Prof. Miriam Schiff


Research Interests:

Consequences of trauma on children’s mental health and substance use. My research focuses on:

1.           Long-term effects of community and political violence on children’s mental health, violent behavior, and substance use.

2.           Substance abusing women: Trauma and other influences on their current mental health and illicit drug use.

3.           Long-term effects of out-of-home placement on children.

In addition, as a licensed school psychologist and social worker, I have substantial clinical experience with children and adolescents, including those traumatized by the extensive political violence in Israelin recent years.

Research Projects:

  • Consequences of prolonged exposure to terror among Israeli youth.
  • Dating violence and risk behavior among Israeli adolescents.
  • Follow-up studies on women's mental health in methadone clinics  
  • Follow-ups on current functioning and challenges faced by alumni of out-of-home care
  • Helping components in preventive and therapeutic intervention


Abstracts of Current Research :


Consequences of exposure of Israeli youth to terrorism: (with Prof. Rami Benbenishty, Dr. Debbie Hasin, Columbia University, Dr. Mary McKay, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, and Dr. Ellen DeVoe, Boston University.

Israeli youth has been exposed to a great number of terrorist attacks since 2000. Relatively little is known about the psychological impact of terrorism on youth, and no studies have addressed a possible association between exposure to terror and alcohol consumption by young people.

Aim: To examine possible associations between physical and psychological exposure to terrorism and PTSD, symptoms of depression, and alcohol use among Israeli youth.

Methods:A self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was completed by 1,150 junior high school students (51.3% boys and 48.7% girls) in a town in the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area. Standardized, validated scales indicated psychological symptoms and alcohol use. Data were analyzed with linear regression.

Results: About one third of the students reported being in close proximity when a terrorist act occurred and 40% reported knowing a victim of a terrorist act. Close proximity to a terrorist attack was associated with more PTSD symptoms, depression, and alcohol consumption. Knowing someone who was hurt in the attacks was associated with more alcohol consumption and PTSD symptoms.

Conclusion: Physical and psychological exposure to terrorism is associated with significant PTSD and depression symptoms, and also with increased alcohol use by adolescents.

Future Studies: Prof. Benbenishty, Mrs. Hillah Chaim-Zweig and I are currently continuing studies in other Israeli cities, including Haifaand Jerusalem, on the associations between ongoing exposure to terrorism and substance use among Israeli youth.


Dating violence and sexual risk behaviors among Israeli youth(with Dr. Anat Zeira)

Aim: This exploratory study examines the prevalence of dating violence and its association with sexual risk behavior among Israeli adolescents at-risk for dropping out of school.

Methodology: A convenience sample of 105 at-risk youth (51 boys and 54 girls) completed self-administered anonymous questionnaires in small same-gender groups. The questionnaire included a Hebrew version of the Conflict in Adolescent Dating Relationships Inventory (CADRI), a scale developed in the USespecially for adolescents, the Hebrew version of the CTS2 and the Self-Efficacy to Refuse Sexual Behavior scale.

Results: We found high rates of perpetration of verbal-emotional violence for both girls and boys. Rates of reported victimization by physical abuse were higher among boys, but rates of reported victimization by sexual abuse were higher among girls. We found a moderate inverse association between victimization by dating violence and practicing safe sex among girls. There was a similar but much stronger association for boys who were victims of dating violence.

Conclusions: The high rates of various types of dating violence in Israel, at least among at-risk adolescents, are a cause for concern and indicate a need for designing and implementing specific prevention interventions. The high reported rates of victimization to dating violence among boys are surprising and call for more in-depth studies. We are therefore currently planning extended studies on dating violence and risk behavior among Israeli adolescents.

Alumni of out-of-home care: Follow-up studies (with Prof. Rami Benbenishty)

The present follow-up study examined the current functioning of young adult alumni of a large network of group homes in Israel, aiming to identify factors explaining their current functioning. Two sample groups were considered: (a) 143 alumni (64 men and 79 women) for whom information on their background and in-care experiences was available. (b) 109 alumni (51 men and 58 women) who agreed to be interviewed. Despite their disadvantaged background prior to entering care, alumni showed an adequate functioning status and good health status. As would be predicted by attachment theory, relationships with group home parents were positively associated with functioning after leaving the group home.

About half perceived their transition from care as 'quite hard' or 'very hard,' while a fifth reported having no one to talk to during the first period of leaving care. Generally, the transition was more difficult for women than for men. The longer the alumni (especially boys) stayed in care, the more difficult they found the transition to independent living. Better relationships between the child and the group home parents while in care were associated with a more difficult transition to independent living. Our study localizes areas of concern, as well as suggesting directions for future interventions and longitudinal studies.

Future Studies: Several continuous studies on preparation for leaving care among youth in foster care and life satisfaction of children in residential and group-home care (the latter with Dr. Rich Gilman from the UniversityofKentucky, USA) are currently underway.

Client satisfaction and perceived helping components of an HIV/AIDS preventive intervention for urban couples(with Dr. Nabila El-Bassel and Dr. Susan S. Witte, Columbia University, School of Social Work, Social Intervention Group).

We have examined client satisfaction in an HIV/STD relationship-based prevention intervention. We were particularly interested to determine which intervention components clients perceived as helpful. We also investigated perceived frequency of condom use pre- and immediate post-intervention among men and women participants.

Participants randomized to one of twotreatment conditions (couple or individual sessions) completed evaluation forms at the end of the last of five weekly intervention sessions (N=107). Evaluation questions explored levels of overall satisfaction, what participants liked best and least, what they learned, what they felt helped them in the intervention, and their report on the frequency of male and female condom use pre- and post-intervention. Data indicate that the intervention was very well-received and highly regarded by participants. The most helpful components of the intervention were: improving the couple’s ability to communicate and the special strategies the facilitators used. Several gender and condition differences were found in perceived helping components and immediate behavioral changes with respect to HIV risk reduction.

These results are important for HIV prevention services, research and practice.

Future Studies:Prof. Gail Auslanderand I are currently carrying out a similar study on the helping components of hospital social work interventions with victims of terrorism. I am also planning a study of helping components of interventions with drug-addicted clients.



Recent Publications:

Schiff, M., El-Bassel, N., Engstrom, M., & Gilbert, L. (2002). Psychological distress and intimate physical and sexual abuse among women in Methadone Maintenance Programs. Social Service Review, 76(2), 302-320.

Schiff, M., McKay, M., Bell-C., Baptiste, D., Madison, S., & Paikoff, R. (2003). The role of personal contact with HIV-infected people explaining urban, African American preadolescents’ attitudes toward peers with HIV/AIDS. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 73(1), 101-108.

Schiff, M., & Tatar, M. (2003). Significant teachers as perceived by preadolescents: Do boys and girls perceive them alike? The Journal of Educational Research, 96(5), 269-276.

Schiff, M., Witte, S.S., & El-Bassel, N. (2003). Client satisfaction and perceived helping components of an HIV/AIDS preventive intervention for urban couples. Research on Social Work Practice, 13(4), 468-492.

Schiff, M., & McKay, M. (2003).  Urban youth disruptive behavioral difficulties: Exploring associations with parenting and gender.  Family Process, 42(4), 517-529.

Schiff, M., & BarGil, B.A. (2004). Children with behavior problems: Improving elementary school teachers’ skills to keep these children in class. Children and Youth Services Review, 26(2), 207-234.

Schiff, M., Rahav, G., & Teichman, M. (2005). Israel 2000: Immigration and gender differences in alcohol consumption.The American Journal on Addictions, 14(3), 234-247.

Schiff, M., & Zeira, A. (2005). Dating violence and sexual risk behaviors in a sample of at-risk Israeli youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(11), 1249-1263.

Schiff, M., Gilbert, L., & El-Bassel, N. (2006). Perceived positive aspects of intimate relationships among abused women on Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program (MMTP). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(1), 121-138.

Schiff, M., & Benbenishty, R. (2006). Functioning of Israeli group-homes alumni: Exploring gender differences and in-care correlates. Children and Youth Services Review,28, 133-157.

Schiff, M., Nebe, S., & Gilman, R. (2005- pre preview).  Life satisfaction among Israeli children in residential treatment care. British Journal of Social Work. Doi:10.1093/bjsw/bch274.

Schiff, M., Benbenishty, R., McKay, M., Devoe, E., Liu, X, & Hasin, D. (2006). Exposure to terrorism and Israeli youth’s psychological distress and alcohol use: An exploratory study.  The American Journal on Addictions, 15(3), 220-226. 

Schiff, M.(2006). Living in the shadow of terrorism: Psychological distress and alcohol use among religious and non-religious adolescents in Jerusalem. Social Science and Medicine, 62, 2301-2312.

Schiff, M. (in press). Leaving care: Retrospective reports by alumni of Israeli group-homes. Social Work.

Schiff, M. & Katz, K. (in press). The Impact of Ethnicity and Phase in Training on Israeli Social Work Students’ Satisfaction with the Field Instruction. Social Work Education.

Schiff, M.,  Haim Zweig, H., Benbenishty, R., & Hasin, D.S.(in press). Exposure to Terrorism and Israeli Youth’s Cigarettes, Alcohol and Cannabis Use. American Journal of Public Health.

Pat-Horenczyk, R., Schiff, M., & Doppelt, O. (in press). Maintaining routine despite ongoing exposure to terrorism: A Healthy strategy for adolescents? Journal of Adolescent Health.


Miriam Schiff's site at the Research and Development Authorit