When all the world seems like it’s at a standstill and there is an abundance of negative news, things worth celebrating are quietly happening — and scholarly research, while not always visible, is still being done, albeit in a different way.
Psychology Professor Abbie Goldberg has had much to celebrate this semester: a new book, an endowed professorship, and an editorial post at a premier research journal.
The second edition of Goldberg’s textbook, “LGBTQ-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice,” which she co-authored with Katherine Allen, professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech, published in recent weeks. The volume offers an international perspective and features ground-breaking research from scholars in several social science fields. The book includes chapters on diverse LGBTQ parent families and covers topics such as social class, race, and immigration, as well as asexual, bisexual, and transgender parents. The textbook also reports on the growing sophistication of research methodology in the study of LGBTQ-parent families.
In addition, Goldberg has been named to the Jan and Larry Landry University Professorship, a position she will hold until June 2023. She has also been named a deputy editor of the Journal of Marriage and Family, a premier research journal in the family field for more than 70 years and the most highly cited journal in family science.
This semester, while juggling remote teaching and advising, faculty engagement, and family obligations, Goldberg not only continued her research but expanded her ongoing 15-year study on adoptive families to include a survey about their experiences during the pandemic. Seventy of the 150 families in the original study have participated in the survey so far.
“Fortunately, my research participants are already used to talking to my research team by phone, and completing online surveys, so data collection has not changed very much,” said Goldberg. “They are the best research participants in the world — so many of them are eager to use this as an opportunity to vent, or to reflect on their experiences, or to draw on what has been hard for them and what they’re doing to cope as a way of helping others.”
Goldberg recently shared some key findings from her survey with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. In “Pandemic having a profound impact on mental health,” Goldberg reports that amid challenges associated with remote learning and isolation, families are getting creative — planting gardens, raising chickens, and spending time together playing games.
“I’m still grateful I didn’t listen 20 years ago when I was told to ‘stay away’ from studying LGBTQ families!” Goldberg tweeted on May 18.
Indeed, 20 years ago, the landscape for studying LGBTQ parent families was very different. Research that examined the intersection of “families” and “sexuality” was considered very novel and in many contexts, taboo. Goldberg recalls one well-meaning faculty member telling her that she was “very bright” and she would have much more success if she stuck to something more palatable than LGBTQ parents and their children.
However, “playing it safe didn’t interest me,” said Goldberg. “I try to teach my students to study what they are passionate about, to take reasoned risks, and to try to make a difference in this world in the little time we have here. For 20 years I’ve had the privilege of doing research with a purpose. That’s a gift, and I’m grateful for it.”
Goldberg’s overarching psychological interested lies in how a variety of social locations, like sexual orientation and gender, and contexts, like family and community, shape processes of development and mental health; her research focuses on parenthood, relationship quality, and well-being in diverse families, including adoptive parent families and LGBTQ+ parent families.