Miriam Liss is a clinical psychologist who has conducted research on feminism, body image and objectification, parenting, division of labor and work-family balance. An internationally known expert, Dr. Liss has been interviewed by the Washington Post, MSNBC.com, and Live Science. She is the co-author of "Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family and Life," published by Rowman and Littlefield press, and is the co-author of a forthcoming textbook on the Psychology of Women that will be published by Norton.
She also has published research in the area of autism and developmental disorders as well as sensory processing sensitivity and self-injurious behaviors. In addition, Dr. Liss has developed a collaborative program between UMW and the New England Center for Children (NECC) where students can spend a semester at NECC outside of Boston, performing Applied Behavioral Analysis in a school setting and taking classes for UMW elective credit.
Dr. Liss’ honors include election into Phi Beta Kappa and Psi Chi, where she was selected as the Regional Faculty Advisor Winner and supervised the chapter winning the National Chapter Award in 2006. She received the UMW Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award in 2005 and won the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty award in 2014. She also has been named one of Princeton Review’s Best 300 Professors. Her articles have been published in numerous journals including the Sex Roles, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, Personality and Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. She also regularly presents at national conferences. Many of Dr. Liss’ publications and presentations are with UMW student co-authors, and she enjoys mentoring students to do research that is of publishable quality.
Areas of Expertise (5)
2015 Outstanding Faculty Award (professional)
Miriam Liss, professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, has received a “2015 Outstanding Faculty Award” from the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia. Liss joined the UMW faculty in 2001 and is a clinical psychologist. Recently, Liss released a book with fellow UMW psychology professor Holly Schiffrin called “Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family and Life.”...
Best 300 Professors (professional)
Named to list of top 300 professors by Princeton Review.
Outstanding Young Faculty Member (professional)
Awarded by the University of Mary Washington.
University of Connecticut: Ph.D., Psychology 2001
University of Connecticut: M.A., Psychology 1998
Wesleyan University: B.A. (Honors), Psychology 2005
Media Appearances (9)
Selfies and Mental Health
The practice of taking your own picture, then posting it to the Internet is a big part of youth culture, but psychologists at the University of Mary Washington say selfies may be a sign of trouble for young women. Which is why psychology professor Miriam Liss chose to take a closer look. She and her colleague Mindy Erchull studied 165 female students at their school – the University of Mary Washington.
Why Is Social Media So Addictive?
Social media is so addictive because it plays on one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human—our need for social connection with others.
Is Santa real? Here's advice on how to handle a difficult question when kids ask
Naples Daily News; Wisconsin State Farmer online
Miriam Liss, professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington and mother of a 12-year-old believer, said a parent can usually tell when a child is ready when they start asking these questions:
How Instagram Became Divisive for Female Fly-Fishers
“It’s hard for women to negotiate hypermasculine environments,” says Miriam Liss, a psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington. “You become a token. All your activities are highly scrutinized, and if you mess up, it’s seen as if all women are incapable of fly-fishing.”
Experts Suggest That The Phenomenon Of Intensive Parenting May Be An Intensive Mistake
Baby Gaga online
Researcher, Miriam Liss, a psychologist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia explains, "There's something very appealing about these intensive parenting ideologies," "[These attitudes] seem like they are how we should be feeling toward our children. But they may be more problematic than we think."
UMW theater students teach stage skills to school-aged children
The Free Lance-Star print
This is the first year of a partnership between UMW and the downtown organization, and it represents a new emphasis on community engagement for the university, said Miriam Liss, a UMW pyschology professor and Stage Door board member who conceived of the workshop series.
Balancing the Big Stuff with Drs. Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin
In this interview, psychology professors and authors Drs. Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin talk with us about their book, Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family, and Life.
For a Happy Life, Love Your Spouse More Than Your Kids, Says One Marriage Counselor
Miriam Liss, a psychologist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, wrote a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies on “intensive parenting” and found that “women who believed that parenting should be child-centered had reduced life satisfaction
What Parents Can Learn From a Town That Produced 11 Olympians
New York Times online
They intuitively sense what a 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies concluded: that overprotective or helicopter parents thwart a child’s basic psychological need for autonomy and competence, resulting in an uptick in depression and lower life-satisfaction levels.
Individuals with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) often experience, describe and exhibit unusual patterns of sensation and attention. These anomalies have been hypothesized to result from overarousal and consequent overfocused attention. Parents of ...
Social identity theory suggests that feminist identity should predict engagement in collective action on behalf of women. We examined predictors of collective action by asking female college students (N= 215) to complete a set of questionnaires that measure life ...
Executive functioning was investigated in 34 children (24 boys and 10 girls) with developmental language disorder (DLD) and 21 children (18 boys and 3 girls) with high- functioning autistic disorder (HAD) matched on Full Scale IQ, Nonverbal IQ, age (mean ...
Autism is a developmental disorder marked by impairments in socialization, communication, and perseverative behavior and is associated with cognitive impairment and deficits in adaptive functioning. Research has consistently demonstrated that children ...
What factors predict self-identification as a feminist? College women (N= 233) were given measures of feminist ideology; feminist identity development; evaluation of feminists, collectivism, and individualism. Feminist identification was measured both as a ...
Objectification has been conceptualized as a form of insidious trauma, but the specific relationships among objectification experiences, self-objectification, and trauma symptoms have not yet been investigated. Participants were women with (n = 136) and without (n = 201) a history of sexual trauma.
Self-objectification is related to maladaptive mental health variables, but little is known about what could ameliorate these associations. Self-compassion, a construct associated with mindfulness, involves taking a non-judgmental attitude toward the self. In this study, 306 college-aged women were recruited; those who were highest (n = 106) and lowest (n = 104) in self-compassion were retained for analyses. Levels of body surveillance, body shame, depression, and negative eating attitudes were lower in the high self-compassion group. Furthermore, the fit of a path model wherein body surveillance related to body shame, which, in turn, related to negative eating attitudes and depressive symptomatology was compared for each group, controlling for body mass index. The model fit significantly differently such that the connections between self-objectification and negative body and eating attitudes were weaker in the high self-compassion group. Treatment implications of self-compassion as a potential means to interrupt the self-objectification process are discussed.
As women are exposed to objectification and the “male gaze,” they self-objectify, which predicts negative psychological outcomes. Given the centrality of the “male gaze,” positive father/child relationships may have a buffering effect. In this study, women (N = 447) completed a survey measuring paternal bonding (care and overprotection), self-objectification, negative eating attitudes, and depression. Women were categorized into four groups based on bonding style. Analyses indicated an interaction such that women who reported high care and low overprotection reported the fewest negative eating attitudes. A path model was tested for each group. The fit of the high care/high overprotection group's model significantly differed from that of the high care/low overprotection group. The relationships between body surveillance and shame as well as between shame and negative eating attitudes were stronger in the former group. These findings suggest that caring but overprotective fathers may exacerbate the negative effects of body surveillance and shame.
Parental involvement is related to many positive child outcomes, but if not developmentally appropriate, it can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression. Few studies have examined the effects of over-controlling parenting, or “helicopter parenting,” in college students. Some studies have found that college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being. This study examined self-determination theory as the potential underlying mechanism explaining this relationship. College students (N = 297) completed measures of helicopter parenting, autonomy supportive parenting, depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life, and basic psychological needs satisfaction. Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.
Self-objectification is often understood as a consequence of internalizing unrealistic media ideals. The consequences of self-objectification have been well studied and include depression and self-harm. We argue that body surveillance, a component of self-objectification that involves taking an observer’s perspective on oneself, is conceptually related to dissociation, a variable related to depression and self-harm. We hypothesized that the normative experience of self-objectification may increase the risk that young women dissociate in other contexts, providing an additional indirect path between self-objectification, depression, and self-harm. Snowball sampling begun with postings on Facebook was used to recruit 160 women, believed to be primarily from the U.S., to complete an online survey about the effects of media on young women. All participants ranged in age from 18–35 (M = 23.12, Median = 22, Mode = 21). Using this sample, we tested a path model in which internalization of media ideals led to body surveillance and body shame, body surveillance led to dissociation and body shame, body shame and dissociation led to depression, and dissociation and depression led to self-harm. This model, in which we controlled for the effects of age, had good fit to the data. Our findings suggest that self-harm and dissociation, both outcomes associated with the literature on trauma, are related to self-objectification. These relationships are discussed in terms of conceptualizing objectification and self-objectification as a form of insidious trauma or microaggression. Clinical implications are also discussed.
The transition to parenthood has been linked to an increase in traditional attitudes and behaviors. The goal of our study was to determine whether feminist mothers differed from feminist non-mothers on attitudes and behaviors related to motherhood. Self-labeled feminist mothers (n = 344) and non-mothers who indicated that they wished to have children (n = 361; anticipated mothers) were asked about their feminist beliefs, their actual or expected division of labor after they had children, and actual or expected child surname choices. Results indicated that liberal feminist beliefs were higher among anticipated mothers. Liberal feminist beliefs with a focus on equality in the workplace may not be as salient to mothers. Cultural feminist beliefs, however, were higher among actual mothers. Cultural feminism, which focuses on valuing care, communal traits, and the role of women as mothers, may be particularly appealing to mothers. Additionally, feminist anticipated mothers expected a more egalitarian division of labor than feminist mothers actually experienced. Finally, feminist anticipated mothers expected to make significantly more nontraditional name choices for their children than feminist mothers actually made. Feminist women may experience social pressures that are unanticipated by women who are not yet mothers. The impact of cultural feminism on feminist motherhood is also discussed.
Guilt and shame are emotions commonly associated with motherhood. Self-discrepancy theory proposes that guilt and shame result from perceived discrepancies between one’s actual and ideal selves. Fear of negative evaluation by others may enhance the effects of self-discrepancy especially for shame, which involves fear of others’ reproach. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between self discrepancy, guilt, shame, and fear of negative evaluation in a cross-sectional, self report study of mothers. Mothers of children five and under (N = 181) completed an on-line survey measuring guilt, shame, fear of negative evaluation, and maternal self-discrepancies. Guilt and shame were related to maternal self-discrepancy and fear of negative evaluation. In addition, fear of negative evaluation moderated the relationship between maternal self-discrepancy and shame such that mothers who greatly feared negative evaluation had a very strong relationship between these variables. Maternal self-discrepancy and shame were not related among mothers who had low fear of negative evaluation. The results are discussed in terms of the detrimental effects of internalizing idealized standards of perfect motherhood.
Intensive mothering (IM) attitudes have been considered the dominant discourse of motherhood, but have only been assessed qualitatively The goal of this study was to develop a quantitative scale to assess these ideologies, their construct validity, and their relationship to relevant constructs (i.e., work status and division of household labor). An on-line questionnaire was given to 595 mothers asking 56 questions assessing different aspects of IM attitudes as well as several validation measures. An Exploratory Factor Analysis on 315 randomly selected mothers yielded a 5 factor solution. A Confirmatory Factor Analysis on the remaining 280 mothers demonstrated good fit. The five factors expressed the ideas that (1) women are inherently better at parenting than men (Essentialism), (2) parenting should be fulfilling (Fulfillment), (3) children should be cognitively stimulated by parents (Stimulation), (4) mothering is difficult (Challenging), and (5) parents should prioritize the needs of the child (Child-Centered). Scales had adequate reliability and construct validity compared to the Parental Investment in the Child questionnaire, the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and Beliefs about Maternal Employment. The Essentialism, Fulfillment, and Challenging scales were positively related to having more responsibility for child care and household chores. Stay-at-home mothers had higher scores on Essentialism and lower scores on Stimulation than both part-time and full-time working mothers supporting the notion that both working and non-working mothers have intensive parenting ideologies that are manifested in different ways.
Though people often report wanting to have children because they think it will make them happier, much research suggests that parenting is associated with decreased well-being. Other studies have found that parenting is related to increased life satisfaction. The goal of this study was to provide insight into this paradox by investigating the relationship between a specific way of parenting, intensive parenting, and maternal mental health. An online survey was completed by 181 mothers with children ages 5 and under. Intensive mothering beliefs correlated with several negative mental health outcomes. Controlling for perceived family social support, the belief that women are the essential parent was related to lower life satisfaction and believing that parenting is challenging was related to greater depression and stress. The results of this study suggest that aspects of intensive mothering beliefs are detrimental to women’s mental health. It may not be parenting per se, but specific and particularly intensive ways of parenting, that relate to negative mental health outcomes.
Sexualization of girls and women in America is rampant and has many negative consequences. Women, however, often report enjoying being sexually admired by men. Given this paradox, it is unclear whether such enjoyment represents an authentic empowerment of women’s sexuality or is related to traditional feminine norms and sexist beliefs. In Studies 1 and 2, the authors developed and tested the eight-item Enjoyment of Sexualization Scale (ESS). It had good reliability and was differentiated from related constructs including body surveillance, body shame, self-sexualizing behaviors, and appearance-contingent self-esteem. In Study 3, endorsement of traditional gender norms, endorsement of benevolent sexism, and endorsement of hostile sexism were all positively related to the ESS. Moreover, women who both enjoyed sexualization and engaged in self-objectification reported more negative eating attitudes. Overall, there was little support for positive effects of enjoying sexualization. The extent to which enjoying sexualization actually empowers women or contributes to their oppression is discussed.
This study explored whether there was a discrepancy between young adults' ideal and expected participation in household and child care chores as well as what variables predicted expectations for future chore division. Three-hundred fifty-eight unmarried, heterosexual participants with no children completed an online questionnaire assessing the percentage of chores they ideally wished to, and actually expected to, complete in addition to measures of individual differences. Results showed that, although men desired and expected an egalitarian division of labor, women projected that they would actually engage in a disproportionate amount of the household labor and child care. Additionally, women, but not men, expected to do significantly more chores than they ideally wanted. Women with more liberal feminist attitudes ideally wanted to, and expected to, do fewer household and child care chores, whereas men with liberal feminist attitudes ideally wanted to, and expected to, do more. The importance of finding a partner with a career orientation was related to ideally wanting to do more household labor and child care whereas the importance of finding a partner with a family orientation was related to wanting to do less. On the other hand, men and women who felt it was unlikely that they would find family-oriented partners expected to actually do more household chores and child care. Results indicated that young women expected inequity in their relationships, consistent with findings from research on married couples, despite the fact that men expected equality. The importance of structural changes that will set the stage for egalitarianism are discussed.
The current study examined how desire for marriage and children related to anticipated chore involvement for both men and women. An online survey was completed by 466 college students recruited from multiple colleges and universities in Virginia. Participants provided information about their own desire for marriage and children, expectations for future division of household labor, and their perceptions of the typical woman's and man's desires for marriage and children. Men and women did not differ in their self-reported desires for marriage and children. However, the typical man was perceived as having a lower desire for both marriage and children and the typical woman as having a higher desire for both. Desire for marriage and children was predicted by anticipated chore involvement above and beyond liberal attitudes for women but not for men. These findings are discussed in terms of how social norms and stereotypes affect power in relationships through the principle of least interest.
Research findings raise questions about whether the feminist identity development model provides information about women’s social identification as a feminist.
Professor of Psychology Miriam Liss and four students from her research seminar had a paper accepted for publication by the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The paper is titled "How Extraversion, Neuroticism, Attachment Style and Fear of Missing Out Predicted Social Media Use and Addiction." Liss and her students found that fear of missing out was a powerful predictor of social media addiction. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886917302891
Professor of Psychology Miriam Liss and four students from her research seminar had a paper accepted for publication by the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The paper is titled "How Extraversion, Neuroticism, Attachment Style and Fear of Missing Out Predicted Social Media Use and Addiction." Liss and her students found that fear of missing out was a powerful predictor of social media addiction.