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Work of UW’s Thompson helps Monitor on Psychology examine, ‘Fighting poverty’

August 24, 2015

The work of UW-Madison’s Mindi Thompson is featured in the cover story for the July/August issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology.

The article is headlined, “Fighting poverty: New research is finding ways to help people overcome poverty and avoid the mental and physical health problems associated with low socioeconomic status.”

Monitor on Psychology coverThompson, an associate professor with the School of Education's Department of Counseling Psychology, is among those whose expertise is highlighted in the report.

Thompson's research examines how a family’s financial situation plays into these topics. She explains that parental income doesn't just have an impact on young children –- but that parents' financial circumstances continue to affect children even as they move into early adulthood.

The article reports: “In a qualitative study published in 2013 in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, Thompson and colleagues found that undergraduates with an unemployed parent or caregiver reported financial struggles, stigma, difficulty concentrating and a sense of having to grow up faster than peers. Some, however, credited the experience with inspiring them to do what it takes to achieve security in their own careers.”

The report continues: “Classism, often combined with racism, can undermine that sense of hope, however. In a 2014 paper in the Journal of Career Assessment, Thompson and co-authors found that experiencing classism lowered 'work hope' — the belief that one will be successful in a future career — in undergraduates of varying socioeconomic backgrounds from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups who attended a predominantly white school.”

Thompson tells Monitor on Psychology that the findings suggest the need for faculty, staff and administrators in higher education to discuss openly what's often left unsaid — social class. Even one-on-one among friends, she points out, it's still taboo to ask or reveal how much money one makes. While educators often shy away from acknowledging class differences, she says, it's important that they acknowledge that classism exists in students' lives and may affect their ability to study effectively.

"If we continue to ignore it, we're doing a disservice to students, especially as campuses become increasingly diverse," Thompson tells Monitor on Psychology.

To learn much more about this important topic, make sure and check out the entire article for free on the Monitor on Psychology’s website .
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