Source: Brigham Young University:
Dad’s task: Draw a sailboat with an Etch A Sketch in five minutes or less.
The twist (pun intended): Sketch the sailboat with your -year-old child controlling one of the toy’s two dials.
While it sounds like playtime, it’s really an extensive experiment on the relationship quality between fathers and children. Social scientists observed almost dads in cities attempt the joint sketch with their first graders.
But instead of awarding points for artistic quality, the researchers judged how well the pair worked with each other in a battery of team-play exercises including the Etch A Sketch challenge.
“By design, these tasks are too hard for first-graders to do on their own,” said Erin Holmes, a professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life. “When a little conflict or stress occurred, we looked at dads’ ability to respond to their children’s feelings – negative or positive.”
The main conclusion of Holmes’ study? Children who had the best experience can thank their father’s child-centered parenting beliefs, which a statistical analysis showed to be among the most predictive factors of quality relationships. Child-centered parenting includes beliefs such as “Children learn best by doing things themselves” and “A child’s ideas should be seriously considered when making family decisions.”
More telling were factors that didn’t seem to matter: fathers’ income level, education, even the number of diapers they changed.* While these attributes have merit in other contexts, they didn’t influence fathers’ ability to engage their children in productive and positive ways.
Holmes is the lead author of the new study to be published by the academic journal Fathering. Aletha Huston of the University of Texas at Austin is a co-author.
The fathers who did not fare so well in the experiments hold more adult-centered parenting beliefs. These attitudes were measured by a questionnaire asking how strongly they agree with statements like “Preparing for the future is more important for a child than enjoying today” and “Children should be doing something useful at all times.”
If adult-centered fathers perceived their child to possess strong social skills, however, the pair scored well on relationship quality in the playtime experiment.
Being a child-centered father doesn’t mean giving up notions of obedience and accountability, Holmes notes.
“Even though teaching your child to be obedient is an important part of parenting, you need to be willing to listen to your child, too,” Holmes said. “When parents pay attention to their children’s cues about how children feel and what they like to do, it produces better quality relationships.”
The data for this study come from a -year longitudinal study funded by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
* Though not addressed by this particular study, avoiding nappy duty is suspected to impact dad’s relationship with mum.
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April 12, 2010 — Mums who spank their 3-year-olds may be increasing their children’s risk of aggressive behavior, such as bullying, by the time they turn 5, a study shows.
The study, published in the May issue of Pediatrics, adds to evidence suggesting that spanking and other types of corporal punishment set kids up for aggressive behaviors later in life.
“Children need guidance and discipline; however, parents should focus on positive, non-physical forms of discipline and avoid the use of spanking,” study researcher Catherine A. Taylor, PhD, an assistant professor of community health sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, tells WebMD in an email. “This message is consistent with that of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which ‘strongly opposes striking a child for any reason.'”
Taylor and colleagues asked about 2,500 mothers how often they had spanked their 3-year-old child in the past month. Nearly half of the moms said they had not spanked their child during the previous month, 27.9% said they spanked their 3-year-old once or twice within the last month, and 26.5% percent said they spanked their child more than twice in the past month.
The researchers also asked moms questions about their child’s aggressive behavior, such as whether they were bullies, cruel, mean, destructive, and/or prone to getting into fights with others at age 3 and again at age 5.
Although other studies have shown a link between spanking and aggressive behavior, the new study solidifies the connection because the researchers controlled for other maternal risk factors that might have explained the link, such as neglect, maternal use of drugs and alcohol, maternal stress and depression, and the physical or psychological maltreatment of the child.
“This study reinforces that any kind of violence or physical aggression in the home is another risk factor for kids being more aggressive in the future,” says Patricia Hametz, MD, director of the Injury and Violence Prevention Center and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and director of the general pediatrics inpatient service at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City.
“The way you discipline depends on the age of the child, and pediatricians should give age-appropriate suggestions about how to discipline toddlers,” Hametz [says]. “Some people like time-outs, which remove a child from whatever it is that is overstimulating them.”
Another tactic is to reward good behavior. “Praising, pointing out, and literally rewarding good behavior is a better discipline strategy than punishing bad behavior after it happens,” she says.
Jennifer E. Lansford, PhD, a research scientist at the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy in Durham, N.C., agrees. “These findings suggest that spanking has the unintended consequence of increasing children’s aggressive behavior, so the implication for parents would be that they should not use corporal punishment, but find other ways of managing their children’s misbehavior and promoting good behavior,” she says in an email.
This may include teaching about good and bad behavior and trying to prevent misbehavior rather than just reacting to it once it has occurred, she suggests. “Parents can use reward systems such as sticker charts, where a child earns a sticker or something else for good behavior, and special privileges such as extra time with mom or dad can be offered for completing the sticker chart.”s
Learning Aggressive Attitudes
The new findings make sense to child psychologist Vincent J. Barone, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and the director of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences South Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, also in Kansas City.
“The findings in this research are consistent with what we know about violent experiences for children. Whether a violent video game or corporal punishment, children learn aggressive attitudes and act them out when they are exposed to violence,” he says. “Children don’t learn peaceful ways of solving conflict when they are exposed to violence.”
Barone usually suggests that parents briefly describe the inappropriate behavior and then use a time-out.
Also, he suggests, “use your attention and passion to describe and praise positive behaviors such as cooperation, thoughtfulness, and respect for others.”
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A new book, The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, dispels many common myths about adolescence with the latest scientific findings on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and spiritual development of teens. [Book is available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website at Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).] Authors Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard from the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provide useful tips and strategies for real-life situations and experiences from bullying, to nutrition and sexuality.
Created in partnership with an alliance of youth-serving professionals, The Teen Years Explained is science-based and accessible. The practical and colorful guide to healthy adolescent development is an essential resource for parents and all people who work with young people.
“Whether you have five minutes or five hours, you will find something useful in the guide,” said McNeely. “We want both adults and young people to understand the changes – what is happening and why – so everyone can enjoy this second decade of life.”
Popular Myths about Teenagers:
Myth: Teens are bigger risk-takers and thrill-seekers than adults. Fact: Teens perceive more risk than adults do in certain areas, such as the chance of getting into an accident if they drive with a drunk driver.
Myth: Young people only listen to their friends. Fact: Young people report that their parents or a caring adult are their greatest influence – especially when it comes to sexual behavior.
Myth: Adolescents live to push your buttons. Fact: Adolescents may view conflict as a way of expressing themselves, while adults take arguments personally.
Myth: When you’re a teenager, you can eat whatever you want and burn it off. Fact: Obesity rates have tripled for adolescents since 1980.
Myth: Teens don’t need sleep. Fact: Teens need as much sleep or more than they got as children – 9 to 10 hours is optimum.
Three years in the making, the guide came about initially at the request of two of the Center’s partners, the Maryland Mentoring Partnership and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who felt there was a need in the community for an easily navigated and engaging look at adolescent development.
“Add The Teen Years Explained to the ‘must-read’ list,” said Karen Pittman, director of the Forum for Youth Investment. “In plain English, the book explains the science behind adolescent development and challenges and empowers adults to invest more attention and more time to young people.”
The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development will be available for purchase on April 10 through Amazon.com. Electronic copies will also be available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website atJohns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).
The Center for Adolescent Health is a Prevention Research Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is committed to assisting urban youth in becoming healthy and productive adults. Together with community partners, the Center conducts research to identify the needs and strengths of young people, and evaluates and assists programs to promote their health and well-being. The Center’s mission is to work in partnership with youth, people who work with youth, public policymakers and program administrators to help urban adolescents develop healthy adult lifestyles.
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
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(Information provided by The Wellcome Trust 1 April 2010)
Medication and behavioural interventions help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) better maintain attention and self-control by normalising activity in the same brain systems, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust.
In a study published today in the journal ‘Biological Psychiatry’, researchers from the University of Nottingham show that medication has the most significant effect on brain function in children with ADHD, but this effect can be boosted by complementary use of rewards and incentives, which appear to mimic the effects of medication on brain systems.
ADHD is the most common mental health disorder in childhood, affecting around one in 20 children in the UK. Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and distractible, and experience difficulties at home and in school. Although no cure exists for the condition, symptoms can be reduced by a combination of medication and behaviour therapy.
Methylphenidate, a drug commonly used to treat ADHD, is believed to increase levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger associated with attention, learning and the brain’s reward and pleasure systems. This increase amplifies certain brain signals and can be measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG). Until now it has been unclear how rewards and incentives affect the brain, either with or without the additional use of medication.
To answer these questions, researchers at Nottingham’s Motivation, Inhibition and Development in ADHD Study (MIDAS) used EEG to measure brain activity while children played a simple game. They compared two particular markers of brain activity that relate to attention and impulsivity, and looked at how these were affected by medication and motivational incentives.
The team worked with two groups of children aged nine to 15: one group of 28 children with ADHD and a control group of 28. The children played a computer game in which green aliens were randomly interspersed with less frequent black aliens, each appearing for a short interval. Their task was to ‘catch’ as many green aliens as possible, while avoiding catching black aliens. For each slow or missed response, they would lose one point; they would gain one point for each timely response.
In a test designed to study the effect of incentives, the reward for avoiding catching the black alien was increased to five points; a follow-up test replaced this reward with a five-point penalty for catching the wrong alien.
The researchers found that when given their usual dose of methylphenidate, children with ADHD performed significantly better at the tasks than when given no medication, with better attention and reduced impulsivity. Their brain activity appeared to normalise, becoming similar to that of the control group.
Similarly, motivational incentives also helped to normalise brain activity on the two EEG markers and improved attention and reduced impulsivity, though its effect was much smaller than that of medication.
“When the children were given rewards or penalties, their attention and self-control was much improved,” says Dr Maddie Groom, first author of the study. “We suspect that both medication and motivational incentives work by making a task more appealing, capturing the child’s attention and engaging his or her brain response control systems.”
Professor Chris Hollis, who led the study, believes the findings may help to reconcile the often-polarised debate between those who advocate either medication on the one hand, or psychological/behavioural therapy on the other.
“Although medication and behaviour therapy appear to be two very different approaches of treating ADHD, our study suggests that both types of intervention may have much in common in terms of their affect on the brain,” he says. “Both help normalise similar components of brain function and improve performance. What’s more, their effect
is additive, meaning they can be more effective when used together.”
The researchers believe that the results lend support from neuroscience to current treatment guidelines
for ADHD as set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). These recommend that behavioural interventions, which have a smaller effect size, are appropriate for moderate ADHD, while medication, with its larger effect size, is added for severe ADHD.
Although the findings suggest that a combination of incentives and medication might work most effectively, and potentially enable children to take lower doses of medication, Professor Hollis believes more work is needed before the results can be applied to everyday clinical practice or classroom situations.
“The incentives and rewards in our study were immediate and consistent, but we know that children with ADHD respond disproportionately less well to delayed rewards,” he says. “This could mean that in the ‘real world’ of the classroom or home, the neural effects of behavioural approaches using reinforcement and rewards may be less effective.”
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