Black Marriage Success

July 25, 2011

In Together We Are Strong: A Qualitative Study of Happy Enduring African American Marriages, research was conducted with 30 married Black couples to assess challenges and resilient features in this group with an average of 26 married years.  The authors of the current study note that many African Americans experience well-functioning marriages, yet little research exists on positive mental adjustment, happiness and satisfaction.  They are addressing that void.  This is strength-based research, as opposed to most of the deficit-based reasearch pumped through the media that focuses on problems and pathology.

The findings of this study revealed Three Areas of strengths or resources for this group.


The researchers found that often two happy people made for a happy marriage.

There was a willingness to work on individual-level strengths; so you may develop strengths along the way (such as better listening skills) that you did not have at the outset of the relationship.


Knowing that you can rely on your partner.



Having witnessed “strong” marriages in the immediate or extended family.

In most of these enduring relationships, both spouses were gainfully employed.

Sharing similar attitudes about religion or being “equally yoked”.

The article notes many of the challenges faced by these couples, but the above-stated strengths were often essential in persevering through the challenges.

The entire article is found here:

Together We Are Strong


The attached link says everything that needs to be said on the subject of the “Black women are less attractive..” topic that set the internet ablaze this week.

The premise of this so-called research is absolutely ridiculous. There is really nothing to argue about there.

Based on what I have learned about the psychologist who performed this stupid study, he seems to be seeking his five minutes of fame by executing studies that are as provocative as possible.

I don’t like to spend too much time on such rubbish but it does drive home a point I’ve made in the past; psychologists have issues and biases of their own. And just like with any other product you consume (even research), please shop carefully.

In addition, the absence of jugdment on the staff’s part at Psychology Today is also of concern, and in my estimation pathetic.

All research, even legitimate, thoughtful research, has limitations. All research. The fact that the psychologist fails to mention any limitations also tells you something about his credibility. The attached article outlines only a few of the apparent flaws of this so-called study. See:

P.S. I was looking for an image of a beautiful African American woman and landed on Tracy Chapman.


April 16, 2011

Something to smile about!  Recent research from the University of Michigan found that: as an African American, the more strongly you identify with African American culture, the happier you may be.

When I get my hands on the actual study, which should be very soon, I will let you know exactly how they measured these “constructs” such as:  How did they define “happy”  and how did they define “identify with” for example?  I’ll let you know what it says.  But for the time being, this is good news.

The point may be obvious to many but I do not think to all as some people spend so much time trying to identify themselves as anything but African American.

An interesting finding was that the relationship between racial identity and happiness was stronger for women that for men.  This finding is consistent with my own research that found that racial identity was associated with less stress for African American adolescent girls, but not for adolescent boys  (Arrington, 2001: Dissertation Abstracts).   Therefore, the relationship between happiness and racial identity, as well as for stress and racial identity is more complicated for males.   The researchers from Michigan speculate that the sense of  “belongingness”, may be the key factor for women.


We have covered reasons why Black people tell me they don’t want to go to therapy in:  Top 3 Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy,

And we covered the historical perspectives related to why we as a group avoid therapy in: More Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy.

Now, I am going to give you an opinion based on 20 years of Clinical Experience about this avoidance:


We underestimate the effects trauma has had for us as a group.  I think the initial trauma of leaving behind our homes, families, names, cultures in the Middle Passage was too much.  Then you had Black families chronically separated from one another during slavery.  How could anyone cope with these losses?  It would surely have been detrimental for a person (a matter of life and death to be exact) to not get up and work as a slave because you were feeling depressed because your child was torn from you the day before.   

I believe those issues went unprocessed for generations.  This pain continues to affect people in subsequent generations if you believe in the collective unconscious (Asante, 2003).  American Indians call it historical trauma and intergenerational grief (See:!vol6no6.pdf).  I see too many cases of people emotionally detached from their children and I wonder if this is related to our history in this country. 

We have recurrent traumas.  In some of our neighborhoods there is too much violence.  And there are a host of too many other everyday pressures of work and negotiating life.

The style of coping:  “Keep it moving and deny there is a problem,” was probably passed down through the generations as well.

Sucking it up may have gotten us through some very rough times,  but we are surely not living at our best in too many cases today.  Sucking it up and ignoring the issues just means that we have to put energy into that denial.   Sometimes we find unhealthy ways to  due to what I see as unprocessed grief.  I have talked about them before: violence toward our own people (which too often looks like hopelessness and or misplaced anger), along with alcohol and substance abuse to name a few.  At lot of us seem to walk around on edge because we are not handling our stress adequately.  This can sometimes lead to physical illnesses and early death.

And the reality is we do not have to rely on sucking it up as a way of coping anymore if we do not choose to. 

What was the thing about Tyler Perry?

People, I find, love his movies because they tend to scratch at the surface of our trauma enough to produce cathartic responses.  I have witnessed grown men breaking down at some Tyler Perry movies, those movies with heftier emotional content.  The Madea character often takes the edge off some of the painful parts when she is present.  Tyler was pretty brilliant for including her most of the time because nobody just wants to cry for two hours, right?

In a way it becomes safe to cry at his movies because you know you may be laughing again in a few minutes.  Honestly, I think this is why “For Colored Girls…”  may have not been the commercial success that was anticipated, no Madea (not that she would have at all been appropriate for this film).

But the cathartic responses are not really grieving.  They provide an opportunity to let go of some tension, but there is little to no acknowledgment of what the tension is about.  Without that acknowledgement, you are not healing anything.

My point is we apparently need to grieve more.  I know that doesn’t sound like very much fun.  But not doing so may in fact be preventing you from having fun.  If you are carrying a burden, how can you possibly have fun? 

Sucking it up is not grieving and it is not moving on.  Grieving is about letting go.  Grieving for us may be on different levels.  It may be very personal as in the losses of people we know.   However,  it may also be broader, and include deeper feelings about a lack of freedom, and feeling unseen or unimportant, and inadequacies.   These deeper feelings probably come from generations of ancestors not being seen as full human beings.  That is a painful frustrating existence.  The healing comes with the greatest acceptance of oneself in all his or her fullness now.

How can we accomplish this?  Well, I think the healthier ways to do it are by trying to talk about any painful or overwhelming feelings when they come up with somebody you feel safe with, or if you do not have a person you feel safe with try to write the feelings down. I think about Celie in the Color Purple and how her letters to God were ultimately healing and strengthening, but she had to a tremendous amount of grieving. 

Your feelings deserve to have validation.  They will be less overwhelming and less likely to produce unhealthy responses if you acknowledge them.  Of course, if they are too much and you are having difficulty with day-to-day functioning, it may also be helpful to find a mental health practitioner. I think part of a good therapist’s role is to help the client grieve the past.   See: How to find a Therapist:

Grieving provides the opportunity to transcend the trauma.


Asante, M. K. (2003).  The Afrocentric Idea. Temple University Press.

Southern Discomfort

January 15, 2011

The main point of this post is for us to think about why we hit our children. I am saying this first because it takes a minute for me to get to that point in the blog.

There were some unpleasant feelings that came up in terms of my summer vacation South in November 2010. I was concerned about returning to the only place I had ever been where I was called a “nigger” to my face. Surreal for me. ” No thanks, I’ll pass”, I thought when the opportunity arose, but then as you read in my last post I found some really beautiful things in the South (Southern Exposure:

Negative feelings did come up though, as my family was entering an old plantation (this was not planned, we just happened upon it during a drive through Edisto Island).  My toddler aged son had some sort of fit and began refusing to enter.

His resistance started a cascade of thoughts for me. Especially, what must it have been like to be a child slave? I will share the cascade with you.

First of all, at what age exactly did they start beating children to shape slave behavior?

At what age was it necessary to conform to slave behavior? When parents say “It’s for your own good?”did this come from a place for black people that really meant, ” learn to be a docile person because that will save your life”?  Certainly, having a strong will or any will would not have been tolerated and was perhaps a matter of life and death.

Were slave children allowed to play?  What was life like for them before they had to work? When were they made to work?  Were they neglected?

I consulted an old book on Black child development about this: Alvin Poussaint and James Comer wrote: Black Child Care in the 70s that referred to the slave child as “abused”. They were often assigned to care for Caucasian sickly people, their elderly or Caucasian children. It didn’t say when they started to work.

I think about my kid and how he always says “no” and that is the process by which we begin to establish a separate identity and find our own voice. It is only normal and natural for children this age to do this. How was this handled with slave children? I can only guess that they were beaten severely, by either caregivers or slave masters.

Like the Seligman dogs from a famous psychological experiment many years ago. The dogs were shocked through the floors of their cages with no way to escape.  After a while, even if they were shocked they no longer tried to escape.

I think of my child, and know I will not hit him. It’s a lot more work to train a child in socially acceptable behavior without hitting, but it makes no sense to me to shape a human whom you want to feel worthy of respect by giving the child pain. He spends a hell of a lot of time in time out but he is getting a consequence that does not involve physical pain.

That’s my choice. You may have a different one. But I think it is important in terms of living consciously to think about why you are doing it. Is it because you were hit? Is it because everybody else is doing it? Is it because people from your community or family may judge you if you don’t hit? Are those good enough reasons for you? Chances are this pattern was passed down through generations and may not make the most sense when you step back from it a little and get perspective.

People will argue: Spare the rod and spoil the child. But I really don’t think this needs to be taken literally. After all, I don’t know many people using rods on their kids. I do think kids need limits and structure to learn and without these things a child may have more difficulty in society.

See: The King’s Speech

December 1, 2010

Add King George VI of England to our list of famous people alive or deceased with a learning disability.

I am usually so disappointed with movies that I expect very little from them. 

The King’s Speech, however, shattered my beliefs about going to the movies these days.  I actually could be entertained and maybe even learn a little something.  The cast included people you may be familiar with including  Geoffrey Rush whom I predict will get the Oscar for playing the king’s speech therapist. 

It also evokes acknowledgement of something I left out in previous discussions of learning disabilities and that is that some learning disabilities may have an emotional piece (either triggered by or exacerbated by emotional stuff.) 

The movie may be good for teens, especially because it helps to know learning disabilities do not discriminate.  I would not go younger as some of the language can be inappropriate. 

You may think,” How could I possibly relate to a King;  even if he never had to utter a word, all his needs would be met; he doesn’t have to face the real world with a learning disability?”.   King George could have withdrawn from his life and from service,  but he chose to do his best in spite of his limitations.  It is a story of courage and that is relevant to anyone who is feeling hindered by circumstances outside of their control. 

See Colin Firth’s  interview on Charlie Rose:

See Related Post:  Learning Diablilities 101:

Combating The Winter Blues

November 27, 2010

Check out Episode #15 of this great blogtalkradio show:  “United We Stand as a United Front”.  Make it Plain addresses some of the issues related to depression and healing from depression.

And please listen to other broadcasts from this show; there was and excellent broadcast (Episode #14), about debt and foreclosure!

Listen to internet radio with Jazz on Blog Talk Radio

 ***If you are not getting the widget on your computer, click on JAZZ, just above to get to the show.

Information is Power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Learning Disabilities 102

November 14, 2010


What to do if you suspect your child may have a learning disability?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) every child has the right to a free assessment to determine whether they have any disability that may interfere with learning.  If such a disability is found, states are mandated to address the disability.

This applies to children from age 0 (yes, zero) to age 18. 

From 0 to 3, Early Intervention is the governing body that addresses these issues.  Some states arrange for interventions to be done in the home while others have you bring your child into a clinic type setting for services.  But know that the state is mandated to provide services, so there is often little or no fee.  Some examples of interventions a child may need at this age may be speech therapy, occupational therapy (which usually focuses on eye-hand coordination issues), or behavioral interventions.

I strongly advocate for Early Intervention services as they are free or low fee and address learning issues early on, which may help close the gap or eliminate the problem as the child approaches school age.  With some issues such as autism, early intervention can have a profound impact.  They are also good because a caregiver is present and monitoring the situation as well as maybe learning ways to help the child.

Records are sealed after the child turns three so that schools will not have knowledge about your child’s involvement in Early Intervention unless you tell them.

Beyond age three, Special Education may become involved.  If parents ask for a child to undergo an assessment for a learning disability, the district must comply.  I would suggest having the child privately assessed in addition, however, as district evaluations are usually limited in scope and interpretation.

Depending on the school district, some special education programs are good, and others not so good.  Parents participate in the planning for children when they are to enter Special Education.  If there is anything you disagree with you have a right to refuse services, such as if the child is not receiving interventions to address his disability.

Learning Disabilities 101

November 6, 2010

I remember a few years ago when it was revealed to the public that Fantasia (the singer) had difficulty with reading.  There was a lot of misinformation floating around and suggestions that this was somehow her fault and she needed only to practice reading more to rectify the problem. 

Okay, I do not know why this isn’t more common knowledge in our “information age”, but some people are just not hardwired to read.  Their brains aren’t able to organize and make good sense of what they see on a page.

Furthermore, because I do so many evaluations to determine learning disabilities, I will add that this issue is not one related to ethnic background or privilege.

I worked in a school for children with learning disabilities and a great many had this problem.  In every other way they were normal and in some cases obviously very bright, but they were unable to read.  (Another huge misconception is that if you are unable to read you are not bright.  So Wrong!)

The lack of understanding among many about this issue was a source of great stress for many children as they often find themselves misunderstood or even labeled as “stupid” .  It is a tremendous burden for these kids.

Nonetheless, many of the children find their way, employing their strengths to make up for their weaknesses. In fact, because children with a reading disorder or other learning disabilities (there are many) face obstacles in terms of learning in “traditional” ways,  in other areas they can become more flexible thinkers and people who are creative or think outside the box.

It helps to know that many people familiar to you  in the media or through history identify/identified themselves as having a learning disability.  Some include:  Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Wintson Churchill, Albert Einstein, Mozart, and Dr. Cox from the tv show, Scrubs (I forget his real name, sorry).  See the following link for a comprehensive list: disabilities.html.

So What is A Learning Disability?

Having a Learning Disability may involve difficulty in memorizing and retaining things, and with retrieval and presentation of retained information.  There are four main forms of Learning Disabilities associated with four stages of information processing:





With care and support, children with Learning Disabilities can go on to have fulfilling lives.  I did.  Yes me.  I didn’t have any problems reading or writing (in fact, I was well above average in terms of those things) but I certainly have a speech processing issue on the OUTPUT end.  There is an enormous discrepancy between my ability on the INPUT end verses my ability on the OUTPUT end with regard to speech production.   You learn to maximize your strengths.  For instance, it’s easier for me to write than give speeches.  I used to think it was stage fright but I understand that it is a speech processing issue that runs in my family.

Teach your children to know their strengths are and support them around any weaknesses.

A Good Resource Site:

On the show “United We Stand as a United Front”  which is a program that confronts beliefs about life in America so that you may live consciously, Make it Plain made an apprearance to discuss issues such as:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the increasing rates of suicide amongst military personnel,  along with mental health in the Black community, including access to care.  Take a listen!

The following websites were referenced during our discussion: