What Is Disenfranchised Grief?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

It’s clichéd but true that everyone grieves in different ways. Grief is almost always seen as a private matter that elicits widespread sympathy. But, people also grieve for losses that society is not always expecting or allowing. This is known as disenfranchised grief, as defined by the APA Dictionary of Psychology:


disenfranchised grief: grief that society (or some element of it) limits, does not expect, or may not allow a person to express. Examples include the grief of parents for stillborn babies, of teachers for the death of students, and of nurses for the death of patients. People who have lost an animal companion are often expected to keep their sorrow to themselves. Disenfranchised grief may isolate the bereaved individual from others and thus impede recovery. Also called hidden grief.

You can read more about disenfranchised grief in Dr. Kenneth J. Doka’s chapter of Handbook of Bereavement Research and Practice: Advances in Theory and Intervention titled “Disenfranchised Grief in Historical and Cultural Perspective” and in Coping With Infertility, Miscarriage, and Neonatal Loss: Finding Perspective and Creating Meaning, by Amy Wenzel.


VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Keep Calm and Mother On

Becoming a Calm Mom

“Happy Mother’s Day!”

If you are a new mom, that phrase may generate apprehension, or mixed emotions. In the first year of motherhood, days can be hectic, filled with moments of happiness but also anxiety, sadness, and frustration. Unfortunately, friends and family may not ask about or want to discuss negative emotions.

In Becoming a Calm Mom, Deborah Roth Ledley, mother of two and an experienced cognitive behavioral therapist, says that “when we suppress thoughts that we perceive to be unacceptable, we end up feeling worse” (pp. 20–21):

There is an expectation that once your little bundle of joy is placed in your arms in the delivery room, you will immediately know how to be a mom. This is an unrealistic expectation. Learning to care for a baby takes time, as you get to know your baby and your baby gets to know you and becomes familiar with the world. As for being a calm mom, this too takes time. (p. 10)

In this book, Dr. Ledley seeks to “assure new mothers that their experiences and emotions are shared by others,” and offers strategies for how to handle the stresses of the first year of motherhood. Based on her professional and personal experiences, she developed six strategies that together, make up the Calm Mom Toolbox:

Each strategy can help you through a myriad of situations. Getting advice from our friends, moms, and sisters is great. But the six strategies differ from advice in a few ways. First, the strategies have been used for years in clinical practice, and they truly do lead to improved functioning and a greater sense of life satisfaction. Second, they each involve a learning skill. Rather than having a friend tell you what to do, or tell you what worked for her, these strategies involve a basic process through which you can figure out what works best for you. Finally, these skills can be used in many situations. They are helpful not only in your adjustment to being a new mom but are also skills you can use for the rest of your life when stress and anxiety threaten to get in the way of your living a fulfilling and enjoyable life. (p. 23)

The six strategies of the Calm Mom Toolbox are described in Chapters 2 and 3, along with numerous real-world examples. In the remaining chapters, Dr. Ledley discusses how to use these strategies to reduce related anxiety in several key areas: taking care of your baby, taking care of yourself, and nurturing your relationships with friends and family.

APA Books wishes you a happy and calm Mother’s Day.

What Is Wednesday: Rewards or Bribes?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

As any parent knows, the distinction between a reward and a bribe is both critical and hard to define. I may know it when I hear it, but if I hear myself offer a bribe, it’s already too late!

Rewards for KidsSound familiar? Rewards for Kids!, a multi-award-winning book by psychologist and child-development expert Virginia Shiller can help. Dr. Shiller’s book includes “how-to” instructions and 21 sample reward plans for parents. These address problems like bedtime procrastination, sleep disturbances, difficulties maintaining a schedule (e.g., to be ready for school on time), procrastination or avoidance of chores and homework, “establishing hassle-free hygiene,” and more. See more about the reward plans and charts in the table of contents.

So, what’s the distinction between a reward and a bribe? Timing, according to Dr. Shiller: She recommends rewarding 1–2-year-olds for good behavior immediately (or as soon as possible). Luckily, “smiles, clapping, cheers, and wacky antics are all it takes to thrill a toddler” (Shiller, n.d., para. 5). For kids 3 and older, rather than offering them a treat to get them to stop what they’re doing (a bribe), she says “offer rewards for good behavior before your child has a chance to misbehave” (Shiller, n.d., para. 11).


Shiller, V. (n.d.). The right way to bribe your child. Retrieved from http://www.parenting.com/article/the-right-way-to-bribe-your-child

Shiller, V. M. (2003). Rewards for kids! Ready-to-use charts & activities for positive parenting. http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4441005.aspx

What Are Maximizers and Satisficers?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Grocery-Shopping-30How do you shop? Are you a coupon shopper? Do you spend time online in advance comparing prices and features? Do you read as many online reviews as possible? Or, is your shopping more casual?

Dr. Barry Schwartz, who more recently wrote a chapter for APA Books about choice, freedom, and autonomy, coined the terms maximizer and satisficer in 2002 (according to the APA Dictionary of Psychology):

Maximizer: a type of consumer who wishes to make the very best decision. For example, a maximizer on a shopping trip in a grocery store is likely to carefully examine every single cereal before buying one. Generally, maximizers are considered more susceptible than the converse satisficers to all forms of regret leading to buyer’s remorse.

Satisficer: a type of consumer who is happy with a good-enough choice. For example, a satisficer on a shopping trip in a grocery store is likely to buy the first box of reasonably priced cereal he or she sees.

Which one are you? Does it depend on what you’re buying? Do you have too many choices?


VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

What Is Lexical Uncertainty?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

“The usefulness of language derives in no small measure from the fact that it permits reference to a nonlinguistic world—to objects and events, to properties and relations, to all of the distinct phenomena of which perception informs us” (Lockhead & Pomerantz, 1991).

Psychology is a diverse, interdisciplinary field of research with a unique and rich vocabulary. In 2007, APA Books published the APA Dictionary of Psychology to help practitioners, researchers, students, and the public understand this science. (This dictionary, now in its second edition, includes almost 26,000 carefully vetted terms.)

The launch of the APA Books Blog provides a new opportunity to discuss and disseminate the lexicon of psychology, and thus we launch a regular feature—What Is… Wednesdays! Here, we will define and explore psychological terms, occasionally noting APA Books that interested readers may want to consult.


So, what of lexical uncertainty? The APA Dictionary of Psychology offers two descriptions: (a) “In logic, the type of uncertainty that arises from inherent imprecision of human language, and in particular from the attempt to describe and evaluate real-world situations using imprecise and often subjective linguistic categories” and (b) “in psycholinguistics, any uncertainty about the meaning of particular words experienced by or observable in language users.”

For more about lexical uncertainty, On the Consequences of Meaning Selection: Perspectives on Resolving Lexical Ambiguity is a great place to begin. The research in this book sheds light on how we decipher and comprehend ambiguous words.


Gorfein, D. S. (Ed.). (2002). On the consequences of meaning selection: Perspectives on resolving lexical ambiguity. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318997.aspx

Lockhead, G. L., & Pomerantz, J. R. (1991). The perception of structure. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318101.aspx>

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4311007.aspx

The first two titles above are available through the PsycBOOKS database. (Students: Note that your library may provide you free access. Check your library’s resources and consult your librarian if you need help!)