Adolescence/Teens9

Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older

Young adults and mature adults require different food to improve their mental health

December 11, 2017

Science Daily/Binghamton University

Diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus older adults, according to new research.

 

Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, along with fellow Binghamton researchers, conducted an anonymous internet survey, asking people around the world to complete the Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ), which includes questions on food groups that have been associated with neurochemistry and neurobiology. Analyzing the data, Begdache and Assistant Professor of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Nasim Sabounchi found that mood in young adults (18-29) seems to be dependent on food that increases availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain (meat). However, mood in mature adults (over 30 years) may be more reliant on food that increases availability of antioxidants (fruits) and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the sympathetic nervous system (coffee, high glycemic index and skipping breakfast).

 

"One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults," said Begdache. "Another noteworthy finding is that young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well. In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress."

 

"Conversely, mature adult mood seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of sources of antioxidants and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the innate fight-or-flight response (commonly known as the stress response)," added Begdache. "With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases. Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress. Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too much carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress."

 

Begdache and her team are interested in comparing dietary intake between men and women in relation to mental distress. There is a gender difference in brain morphology which may be also sensitive to dietary components, and may potentially explain some the documented gender-specific mental distress risk, said Begdache.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171211192738.htm

Mindful yoga can reduce risky behaviors in troubled youth

December 7, 2017

Science Daily/University of Cincinnati

Study shows a marked reduction in risky sex and substance abuse in troubled 18- to 24-year-olds after several months of participating in mindful yoga and positive coping strategies.

 

For some young people, dealing with life stressors like exposure to violence and family disruption often means turning to negative, risky behaviors -- yet little is known about what can intervene to stop this cycle.

 

But one long-term study by the University of Cincinnati looks at the link between stressful life events and an increase in substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors and delinquency in a diverse population of 18- to 24-year-old youths. The research also sheds light on distinct coping strategies that can lead to more positive outcomes.

 

As part of a 10-year study looking at risk-taking and decision-making -- or the lack thereof -- Jacinda Dariotis, UC public health researcher, spent 12 months focusing on early life stressors as a predictor of risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and delinquency for more than 125 at-risk youths. Surprisingly, she found a small number of the youths were already engaging in constructive coping behaviors on their own that will have positive outcomes later in life.

 

But what about the majority of troubled youth who cope by engaging in negative, risky and dangerous behaviors?

 

Results from the most recent segment of Dariotis' study were presented at the American Public Health Association conference in Atlanta, under the title,"Stress coping strategies as mediators: Toward a better understanding of sexual, substance and delinquency-related risk-taking among transition-aged youth."

 

The study revealed that in spite of early life stressors, positive coping behaviors, either learned or self-generated, can actually have a protective effect.

 

"We found that many of these youths who had endured stressful life events and otherwise would have fallen into the risky behavior trap could actually have positive outcomes later in life because they chose to join in prosocial physical activities, yoga or mindfulness meditation," says Dariotis.

 

Risky outlets

 

During the study, Dariotis looked at the disconnect between the youths who had intended to have positive influences in their lives but continually found themselves engaged in behaviors that had negative outcomes. She found a link between stressful life events and increased risky unprotected sex, violence and substance abuse.

 

"We took a holistic approach, looking at these issues from a social and biological perspective," says Dariotis, also director of UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services Evaluation Services Center. "In addition to question-and-answer information, we collected urine samples for drug use confirmation and testosterone levels early in the study to see how hormones played out in negative behaviors."

 

According to Dariotis, testosterone can be influential in dominance and aggressive behaviors, but if directed through prosocial behaviors like sports, yoga or healthy competition it can have very positive outcomes.

 

"If you are the star on your sports team you are succeeding," says Dariotis. "You can also be competitive academically where you succeed by competing with your peers."

 

It's not that testosterone itself is all bad but it depends on how it is channeled, she adds.

 

The right track

 

Before joining UC as an associate professor of research, Dariotis spent the last decade at Johns Hopkins University gathering most of the data that includes neuroimaging and weekly questioning for hundreds of youth from all walks of life.

 

"I'm particularly interested in teaching at-risk youths to regulate their thoughts, processes and emotions," says Dariotis. "The neuroimaging allows us to see what's activated in one's brain while at rest or performing tasks to help us understand the intersection between hormones, brain structure and activity."

 

Dariotis found that at-risk youth who voluntarily spend their time reading books, playing sports or engaged in avoidance coping behaviors were twice as likely to avoid risky sexual behaviors or substance abuse. An example of avoidance coping behaviors, she says, is not thinking about a bad event that had occurred and instead, thinking about what could be better.

 

Dariotis found youths who were unable to develop positive coping strategies were much more likely to turn to greater risk-taking behaviors that included unprotected sex or sex for money, substance abuse, violence and crime.

 

Saving time, money and lives

 

Participating in weekly mindful yoga intervention programs as part of the current study taught the youths how to take control of their breathing and their emotions and helped them develop healthier long-term coping skills.

 

"These findings highlight the importance of implementing positive coping strategies for at-risk youth particularly for reducing illicit drug use and risky sexual behavior," says Dariotis. "Mindfulness-based yoga programs designed to improve the ability to cope are needed at earlier ages in schools to help vulnerable youths channel their skills more effectively."

 

Given the relative low cost of such programs and easy adaptations to different populations and settings, Dariotis says the return on investment may be substantial especially if they can reduce arrests, repeat offenses and other negative outcomes for risk-taking youth.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171207182527.htm

Screen time before bed linked with less sleep, higher BMIs in kids

December 7, 2017

Science Daily/Penn State

It may be tempting to let your kids stay up late playing games on their smartphones, but using digital devices before bed may contribute to sleep and nutrition problems in children, according to researchers.

 

After surveying parents about their kids' technology and sleep habits, researchers found that using technology before bed was associated with less sleep, poorer sleep quality, more fatigue in the morning and -- in the children that watched TV or used their cell phones before bed -- higher body mass indexes (BMI).

 

Caitlyn Fuller, medical student, said the results -- published in the journal Global Pediatric Health -- may suggest a vicious cycle of technology use, poor sleep and rising BMIs.

 

"We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs," Fuller said. "We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we're seeing a loop pattern forming."

 

Previous research has found associations between more technology use and less sleep, more inattention, and higher BMIs in adolescents. But even though research shows that 40 percent of children have cell phones by fifth grade, the researchers said not as much was known about the effects of technology on a younger population.

 

Fuller said that because sleep is so critical to a child's development, she was interested in learning more about the connection between screen time right before bed and how well those children slept, as well as how it affected other aspects of their health.

 

The researchers asked the parents of 234 children between the ages of 8 and 17 years about their kids' sleep and technology habits. The parents provided information about their children's' technology habits, sleep patterns, nutrition and activity. The researchers also asked the parents to further specify whether their children were using cell phones, computers, video games or television during their technology time.

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found several adverse effects associated with using different technologies right before bed.

 

"We found an association between higher BMIs and an increase in technology use, and also that children who reported more technology use at bedtime were associated with less sleep at night," Fuller said. "These children were also more likely to be tired in the morning, which is also a risk factor for higher BMIs."

 

Children who reported watching TV or playing video games before bed got an average of 30 minutes less sleep than those who did not, while kids who used their phone or a computer before bed averaged an hour less of sleep than those who did not.

 

There was also an association between using all four types of technology before bed and increased cell phone use at night, such as waking up to text someone, with watching TV resulting in the highest odds.

 

Fuller said the results support new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about screen time for children. The AAP recommends that parents create boundaries around technology use, such as requiring their kids to put away their devices during meal times and keeping phones out of bedrooms at night.

 

Dr. Marsha Novick, associate professor of pediatrics and family and community medicine, said that while more research is needed to determine whether multiple devices at bedtime results in worse sleep than just one device, the study can help pediatricians talk to parents about the use of technology.

 

"Although there are many benefits to using technology, pediatricians may want to counsel parents about limiting technology for their kids, particularly at bedtime, to promote healthy childhood development and mental health," Novick said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171207182512.htm

Lack of sleep could cause mood disorders in teens

December 6, 2017

Science Daily/American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Chronic sleep deprivation -- which can involve staying up late, and waking up early for work or school -- has become a way of life for both kids and adults, especially with the increasing use of phones and tablets late into the night. But this social jet lag poses some serious health and mental health risks: new research finds that for teenagers, even a short period of sleep restriction could, over the long-term, raise their risk for depression and addiction.

 

University of Pittsburgh's Peter Franzen and Erika Forbes invited 35 participants, aged 11.5-15 years, into a sleep lab for two nights. Half the participants slept for 10 hours, while the other half slept only four hours. A week later, they came back to the lab for another two nights and adopted the opposite sleep schedule from their initial visit.

 

Each time they visited the lab, the participants underwent brain scans while playing a game that involved receiving monetary rewards of $10 and $1. At the end of each visit, the teens answered questions that measured their emotional functioning, as well as depression symptoms.

 

The researchers found that sleep deprivation affected the putamen, an area of the brain that plays a role in goal-based movements and learning from rewards. When participants were sleep-deprived and the reward in the game they played was larger, the putamen was less responsive. In the rested condition, the brain region didn't show any difference between high- and low-reward conditions.

 

Franzen and Forbes also found connections between sleep restriction and mood: after a night of restricted sleep, the participants who experienced less activation in the putamen also reported more symptoms of depression. This is consistent with findings, from a large literature of studies on depression and reward circuitry, that depression is characterized by less activity in the brain's reward system.

 

The results suggest that sleep deprivation in the tween and teen years may interfere with how the brain processes rewards, which could disrupt mood and put a person at risk of depression, as well as risk-taking behavior and addiction.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171206090624.htm

Teens get more sleep when school starts later

December 1, 2017

Science Daily/Penn State

A later school start time could mean teens are more likely to get adequate amounts of sleep, according to researchers.

 

In a national study of urban teenagers, researchers found that high school start times after 8:30 a.m. increased the likelihood that teens obtained the minimum recommended amount of sleep, benefiting their overall health and well being.

 

"Teens starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later were the only group with an average time in bed permitting eight hours of sleep, the minimum recommended by expert consensus," said lead author Orfeu Buxton, associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. "Later school start times were associated with later wake times in our large, diverse sample."

 

Buxton and colleagues report their findings Dec. 1 in Sleep Health, the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, which devoted an entire special issue to the topic.

 

Teens with the earliest high school start times -- 7:00-7:29 a.m. -- obtained 46 minutes less time in bed on average compared with teens with high school start times at 8:30 a.m. or later.

 

School start times after 8:30 a.m. were associated with increased time in bed, extending morning sleep by 27-57 minutes compared to those teens with earlier school start times.

 

A common argument against later school start times is an assumption that teens will just stay up later.

 

"The presumption is if you let kids start school later they will simply go to sleep later and still not get enough sleep," Buxton said. "But that's a hypothetical scenario. There wasn't data to back that up."

 

While researchers did find that teens with the earliest school start times were going to bed earlier than those with 8:30 a.m. or later, the teens with earlier start times still did not get the recommended amount of sleep. Only those teens with schools that had a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later actually got the recommended amount of sleep, Buxton said.

 

One theory is that, despite going to bed earlier than their peers, teens with the earliest school start times didn't get enough sleep possibly due to anticipation of an early wake time the following morning, according to Buxton.

 

In addition, the investigators considered other research that looked at teens' "sleep debt," where teens make up for lost sleep on non-school days, leading them to wake up consistently and significantly later than those on school days.

 

Both anticipation and sleep debt can misalign teens' circadian clocks from expected early wake timing on school days, interfering with having consistent sleep.

 

Four hundred and thirteen teenagers completed an online daily diary each evening, beginning after 7 p.m., during seven consecutive days, including school days and non-school days during both the academic year and the summer, which was defined as September through May and June through August, respectively.

 

From each diary entry, researchers looked at the participants' reports of the previous night's bedtime, the time the teen woke up in the morning, whether or not the teen went to school, and the school start times.

 

Data collection included daily diary data from a subsample of the parent study, the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which follows a longitudinal birth cohort of children born between 1998 and 2000 in 20 United States cities.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171201091030.htm

Eye contact with your baby helps synchronize your brainwaves

November 29, 2017

Science Daily/University of Cambridge

Making eye contact with an infant makes adults' and babies' brainwaves 'get in sync' with each other -- which is likely to support communication and learning.

 

When a parent and infant interact, various aspects of their behaviour can synchronise, including their gaze, emotions and heartrate, but little is known about whether their brain activity also synchronises -- and what the consequences of this might be.

 

Brainwaves reflect the group-level activity of millions of neurons and are involved in information transfer between brain regions. Previous studies have shown that when two adults are talking to each other, communication is more successful if their brainwaves are in synchrony.

 

Researchers at the Baby-LINC Lab at the University of Cambridge carried out a study to explore whether infants can synchronise their brainwaves to adults too -- and whether eye contact might influence this. Their results are published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

 

The team examined the brainwave patterns of 36 infants (17 in the first experiment and 19 in the second) using electroencephalography (EEG), which measures patterns of brain electrical activity via electrodes in a skull cap worn by the participants. They compared the infants' brain activity to that of the adult who was singing nursery rhymes to the infant.

 

In the first of two experiments, the infant watched a video of an adult as she sang nursery rhymes. First, the adult -- whose brainwave patterns had already been recorded -- was looking directly at the infant. Then, she turned her head to avert her gaze, while still singing nursery rhymes. Finally, she turned her head away, but her eyes looked directly back at the infant.

 

As anticipated, the researchers found that infants' brainwaves were more synchronised to the adults' when the adult's gaze met the infant's, as compared to when her gaze was averted Interestingly, the greatest synchronising effect occurred when the adults' head was turned away but her eyes still looked directly at the infant. The researchers say this may be because such a gaze appears highly deliberate, and so provides a stronger signal to the infant that the adult intends to communicate with her.

 

In the second experiment, a real adult replaced the video. She only looked either directly at the infant or averted her gaze while singing nursery rhymes. This time, however, her brainwaves could be monitored live to see whether her brainwave patterns were being influenced by the infant's as well as the other way round.

 

This time, both infants and adults became more synchronised to each other's brain activity when mutual eye contact was established. This occurred even though the adult could see the infant at all times, and infants were equally interested in looking at the adult even when she looked away. The researchers say that this shows that brainwave synchronisation isn't just due to seeing a face or finding something interesting, but about sharing an intention to communicate.

 

To measure infants' intention to communicate, the researcher measured how many 'vocalisations' infants made to the experimenter. As predicted, infants made a greater effort to communicate, making more 'vocalisations', when the adult made direct eye contact -- and individual infants who made longer vocalisations also had higher brainwave synchrony with the adult.

 

Dr Victoria Leong, lead author on the study said: "When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signalling their availability and intention to communicate with each other. We found that both adult and infant brains respond to a gaze signal by becoming more in sync with their partner. This mechanism could prepare parents and babies to communicate, by synchronising when to speak and when to listen, which would also make learning more effective."

 

Dr Sam Wass, last author on the study, said: "We don't know what it is, yet, that causes this synchronous brain activity. We're certainly not claiming to have discovered telepathy! In this study, we were looking at whether infants can synchronise their brains to someone else, just as adults can. And we were also trying to figure out what gives rise to the synchrony.

 

"Our findings suggested eye gaze and vocalisations may both, somehow, play a role. But the brain synchrony we were observing was at such high time-scales -- of three to nine oscillations per second -- that we still need to figure out how exactly eye gaze and vocalisations create it."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171129104230.htm

Brains of children with a better physical fitness possess a greater volume of gray matter

November 22, 2017

Science Daily/University of Granada

Physical fitness in children may affect their brain structure, which in turn may have an influence on their academic performance, new research indicates.

 

Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have proven, for the first time in history, that physical fitness in children may affect their brain structure, which in turn may have an influence on their academic performance.

 

More specifically, the researchers have confirmed that physical fitness in children (especially aerobic capacity and motor ability) is associated with a greater volume of gray matter in several cortical and subcortical brain regions.

 

In particular, aerobic capacity has been associated with greater gray matter volume in frontal regions (premotor cortex and supplementary motor cortex), subcortical regions (hippocampus and caudate nucleus), temporal regions (inferior temporal gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus) and the calcarine cortex. All of those regions are important for the executive function as well as for learning, motor and visual processes.

 

This study has been published in the Neuroimage journal and is part of the ActiveBrains project, which is a randomized clinical trial involving more than 100 overweight/obese children led by Francisco B. Ortega. Said project is being carried out mainly at the University of Granada's Sport and Health Institute (IMUDS, from its abbreviation in Spanish) and the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Center (CIMCYC).

 

"Our work aims at answering questions such as whether the brain of children with better physical fitness is different from that of children with worse physical fitness and if this affects their academic performance," Ortega explains.

 

"The answer is short and forceful: yes, physical fitness in children is linked in a direct way to important brain structure differences, and such differences are reflected in the children's academic performance."

 

Besides, the UGR research associates motor ability with a greater gray matter volume in two regions essential for language processing and reading: the inferior frontal gyrus and the superior temporal gyrus. However, muscular strength didn't showed any independent association with gray matter volume in any brain region.

 

According to Irene Esteban-Cornejo, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Granada and main author of this paper, gray matter volume in the cortical and subcortical regions influenced by physical fitness improves in turn the children's academic performance.

 

Moreover, "physical fitness is a factor that can be modified through physical exercise, and combining exercises that improve the aerobic capacity and the motor ability would be an effective approach to stimulate brain development and academic performance in overweight/obese children."

 

This scientific paper means an important contribution to human knowledge which should be taken into account by educational and public health institutions.

 

"We appeal both to politicians, who make educational laws that are increasingly more focused on instrumental subjects, and to teachers, who are the final link in the chain and teach Physical Education day after day. School is the only entity that gathers every children in a mandatory way for a period of at least 10 years, and as such, it's the ideal context for applying such recommendations," note the researchers.

 

In their own words, the authors of this study are "at the disposal of educational and public health institutions for talking about possible measures and putting them into action."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171122093024.htm

A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best

November 17, 2017

Science Daily/University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

A family studies researchers believed that if the attention restoration theory, which describes how interaction with natural environments can reduce mental fatigue and restore attention, worked for individuals it might also work for families to help facilitate more positive family interactions and family cohesion. They tested their theory by looking at sets of moms and daughters who were asked to take a walk together in nature and a walk in a mall.

 

Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature -- even just a 20-minute walk -- together can help family members get along even better.

 

The research is based on the attention restoration theory which describes how interaction with natural environments can reduce mental fatigue and restore attentional functioning. Many studies have supported the theory, but most, if not all, previous studies have only looked at the benefits of spending time in nature on an individual's attention.

 

U of I family studies researchers Dina Izenstark and Aaron Ebata believed that if this theory worked for individuals it might also work for families and help to facilitate more positive family interactions and family cohesion. So last year they developed a new theoretical approach to studying the benefits of family-based nature activities.

 

"Past research shows that in nature individuals' attention is restored but we wanted to know, what does that mean for family relationships? In our theoretical model we made the case that when an individual's attention is restored, they are less irritable, have more self-control, and are able to pick up on social cues more easily. Because of all of those dynamics, we believe they should get along better with other family members," Izenstark explains.

 

In a new study, Izenstark, now an assistant professor at San José State University, and Ebata, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I, test their theory by looking at sets of moms and daughters (ages 10-12 years) who were asked to take a walk together in nature and a walk in a mall. The researchers then tested both the mothers' and daughters' attention and observed their family interactions after each walk.

 

The results were clear; a walk in nature increased positive interactions, helping the mothers and daughters get along better. It also restored attention, a significant effect for mothers in the study.

 

"We know that both moms and daughters experience mental or attentional fatigue. It's common especially after a full day of concentrating at work or at school," Izenstark says. "If you think about our everyday environments, not only are you at work, but maybe your cell phone is constantly buzzing, and you're getting emails. With all the stimuli in our everyday environments, our attention is taxed more than we realize."

 

Izenstark adds that in order to relieve some of that mental fatigue, people need to restore their directed attention. "In nature, you can relax and restore your attention which is needed to help you concentrate better. It helps your working memory."

 

To test the mothers' and daughters' cohesiveness and whether attention was restored, 27 mom/daughter dyads met at a homelike research lab on campus before each walk. For 10 minutes they engaged in attention-fatiguing activities (i.e. solving math problems, word searches) while a recording of loud construction music played in the background. The researchers gave them a "pre-attention" test, and then set them out on a walk -- one day to a nature arboretum, and then on another day to a local indoor mall. Each walk was 20 minutes long.

 

After returning from each walk, the moms and daughters were interviewed separately. They were given a "post-attention" test, and were surveyed about which location they found the most fun, boring, or interesting. They were then videotaped playing a game that required them to work together.

 

For moms, attention was restored significantly after the nature walk. Interestingly, for daughters, attention was restored after both walks, which Izenstark says may be a result of spending family leisure time with their mother.

 

"It was unique that for the daughters walking with moms improved their attention. But for the moms, they benefitted from being in a nature setting. It was interesting to find that difference between the family members. But when we looked at their subjective reports of what they felt about the two settings, there was no question, moms and daughters both said the nature setting was more fun, relaxing, and interesting."

 

The last aspect of the findings was in regards to improved cohesion or togetherness in the mom/daughter pairs. After analyzing the videotaped interactions during the game, the researchers only found an effect for nature; after the nature walk, moms and daughters displayed greater dyadic cohesion, a sense of unity, closeness, and the ability to get along, compared to the indoor walk.

 

Although the study only focused on mothers and daughters, Izenstark says that the overall aim of the research is to examine different ways in which nature affects family relationships in general.

 

"First and foremost I hope it encourages families to find ways to get outside together, and to not feel intimidated, thinking, 'oh, I have to go outside for an hour or make it a big trip.' Just a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood before or after eating dinner or finding pockets of time to set aside, to reconnect, not only can benefit families in the moment but a little bit after the activity as well."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171117190705.htm

Spanking linked to increase in children's behavior problems

November 16, 2017

Science Daily/Association for Psychological Science

Children who have been spanked by their parents by age 5 show an increase in behavior problems at age 6 and age 8 relative to children who have never been spanked, according to new findings. The study, which uses a statistical technique to approximate random assignment, indicates that this increase in behavior problems cannot be attributed to various characteristics of the child, the parents, or the home environment - rather, it seems to be the specific result of spanking.

 

The study, which uses a statistical technique to approximate random assignment, indicates that this increase in behavior problems cannot be attributed to various characteristics of the child, the parents, or the home environment -- rather, it seems to be the specific result of spanking.

 

"Our findings suggest that spanking is not an effective technique and actually makes children's behavior worse not better," says psychological scientist Elizabeth T. Gershoff (University of Texas at Austin), lead author on the study.

 

Historically, trying to determine whether parents' use of spanking actually causes children to develop behavior problems has been difficult, because researchers cannot ethically conduct experiments that randomly assign parents to spank or not.

 

"Parents spank for many reasons, such as their educational or cultural background or how difficult their children's behavior is. These same reasons, which we call selection factors, can also predict children's behavior problems, making it difficult to determine whether spanking is in fact the cause of behavior problems," Gershoff explained. "We realized that the statistical method of propensity score matching could help us get as close to an experiment as possible."

 

Gershoff and coauthors Kierra M. P. Sattler (University of Texas at Austin) and Arya Ansari (University of Virginia) examined data from 12,112 children who participated in the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. When the children were 5 years old, their parents reported how many times they had spanked their child in the past week (if any). The researchers classified any child whose parent provided a number other than zero as having been spanked.

 

The researchers then matched children who had been spanked with those who hadn't according to 38 child- and family-related characteristics, including: the child's age, gender, overall health, and behavior problems at age 5; the parent's education, age, and marital status; the family socioeconomic status and household size; and factors related to parenting quality and conflict in the home.

 

Pairing the children in this way yielded two groups of children whose main difference was whether their parents had spanked them, effectively accounting for other factors that could plausibly influence the behavior of both parent and child. This approach allowed the researchers to approximate the random assignment of participants to groups, a hallmark of experimental design.

 

To gauge children's behavior problems over time, Gershoff, Sattler, and Ansari examined teachers' ratings when the children were 5, 6, and 8 years old. Children's teachers reported the frequency with which the children argued, fought, got angry, acted impulsively, and disturbed ongoing activities.

 

The results were clear: Children who had been spanked at age 5 showed greater increases in behavior problems by age 6 and also by age 8 when compared with children who had never been spanked.

 

Gershoff and colleagues conducted a similar analysis with only those children who had been spanked by their parents, comparing children who had been spanked in the week before the study (which suggests frequent spanking) and those who had not. Children spanked in the past week at age 5 also experienced greater increases in problem behavior at age 6 and 8 compared with children not spanked as frequently.

 

"The fact that knowing whether a child had ever been spanked was enough to predict their levels of behavior problems years later was a bit surprising," says Gershoff. "It suggests that spanking at any frequency is potentially harmful to children."

 

"Although dozens of studies have linked early spanking with later child behavior problems, this is the first to do so with a statistical method that approximates an experiment," she concluded.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171116132702.htm

Teenage depression linked to father's depression

November 15, 2017

Science Daily/University College London

Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new study.

 

While the link between mothers' depression and depression in their children is well-established, the new Lancet Psychiatry study is the first to find an association between depression in fathers and their teenaged children, independent of whether the mother has depression, in a large sample in the general population. The effects of fathers' and mothers' depression on their children's symptoms were similar in magnitude.

 

"There's a common misconception that mothers are more responsible for their children's mental health, while fathers are less influential -- we found that the link between parent and teen depression is not related to gender," said the study's lead author, Dr Gemma Lewis (UCL Psychiatry).

 

"Family-focused interventions to prevent depression often focus more on mothers, but our findings suggest we should be just as focused on fathers," she said.

 

The researchers drew on two large longitudinal studies of children: Growing up in Ireland, and the Millennium Cohort Study in England and Wales, using data from 6070 and 7768 families from the two studies, respectively. Parental depressive symptoms were assessed using a questionnaire when the children were 9 and 7 years old in the two cohorts, and then adolescent depressive symptoms were assessed when the children were 13 and 14 years old. The study samples were population-based, meaning they included people who experienced symptoms of depression but had not sought treatment.

 

After adjusting for confounding factors such as maternal depression, family income and parental alcohol use, the researchers found that for every 3-point (one standard deviation) increase on the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ; a commonly-used measure of depressive symptoms) on the part of fathers, there was an associated 0.2-point increase in the adolescent's MFQ score. The findings were replicated in both independent study samples.

 

Incidence of depression increases markedly at the beginning of adolescence, so the researchers say that understanding the risk factors at that age can be key to preventing depression later in life.

 

"Men are less likely to seek treatment for depression. If you're a father who hasn't sought treatment for your depression, it could have an impact on your child. We hope that our findings could encourage men who experience depressive symptoms to speak to their doctor about it," said Dr Lewis.

 

Previous studies have shown links between paternal depression and poor behavioural and emotional outcomes in their children, but no large study in the general population (as opposed to a clinical population) has looked at the link with adolescent depression while taking into account maternal depression as well.

 

"The mental health of both parents should be a priority for preventing depression among adolescents. There has been far too much emphasis on mothers but fathers are important as well," said the study's senior author, Professor Glyn Lewis (UCL Psychiatry).

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171115195312.htm

Parents help shape how much pain preschoolers feel after vaccination

New longitudinal research from the largest cohort in the world examining parent-child interactions during vaccinations lays out the best strategies for keeping children's pain and distress low after painful needles

November 14, 2017

Science Daily/York University

New research has found that the amount of distress and pain felt by a preschooler during a vaccination is strongly related to how to their parents help them cope before and during an appointment.

 

While vaccinations protect children against various illnesses, the pain can sometimes be too much to bear. It's no wonder most children and parents dread their vaccination appointments. Now new research from York University's OUCH Cohort at the Faculty of Health found that the amount of distress and pain felt by a preschooler during a vaccination is strongly related to how their parents help them cope before and during an appointment.

 

Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell in the Faculty of Health, York Research Chair in Pain and Mental Health and senior author of the paper, has been following the OUCH Cohort children for over a decade. In the study, researchers used the data from 548 children who had been followed during infant and/or preschool vaccinations. Infants were included in the study if the infant had no suspected developmental delays or impairments, had no chronic illnesses, had never been admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, and was born no more than three weeks preterm.

 

The research, led by graduate student Lauren Campbell, examined children who were expressing the most pain during preschool vaccinations. The goal of the study was to find out what would best predict the children who had the highest pain and did the poorest coping during the preschool vaccination by watching both the child and the parent over repeated vaccinations over childhood. Researchers evaluated various pain behaviours such as facial activity (grimacing), leg activity (crunching of legs), crying and consolability to measure the level of pain in children. They also looked at what the child and parent said that related to coping with the pain.

 

The results suggested that a preschooler's ability to cope is a powerful tool to reduce pain-related distress but they need parents to support their coping throughout a vaccination appointment to have an impact in reducing pain-related distress.

 

"When children were distressed prior to the needle, that made them feel more pain after the needle," says Pillai Riddell.

 

The data confirmed that engaging in coping-promoting behaviours like encouraging a child to take deep breaths was important. Using distractions such as pulling out an iPhone or distracting children with plans about what they will do after the appointment also improved children's coping.

 

However, Pillai Riddell says it may be even more important to avoid negative or distress-promoting behaviours.

 

"Telling kids that 'it's ok, it's going to be fine' over and over again actually makes children feel anxious. Parents only say things are 'okay' when things are not ok. Ensuring you don't criticize a child, such as saying: 'strong girls don't cry', 'big boys don't do that' is important. Also, don't apologize to a child by saying things like: 'I'm sorry this is happening to you,' is also key, says Pillai Riddell. "These are all distress-promoting behaviours and increase pain and distress."

 

The study, published in Pain, found that not only is a parent's behaviour during vaccinations critical to a child's pain coping responses, but that the behaviour may also impact their reactions in the future. Moreover, the research may better inform medical care and may predict suffering by children during vaccinations into adulthood.

 

"People who have negative reactions with doctors when they are young, may avoid preventative care in the future. If you didn't like a needle when you were five, that can stick with you."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171114123326.htm

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