In this feature in our series about staff and faculty in the School of Education, we talked to Anthony (Tony) Hains, professor of educational psychology who is retiring at the end of May, 2018.
Hains came to the School of Education in 1987, joining his wife Ann who had taken a position in the Exceptional Education Department in 1986. She is now a professor emerita. They have one daughter.
Q. What led you into the field of educational psychology in the first place?
A. What led me into psychology was an introduction to psychology course my freshman year at college (at Notre Dame). I really enjoyed that course and I fell in love with the field.
Q. You’ve done a great deal of research in pediatric psychology. What set your career path in that direction?
A. I was doing a fair amount of work in schools related to stress management interventions, kids who were struggling with stress. I noticed that a number of kids who had higher stress seemed to be absent more, some with injuries and some with health issues. That interested me so I started focusing on that.
Q. A lot of your work has focused on young people with Juvenile Diabetes, isn’t that right?
A. Well the term used now is Type 1 Diabetes. I’ve done work on other chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis and chronic pain management, but that has been a major focus.
Q. Much of your work has researched why teenagers have such a challenging time managing chronic medical conditions like diabetes. Why is that an issue?
A. It’s more a function of teenagers being the least adherent with their medical regimens and so on. Part of it is just a function of being a teenager. Kids are higher risk takers and they’re more worried about peer reaction. That all leads to them being less adherent. A lot of clinics were interested in ways to help these kids, looking at the issues why they were less adherent than they ought to be.
Q. Are a lot of issues related to peer pressure?
A. Some of it is, or at least the kids think it is. They are apprehensive about how people will react, even though most of their friends would be supportive. Many are also making the transition from having their parents guide them and learning to take care of themselves. In a lot
of cases, the kids just aren’t ready and it’s a daily struggle. Even into young adulthood, it’s rather difficult.
Q. What suggestions do you make to help improve adherence?
A. A lot of the research looks at reasons why teens don’t adhere, and a lot of it is due to cognitive error – they make incorrect assumptions about how peers will react, how friends will react. Like, for example, “Oh my God, he’s not going to like me anymore or they’re not going to want to hang out with me.” Now I supposed it’s true that there are some kids who have friends who are really negative and might entice them to mess up , but for the most part kids are pretty supportive.
The clinicians can help challenge those beliefs: “How do you know they’re going to do that? What evidence do you have?” That could be part of the counseling process, and help them be more realistic about it. If kids are really struggling, you can try to problem solve with them and stress the importance of staying healthy – for example, they could take their medications when they’re out of sight of peers.
Q. Do you see that your work has made a difference?
A. I don’t get that type of direct feedback about day-to-day practice, but I do know that my journal articles published in many top-tier journals are cited and are having an impact on people in the field. What happens is that people in the field become more educated – clinicians and providers – and their behavior subtly changes to address the needs of kids.
Q. What are your plans for retirement?
A. First and foremost, I’m switching careers. I’ve been writing novels and specifically horror novels for awhile. I’ve been a horror fan ever since I was a little kid and I’ve always wanted to write. I have four books out already. Now I’ll be able to write full-time.