AMORI YEE MIKAMI, PHD
I am an Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, and a registered (licensed) clinical psychologist in the province of British Columbia. In my department, I am also the Associate Head for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
I grew up in Los Angeles County in California (United States). I stayed in California for the rest of my education and training: Stanford University (1994-1998; B.A and M.A., psychology), University of California at Berkeley (1998-2004; PhD, clinical psychology), and University of California at San Francisco (2003-2005; child clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship). My first academic job was at the University of Virginia from 2005-2011, before I came here to University of British Columbia in 2011. I now have dual citizenship in Canada and the United States.
Growing up I moved a lot between birth and age 18 (although always around Los Angeles county) and I saw firsthand the dramatic variability in school and neighborhood social norms. Some behaviors that would lead to peer group acceptance in one location would fail in another location. Certain peer groups were more cliquish than others. Furthermore, teachers had quite diverse approaches to welcoming a new child into their classrooms. These experiences motivated my research interests about children’s peer relationships and peer problems.
Current conceptual models of why children have peer problems tend to neglect contextual influences on peer relationships such as peer group norms and the inclusiveness of the peer group, instead predominantly focusing on behaviors on the part of the disliked child that account for their rejection. I seek to expand existing models to include social contextual factors that affect whether a peer group chooses to like (or dislike) a child. I’m also interested in reasons why in some peer groups, once a child gets a negative reputation it is very difficult to shake whereas in other peer groups, reputations are more flexible. I have a particular interest in the population of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because this is a common condition, and these children tend to have significant peer problems. In addition, many children and adults have stigma around ADHD.
Finally, I research strategies that parents and teachers can enact to help peer groups be more welcoming to children, particularly to children who are different from them or who have clinical disorders such as ADHD. Our lab is developing and evaluating various intervention programs for children with ADHD as a result of this research.
In another line of research, I am interested in the ways that adolescents and emerging adults interact with their peers on social media. For example, how are online interactions and peer relationships similar versus different from those that occur face to face, and what are the consequences for adjustment? Do youth with psychopathology such as ADHD tend to socialize online in different ways? For the first time, our lab is testing out different online intervention strategies with the hope of improving users’ mood, wellbeing, and social connectedness on social media. Given how much the digital world seems to be entrenched in our social communication, we are excited to learn more about how to navigate this world effectively.
The greater Vancouver area also has a high representation of people from pan-Asian backgrounds. However, there is evidence that mental health needs in this group are under-recognized and under-served by providers currently. For this reason, I am also starting a new study that explores perceptions about ADHD and treatment-seeking among Asian Canadian families of children with ADHD.
My personal life is a wondrous mix of curiosity about research pursuits, adventures in innovative eating and drinking, teaching step aerobics classes that involve a disproportionate amount of 90s pop music, running races in a chicken costume, and enjoying playful times with my family and my 20 pound cat, Fatty.
I feel blessed and lucky to live in beautiful Vancouver.