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August 10, 2012

The university held its fifth annual National Research Conference on Child and Family Programs and Policy, where researchers from universities and organizations across the nation shared their insights on related topics.

Over the course of three days, a number of participants attended more than 50 workshops, presentations and panel discussions. Topics included domestic violence, bullying, raising children with disabilities, foster parenting, early childhood education, and much more.

"This is an opportunity for educators and policy makers, who want to promote solutions to family policy issues, to connect," said Dr. Emily Douglas, professor of social work and founding chair of the conference. 

The topics, said Dr. Douglas, always catch the rising trends in family policy and programming. "We try to adjust to the needs of families," she said.

Day one keynote speaker was Dr. Dorothy L. Espelage, professor of child development at the University of Illinois, who delivered a talk, "Research and Practice of Bully Prevention: Past, Present, and Future."

Her presentation highlighted her years of research into school bullying and probable solutions. Roughly 50 percent of bullying cases are homophobic in nature, she said, where the bullies use homophobic and sexist slurs and abuse GLBT victims.

"If you want to address bullying as a school, you better address homophobic language, as well," she said.

As for preventative measures against bullying, Dr. Espelage said teacher intervention is important, but parental supervision is vital. "If your parents know where you are and what you're doing at all times, you're less likely to engage in this behavior," she said.

An expert on early childhood bullying, Dr. Espelage has been featured on many television shows and in magazines, including The Today Show, CBS Evening News and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Time and People magazines.

Second keynote speaker was Dr. Yolanda C. Padilla, professor of social work and women's studies at the University of Texas, who delivered a talk, "Latino Children Across the Life Course in the Context of Social Disparities: Identifying Points for Policy Intervention."

Dr. Padilla walked an audience through a decade-long study she conducted on the wellbeing of Latino women and children. Economic oppression, she said, is a cause of stress among the Latino population. "Social conditions affect individual outcomes," she said.

Dr. Padilla is a member of the National Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which aims to close the gap in U.S. racial disparities in birth outcomes. (Rob Matheson, '07, G '12, University Advancement)

Dr. Dorothy L. Espelage (above) and Dr. Yolanda C. Padilla (below)

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