GSSW Lands Noted Author, Child Expert Garbarino

GSSW Lands Noted Author, Child Expert Garbarino

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Child psychologist James Garbarino, a widely read author and frequent commentator on child mistreatment, youth violence, school bullying and harassment, and the limits of parental influence, will join the Graduate School of Social Work faculty next summer.


James Garbarino
"The hiring of James Garbarino is a coup for social work education," said GSSW Dean Alberto Godenzi. "Jim Garbarino is a highly respected scholar across the world, and across disciplines. He would be welcome anywhere, and that he has chosen social work, and Boston College, is a tribute to our mission and our aspirations."

Garbarino is currently Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, where he serves as co-director of the Family Life Development Center. His current research focuses on the impact of family and community violence and trauma on child development and interventions to deal with these effects. In addition, Garbarino is exploring the concept of "the socially toxic environment" as an influence on children.

His most recent books include And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment and Emotional Violence, co-authored with Ellen deLara, Parents Under Siege: Why You Are the Solution, Not the Problem, in Your Child's Life, co-authored with Claire Bedard, and Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

Godenzi said Garbarino's work in human development and child psychology will bolster the school's teaching and research.

Garbarino will teach one of the foundation courses in social work, which Godenzi said will benefit all incoming GSSW students at Chestnut Hill.

"Jim's scholarship is heavily used by social work practitioners and teachers because he focuses on a major component in the field, human behavior in the social environment," said Godenzi. "Our students will now have a unique opportunity to learn directly from a person whose works they would read in any other social work program in the nation."

Garbarino, interviewed earlier this month, described the opportunity as a two-way street.

"When I've had the chance to teach social work, it's been a rewarding experience," he said. "To be able to do so at a university which is centered in issues of social justice, and in a city like Boston, is tremendously exciting for me. I very much liked the culture at BC when I visited here, and I look forward to being part of it."

Numerous health and family experts have lauded Garbarino's writings, including Children's Defense Fund founder and director Marian Wright Edelman and National Institute of Mental Health administrator Stanley Greenspan, MD, who has called him "one of the true pioneers in our understanding of the inner life of our youth." Garbarino was among a group of experts invited in 1999 by President Bill Clinton to a White House summit on youth violence.

Garbarino has appeared on CNN, NBC News and ABC's "Nightline," among others, and been profiled or interviewed by publications such as Salon, the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal and Constitution and USA Today. He attracted considerable media and public attention last year when it was revealed he had met with Tom and Sue Klebold, parents of one of the Columbine shooters, who contacted him after reading Lost Boys.

Garbarino says he is as much concerned by the social and cultural context of human development as by individual or family circumstances. In Parents Under Siege - which includes his interview with the Klebolds - he and co-author Bedard describe, and offer strategies for countering, the myriad influences and pressures that can lead children of "good" parents to anti-social or even violent behavior.

Similarly, in And Words Can Hurt Forever, Garbarino and deLara depict the often volatile school environment and the varied responses of teens, from passive acceptance to violence. Based on interviews with students, educators and administrators, the book suggests anti-bullying measures such as broadening a student's peer group, promoting character education and lobbying for school uniforms.

"The focus in my research and writing is engendering compassion for the individual while also offering a means for bringing about change," said Garbarino.

Garbarino's activities on the international front, said Godenzi, dovetail with GSSW's efforts to take a global view of social work-related issues. Having worked for UNICEF in assessing the impact of the Gulf War upon children in Kuwait and Iraq, and served as a consultant for programs serving Vietnamese, Bosnian and Croatian children, more recently Garbarino has been researching how Palestinian children have been affected by continual violence around them.

The addition of Garbarino "takes us to another new level," said Godenzi. The school this fall welcomed Research Prof. Sandra Bertman, who has been cited for her innovative work on the role of arts and beliefs in the grieving process, and shortly expects to appoint the inaugural holder of the Ahearn Chair, GSSW's first endowed professorship.

"All of us in social work education care about the future of the profession," he said. "One thing that has become clear is to be inclusive and integrative. All professional schools need to cross borders of disciplines. When you look for excellent faculty members, you have to ask, 'Who can add value to our school?'

"In Jim's case, the answer is that he will add considerable value in many ways. Besides his impressive teaching and research, his deep interest in, and concern for, children's spiritual needs is ideal for a school with a Jesuit, Catholic legacy like ours.

"So, the addition of Jim and these new faculty offers GSSW the opportunity to explore and open up more areas of scholarship in social work."

Prior to his current position, Garbarino served as president of the Erikson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development from 1985-1994. He earned his bachelor's degree from St. Lawrence University in 1968 and his doctorate in human development and family studies from Cornell in 1973.  

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