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UCR African-American Psychologist to Write Book For Parents Advocating For Quality Education

UCR African-American Psychologist to Write Book For Parents Advocating For Quality Education

(October 10, 2001)

Carolyn Murray, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside who initiated ground-breaking investigations into the stresses on African-American families, and the unequal education of minority children, is writing a book to empower parents as they advocate for their children in school.

Her book is designed to enable parents to understand and navigate the educational system that still tends to guide minorities toward vocational programs instead of courses to prepare them for college.

Murray, who recently became the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of full professor at UCR, said the book is based on the belief that parents know their children better than any outside experts and can use the knowledge gained through her book to secure their children a quality education.

Murray’s research into the factors that lead to African-American students’ academic underachievement addresses some of the most detrimental effects of the inequalities children of color face – low self esteem, low expectations by teachers and barriers to achievement.

Her research findings indicate that when African-American students exceeded teachers’ lowered expectations, those teachers tended to attribute the higher performance to factors other than the efforts or ability of the pupils.

Murray also investigates the dynamics and social interactions in the African-American family and how parents prepare their children to succeed. The American Psychological Association has recognized a recent study in which Murray found that the absence of a father from the home tended to have a much more negative effect on the self-esteem of adolescent boys than on that of girls.

She noted that this situation is especially severe as the rate of single-parent families among African-Americans has increased faster than in the general population over the past 50 years. As a result, Murray has suggested that public policy officials take these realities into account when developing educational goals and requirements for parental custody rights.

One outgrowth of her research developed a way to assess how factors such as racial identity, discipline, family communication and values teaching affect African-American children.

Her work has garnered acclaim such as the 2001-02 Black Voice Women of Achievement Award, the 1999-2000 Association of Black Psychologists Distinguished Psychologist Award, the 1993-94 Woman of the Year in Education award from the YWCA, and the 1989-90 Distinguished Teaching Award from UCR.

Among the postdoctoral fellowships Murray has received are those from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Behavioral Research in 1988; from the Ford Foundation in 1985 to work at UCLA; from the National Institute of Mental Health in 1983 to work at Portland State University; and from the National Institute of Mental Health in 1981 to work at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Among Murray’s community involvement are board membership on the Riverside County Coalition for Alternatives to Domestic Violence, a consultancy to the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, board membership in the California Black Faculty and Staff Association, and on the Tyisha Miller Steering Committee.

Murray came to UCR in 1980 from Portland State University, where she was an assistant professor. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1979.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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