989). The future of schooling. American Psychologist, 44, 36-40.
Seidman, E. (1988). Back to the future, Community Psychology: Unfolding a theory of social intervention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 16, 3-21.
Seidman, E. (1987). Toward a framework for primary prevention research. In J. Steinberg & M. Silverman (Eds.), Preventing mental disorders: A research perspective (pp. 2-19). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Seidman, E. & Rappaport, J. (Eds.), (1986). Redefining Social Problems. New York: Plenum.
Seidman, E. (Ed.) (1983). Handbook of Social Intervention. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Seidman, E. (1983). Unexamined premises of social problem-solving. In E. Seidman (Ed.), Handbook of Social Intervention. (pp. 48-67). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Rappaport, J. & Seidman, E. (1983). Social and community interven-tion. In C.E. Walker (Ed.), Handbook of Clinical Psychology (pp. 1089-1122). Homewood, IL: Dow-Jones-Irwin.
Seidman, E. & Rapkin, B. (1983). Economics and psychosocial dysfunction: Toward a conceptual framework and prevention strategies. In R.D. Felner, L.A.. Jason. J.N. Moritsugu, & S.S. Farber (Eds.), Preventive Psychology: Theory, Research and Practice (pp. 175-198). New York: Pergamon Press.
Seidman, E. (1978). Justice, values and social science: Unexamined premises. In R.J. Simon (Ed.), Research in law and sociology (Vol. 1) (pp. 175-200). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Department of Psychology