1. Spending on public higher education overlooks net benefits as investment in state’s future

    March 14, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign media release:

    school busIn spite of the overwhelming evidence of a skills deficit, a depressed middle class and growing inequality, the state of Illinois continues to underinvest in public higher education. But considering higher education funding as an investment that lowers state welfare and prison costs, generates tax revenues and leads to economic growth in the future — and not as mere consumption spending — could reframe the debate, according to an article by a University of Illinois expert in the economics of education.

    In the face of recent dramatic examples, including the $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin budget and, in Illinois, the failure to fund public universities and MAP grants for 2016 together with the governor’s proposed cuts for 2017, the investment-versus-spending distinction is a vital one, said Walter W. McMahon, an emeritus professor of economics and of educational organization and leadership at the University of Illinois.

    “Since this curtailed investment in human capital would otherwise contribute heavily not only to a state’s economic growth and development but also in ways estimated in the article — to higher state tax revenue and lower Medicaid, child care, welfare and criminal justice system costs — it’s disheartening to see this disinvestment trend by our public officials,” said McMahon, also the author of “Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private & Social Benefits of Higher Education,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Published in the Journal of Education Finance, the article develops the total return of public education relative to the full costs to the state of Illinois, the key criteria for determining whether there is under- or over-investment for the most efficient statewide development.

    McMahon concluded that public education in Illinois contributes to investment returns of 9.5 percent for K-12; 15.3 percent for community college; and 13.4 percent for university, respectively, for every dollar that’s spent — returns that are well above the 7.2 percent the money would have earned if invested in an index fund that tracked returns of the S&P 500, McMahon noted.

    (Updated calculations based on the newest earnings data at each education level, corrected for dropouts and other factors, show returns relative to costs of 12.9 percent at two-year institutions and 12.3 percent at the four-year institutions.)

    “These earnings-based and total social rates of return both show that higher education is economically very efficient — in fact, more efficient than the average corporation in the S&P 500,” McMahon said.

    This measure of efficiency trumps any possible overspending on administrative costs cited by critics, so it’s not surprising that U.S. higher education is widely regarded as the best in the world, according to McMahon.

    The effects are not just on better-paying jobs but are also on many outcomes beyond earnings, from better health and child development to political stability and lower criminal justice costs,” he said. “Furthermore, the returns last for the 65 years or so remaining in the typical graduate’s lifecycle.

    “All told, the state of Illinois’ education investment pays for itself every 2.3 years in state budget savings alone.”

    The return to the state is considerably larger if nonmonetary outcomes are considered.

    “A major opportunity being missed is estimating the effects of higher education on state tax revenues and on budgeted state tax costs for health care, welfare, child support and the criminal justice system,” McMahon said. “Beyond these state budget savings, I also found about a 30 percent total return that includes these wider health and other benefits to statewide development.”

    The paper’s implications for the state’s fiscal health and human capital ought to be of immediate concern to Illinois legislators and policymakers.

    The disconnect with objective benefit-cost analysis suggests the need for a new strategy in making decisions about public education financing,” McMahon said. “Legislators are often focused on infrastructure issues like bridges and roads, to the extent that public education gets short shrift. Nobody likes taxes, which, if the funds are invested in education where there is a future return, are a form of forced saving. But this type of saving and investment has a huge payoff. And if done thoughtfully, it is crucial to the state’s growth, development and fiscal health.”

    Another way of looking at the issue is that “one can also look at the same numbers as estimating the damage to the state from cuts, if they are not restored,” McMahon said.

    “In Illinois, what is happening is not just a disaster for higher education but also a growing disaster for the state budget, as time passes,” he said. “It’s a disaster for economic growth and the business climate, and a disaster for broader development and well-being of the state. Allowing Chicago State to close and not funding MAP grants, which forces students to drop out of school without the necessary skills to succeed in the working world — all of that will have serious implications for the state of Illinois that should be fairly obvious.”

  2. Research pinpoints devastating impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome

    February 29, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Sydney media release:

    pregnancy_boozeChildren with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are affected by a range of problems, including anxiety, depression, aggression, delinquency and diminished learning capacity a new review of evidence reveals.

    Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research is the first to comprehensively describe behaviours in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) observed by teachers and parents using an empirically based assessment system.

    The finding highlights the need for strategies for early intervention, both to help children with self-regulation and to support teachers and caregivers in managing behaviour at school and at home,” said the University of Sydney’s Professor Elizabeth Elliott, a study co-author.

    Researchers noted three main kinds of behavioural problems in children with FASD:

    • Internalizing” behaviours such as, anxiety, withdrawal or depression
    • Externalizing” behaviour, such as aggression, delinquency
    • Other problems, such as problems with social skills, thought processing and attention.

    FASD is the tragic result of alcohol use in pregnancy and is characterised by birth defects and neurodevelopmental problems,” said Professor Elliott. “Worldwide, including in Australia, FASD is increasingly recognised by health professionals, teachers and the criminal justice system as a cause of difficult behaviour, learning problems, and contact with the justice system.”

    “Behaviours seen in FASD impair social interactions, academic performance, and mental health. Without appropriate assessment and treatment, these children experience lifelong difficulties with mental ill health, substance abuse and unemployment and many are unable to live independently.”

    Academics from the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Sydney (Sydney Medical School), undertook an exhaustive review of published literature reporting behaviours in children with FASD and prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE).

    All studies using the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA): School-Age Forms were included. This widely used and validated assessment tool includes the Child Behaviour Checklist, the Teacher Report Form and the Youth Self-Report form.

    The study’s lead author, Dr Tracey Tsang, said, “Our findings allow us to create a behavioural profile for FASD based on multiple studies from around the world and will inform the assessment and treatment of FASD.”

  3. School shootings and street violence: How they’re alike and different

    February 26, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University media release:

    school_bullyThe two types of youth gun violence couldn’t be more different, but the ways to prevent them remain largely the same, according to a new report by some of America’s top violence researchers.

    School rampage shootings and street shootings by youth differ in dramatic ways: They are done by different types of youth for different reasons, and often have very different risk factors.

    “It is amazing how different school shooters are from street shooters,” said Brad Bushman, the lead author of the report and a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.

    “But the basic approach to preventing them is very similar. It starts with making the prevention of youth violence a national priority.”

    Bushman co-authored the new report with 11 other violence experts from universities across the country. They all co-wrote a report for the National Science Foundation on what is known and not known about youth violence.

    This new report, which summarizes and updates the NSF document, appears online in the journal American Psychologist.

    Bushman said that the type of youth who become school shooters are nearly opposite of those who commit street shootings.

    Nearly all school shooters are white, rural or suburban, and middle class. Street shooters are often black, poor, and live in the inner-city.

    Street shooters often have lengthy arrest records and use handguns that they obtained illegally. School shooters usually have multiple weapons, including semi-automatic or automatic rifles, which were purchased legally and often obtained from family members.

    Street shooters don’t want anyone to know what they did — they want to hide,” Bushman said. “Mass shooters want everyone to know.”

    And for mass shooters, their violence is often designed to be the end of the line for them: They often kill themselves, whereas street shooters rarely commit suicide.

    Given all the differences between street shooters and school shooters, it might appear that the causes are completely different. But that’s not true, Bushman said.

    “The causes of gun violence in youth are complex. There are usually multiple factors acting together no matter what kind of shooting is involved,” Bushman said.

    Some factors — like social rejection from peers — seem to be more related to school shooters. Other factors, like poverty, appear to play a larger role in street shootings.

    But many factors, like family influences, personality traits, exposure to media violence, and access to guns play a role in both types of youth gun violence, Bushman said.

    Bushman has extensively studied the role that a steady diet of media violence has on aggression and violence in youth.

    Particularly in school shootings, the role of violent video games is often debated, particularly because so many offenders were shown to be obsessed with “first-person shooter” games, where the player is the killer.

    We can never say that playing violent video games is the one cause of a youth going on a shooting rampage,” Bushman said.

    “But there is a lot of evidence that exposure to media violence increases aggressive behavior. And evidence suggests such exposure may be a contributing factor to violent behavior, even if it isn’t the main factor. The main factor is probably easy access to guns.”

    Because youth violence has so many causes, preventing it also requires a multifaceted approach. Many of the solutions are well-known, if not often implemented, such as strengthening families, minimizing violent media effects, reducing youth access to guns, and improving school climates.

    But Bushman said tools that make it possible to search large quantities of online data have opened new doors for predicting youth violence.

    It is possible to sift through Facebook and Twitter posts to determine if individuals are showing signs of violent behavior,” he said.

    “There are concerns about privacy. We have to make sure that when we do this kind of data mining that we only use data that is publicly available.”

    Bushman said improving school climate may be one of the biggest steps we can take to prevent youth violence.

    Often, taking a high-security approach is not the best option. Metal detectors and security guards can make students feel fearful and mistrustful.

    “You want students to trust parents and teachers and feel like they can talk about possible threats they hear about without ruining someone’s life,” he said.

    Zero-tolerance policies for speech are not helpful. Many kids won’t report threats they hear if they know a fellow student could be expelled for what could be an idle or non-serious comment.”

    Bushman said that both school rampage shootings and everyday street violence need more attention from lawmakers and the public than they currently receive.

    We can’t begin to solve the problem of youth gun violence if we don’t make the issue a major national priority.”

  4. Contact with nature may mean more social cohesion, less crime

    February 24, 2016 by Ashley

    From the American Institute of Biological Sciences media release:

    amish countrysideNumerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of contact with nature for human well-being.

    However, despite strong trends toward greater urbanization and declining green space, little is known about the social consequences of such contact. In the December issue of BioScience, an international, interdisciplinary team reports on how they used nationally representative data from the United Kingdom and stringent model testing to examine the relationships between objective measures and self-reported assessments of contact with nature, community cohesion, and local crime incidence.

    The results in the report, by Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University and others, were notable. After accounting for a range of possibly interfering factors, including socioeconomic deprivation, population density, unemployment rate, socioeconomic standing, and weekly wages, the authors determined that people’s experiences of local nature reported via a survey could explain 8% of a measure of the variation, called variance, in survey responses about perceptions of community cohesion. They describe this as “a striking finding given that individual predictors such as income, gender, age, and education together accounted for only 3%” of the variance.

    The relationship with crime was similarly striking. According to the study results, objective measures of the amount of green space or farmland accessible in people’s neighborhoods accounted for 4% additional variance in crime rates. The authors argue that this predictive power compares favorably with known contributors to crime, such as socioeconomic deprivation, which accounts for 5% variance in crime rates. “The positive impact of local nature on neighbors’ mutual support may discourage crime, even in areas lower in socioeconomic factors,” they write. Further, given the political importance placed on past crime reductions as small as 2%-3%, the authors suggest that findings such as theirs could justify policies aimed at ameliorating crime by improving contact with nature.

    Finally, the authors note that, unlike some easily measured ecosystem services (e.g., the provision of water or food), “the apparent benefits of contact with nature on social cohesion… are more challenging to tease apart and measure.” However, they express the hope that their study “stimulates consideration of how best to ensure that nature, at many different levels, can continue to benefit individuals and society into the future.”


  5. Growing old can be risky business

    January 15, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Rush University Medical Center media release:

    senior visionManaging money can be difficult at any age.

    For older adults, changes in physical condition and life circumstances can lead to changes for the worse in financial behavior, putting their well-being in danger. Now those changes have been given a name: age-associated financial vulnerability.

    Two experts in elder abuse coin the term and explain the concept in an opinion article published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. They also call for research to identify and help older adults at risk from age-associated financial vulnerability, or AAFV for short.

    They define the condition as “a pattern of financial behavior that places an older adult at substantial risk for a considerable loss of resources such that dramatic changes in quality of life would result.” To be considered AAFV, this behavior also must be a marked change from the kind of financial decisions a person made in younger years.

    “For example, if an older adult gives his or her neighbor $10,000, this many be a sign of AAFV. However, if the older adult has given large sums of money to those in need throughout his or her adult lifetime, then the $10,000 gift in old age may not represent a change in behavior, and thus may not represent AAFV,” explains Duke Han, PhD, co-author of the study and associate professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center.

    Not the same old problem

    The authors note that AAFV is a condition different from age-related cognitive impairment, including dementia, which already is recognized as putting older adults at risk of causing themselves financial harm. Since recent studies have indicated that “cognitively intact older adults” may become financially vulnerable, they write, “cognitive impairment is not necessary for AAFV.”

    Instead, the trouble can lie in the many ordinary changes brought about by aging. “Functional changes such as impaired mobility, vision and hearing loss, and the cost of multiple medications can directly influence vulnerability in older adults,” Han says.

    Other potential contributing factors may include cognitive changes, such as a lessened ability to discern a person’s trustworthiness, and psychosocial problems, including loneliness or depression. In addition, the finance industry has identified older adults as an untapped market, which can lead to them being overwhelmed by the “dizzying array of financial products and services,” according to Han and co-author Mark Lachs, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and co-chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Weill Medical College in New York.

    “In my discussions with Dr. Lachs about our experiences with the heart-breaking effects of financial vulnerability among our older patients, we decided that naming the problem may be a useful first step to addressing the issue,” Han says.

    Protecting the vulnerable from the villainous

    Han and Lachs believe it’s important to understand AAFV as a condition in order to protect older adults who exhibit signs of it, distinct from behavior brought on by cognitive impairment or problems with financial judgement that preceded older age. In particular, AAFV can put a person at risk for financial exploitation: Han notes that financial abuse is one of the most common forms of elder abuse, and is the most frequent form of perpetrator-related elder abuse in Illinois.

    “This is a growing problem since we have a large aging population with no ways to determine who is at risk and why,” Han warns. “We need more screening, and more interventional programs and strategies to address this issue. We also need to determine what the role and responsibility is of physicians in protecting their patients.”

  6. Compassionate approach leads to more help and less punishment

    December 21, 2015 by Ashley

    From the University of Wisconsin-Madison media release:

    prisoner handsSeeing a child steal a toy from a fellow playmate. Watching a stranger cut in line at the grocery store. When we witness something unjust, our emotions often shape our behavior both toward the person wronged and the wrongdoer.

    But why we help the victim in some cases or punish the transgressor in others isn’t that simple, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Published in the journal PLoS ONE, a new set of studies suggests that compassion — and intentionally cultivating it through training — may lead us to do more to help the wronged than to punish the wrongdoer. Researchers found compassion may also impact the extent to which people punish the transgressor.

    Understanding what motivates people to be altruistic can not only inform our own behaviors, it may also play a role in creating more just societal institutions, including the legal and penal systems. It can also help researchers develop better interventions to cultivate compassion.

    “Any action — helping or punishing — can arise from compassion, which involves at least two components: a ‘feeling’ component of empathic concern and caring for the suffering of another; and a cognitive, motivational component of wanting to alleviate that suffering,” says lead researcher Helen Weng, a former graduate student at the UW-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, and current postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco. “It may seem counterintuitive that punishment behavior can arise from compassion, but if the goal is to alleviate suffering of others, this may include providing negative feedback to the wrongdoer so that they change their behavior in the future.”

    These findings build upon previous work by Weng and others, which demonstrates that as little as two weeks of compassion training can result in measurable changes in the brain. These previous studies gathered fMRI imaging and measured altruistic behavior in research subjects to reach these conclusions, but did not fully separate helping and punishing behavior to learn which is most related to compassion.

    To answer this question, the investigators tested whether compassion was related to helping or punishment in two studies where participants played the “Helping Game” or “Punishment Game,” using real money they could keep at the end of the game.

    In both games, participants watched through online interactions as one player with more funds chose to split an unfair amount of money with another player with no funds. In the Helping Game, the third-party observers could choose to do nothing or give some of their own funds to “help” the victim. In the Punishment Game, the third-party observers could choose to do nothing or “punish” the transgressor by spending their own funds to take money away from the wrongdoer.

    In one study examining 260 people who had no training in compassion, the team explored whether high self-reported empathic concern — the feeling component of compassion where one reports caring for those who are suffering — was associated with helping victims, punishing transgressors, or both.

    People with higher empathic concern were more likely to help the victim than punish the transgressor,” Weng says. “But, interestingly, within the group of people who decided to punish the transgressor, those with more empathic concern decided to punish less.”

    In the second study, with 41 participants, one group received compassion training with meditation practices focused on cultivating compassionate feelings and pro-social behavior toward others. Another group instead received cognitive reappraisal training, focused on reinterpreting one’s view to decrease negative emotions. Each group practiced its training for 30 minutes a day for two weeks using guided audio instructions over the Internet.

    In compassion meditation, participants practiced compassion with different kinds of people — a loved one, themselves, a stranger and a “difficult person” with whom there was conflict. In this way, they strengthened their “compassion muscle.”

    After just two weeks of training, participants in the games who learned compassion meditation gave more money to help the victim compared to those who learned reappraisal training, demonstrating that even short amounts of compassion meditation practice can result in an increase in helping behavior. There were no differences in punishment behavior between the groups, suggesting that in this short amount of training time, both trainings did not influence punishment.

    Weng says she and her collaborators hope this work can be used to help develop compassion training for specific populations that care for those who are suffering, like health care professionals.

    “Expressing compassion and behaving altruistically seems to be within the repertoire of every human being,” adds Richard J. Davidson, senior author on the study, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry. “We can use simple practices to help us activate and nurture these propensities and apply them in settings in which they can dramatically impact the climate and interactions that ensue in everyday life, including in education, health care and the workplace.”

  7. Psychiatric assessments for predicting violence are ineffective

    November 13, 2015 by Ashley

    From the University of Queen Mary London media release:

    sad winter manStandard approaches for investigating risk of violence in psychiatric patients and prisoners are inaccurate and should be abandoned in all future studies, according to researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

    In a study published in PLOS One the team have proposed an entirely new approach to risk assessment for future violence. Previous approaches have relied on looking at risk factors that happen to be linked to, but may not cause, violence, for example, being young, male, of lower social class, with previous violent convictions.

    The new approach is instead based on identifying risk factors that have a clear causal link to violence, and include symptoms of major mental disorder, the patient’s living condition, and whether they are taking medication.

    Over 300 risk assessment instruments are currently used by psychiatrists, psychologists, and probation officers to assess the risks of violence and sexual offending among psychiatric patients, prisoners, and the general population. The authors say that producing risk assessment instruments has become an ‘industry’ and new ones are being produced annually.

    QMUL researchers found that none of these instruments have any advantage over those produced before and that their best predictions for future violence are incorrect 30 per cent of the time.

    First author Professor Jeremy Coid from QMUL’s Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine said: “Researchers have become too obsessed with predicting whether a patient will be violent in the future, rather than looking for the causes of why they become violent. While it is helpful to know that a patient has a high or low risk of being violent if you release them from hospital, this is not going to tell you what you should do to stop them being violent.

    “It is more important to know which factors are causally related because these are the factors that must be the targets for future treatments and management interventions if the aim is to prevent violence happening in the future.”

    In the study, 409 male and female patients who were discharged from medium secure services in England and Wales were followed up after release into the community. They received assessments with two ‘state-of-the-art’ assessment instruments prior to release into the community, then after six and 12 months following discharge. Information on violence was gathered via individual case notes and a search of the police national computer.

    The team’s analysis suggests that the standard risk factors were poor in identifying who would be violent and who would not.

    When the researchers used a causal approach to confirm which risk and protective factors resulted in violence, the findings were very different. Symptoms of major mental disorder, the patients’ living condition, and whether they were taking medication, were highly important factors. The effects of violent thoughts, being in an unstable life situation, being under stress and unable to cope were also three to four times stronger using the causal model than using the traditional predictive approach.

    Professor Jeremy Coid added: “The future direction should be to identify risk factors that have causal relationships with violent behaviour and not those which predict violent behaviour. Risk factors, such as being young, male, of lower social class, with many previous violent convictions, may be good predictors, however, none of these factors are truly causal.”

  8. Children of military parents, caregivers at greater risk for adverse outcomes

    August 17, 2015 by Ashley

    From the JAMA Network Journals media release:

    autism lonely childChildren with parents or caregivers currently serving in the military had a higher prevalence of substance use, violence, harassment and weapon-carrying than their nonmilitary peers in a study of California school children, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

    While most young people whose families are connected to the military demonstrate resilience, war-related stressors, including separation from parents because of deployment, frequent relocation and the worry about future deployments, can contribute to struggles for some of them, according to the study background.

    Kathrine Sullivan, M.S.W., of the University of Southern California School of Social Work, Los Angeles, and coauthors analyzed data collected in 2013 that included 54,679 military-connected and 634,034 nonmilitary-connected secondary school students from public civilian schools in every county and almost all the school districts in California. Students were defined as military connected if they had a parent or caregiver currently serving in the military. Latino students were the largest percentage of the sample (51.4 percent) and 7.9 percent of students indicated having a parent in the military, according to the results.

    The results indicate military-connected students reported higher levels of lifetime and recent substance use, violence, harassment and weapon-carrying compared with nonmilitary-connected students. For example:

    • 45.2 percent of military-connected youth reported lifetime alcohol use compared with 39.2 percent of their nonmilitary-connected peers
    • 12.2 percent of military-connected youth reported recently smoking cigarettes in the previous 30 days compared with about 8.4 percent of their nonmilitary peers
    • 62.5 percent of military-connected students reported any physical violence compared with 51.6 percent of nonmilitary-connected students
    • 17.7 percent of military-connected youth reported carrying a weapon at school compared with 9.9 percent of nonmilitary students
    • 11.9 percent of military-connected students reported recent other drug use (e.g., cocaine and lysergic acid diethylamide [LSD]) compared with 7.3 percent of nonmilitary peers

    The authors note the data they used were cross-sectional and therefore cannot infer causality. The data also come from a self-report survey and students may have been reluctant to report risky behavior.

    “Based on the totality of findings from this study and others, further efforts are needed to promote resilience among military children who are struggling. More efforts in social contexts, including civilian schools and communities, to support military families during times of war are likely needed,” the study concludes.

  9. Punishing a child is effective if done correctly

    August 11, 2015 by Ashley

    From the American Psychological Association media release:

    punishment childWhile recently published parenting books have preached the effectiveness of positive parenting and “no drama” discipline, psychologists presenting at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention said don’t put timeout in timeout yet.

    “Parental discipline and positive parenting techniques are often polarized in popular parenting resources and in parenting research conclusions,” presenter and researcher Robert Larzelere, PhD, of Oklahoma State University, said at a symposium. “But scientifically supported parenting interventions for young defiant children have found that timeouts and other types of assertive tactics can work if they’re administered correctly.”

    In his presentation, Larzelere said his research team interviewed 102 mothers who provided detailed descriptions of five times they had to discipline their toddlers for hitting, whining, defiance, negotiating or not listening.

    Offering compromises was the most effective tactic for immediate behavior improvements, regardless of the type of behavior. Reasoning was the next most effective response when mothers were reacting to mildly annoying behaviors, such as negotiating or whining. Punishments, such as timeouts or taking away something, were more effective than reasoning when dealing with a toddler who was acting defiant or hitting. However, punishments were the least effective tactic for negotiating and whining children and reasoning was not effective when used with children who were defiant or hitting.

    Longer-term effects revealed a different pattern. When the moms were interviewed two months later, those who offered compromises too frequently to the children who were hitting or acting defiant said their children were acting worse, Larzelere said. Reasoning, however, was most effective over time for these children, even though it was the least effective response immediately. A moderate use of timeouts and other punishments (less than 16 percent of the time) led to improved behavior subsequently but only for these defiant children.

    In another presentation at the same symposium, Ennio Cipani, PhD, of National University, said the reason timeouts don’t work or are viewed negatively is because they are not used properly. Cipani and colleagues have been able to observe, in real time, the mistakes parents can make in implementing timeout as part of their in-home services, Cipani said.

    For example, parents should not make spur-of-the-moment decisions to use a timeout. Rather, they should tell their children ahead of time which behaviors (e.g., hitting, yelling at other children) will put them in timeout and always follow through, he added. Examples of his work are used in his resource guide for parents, Punishment on Trial.

    “Our clinical case findings, have shown that timeout used consistently for select behaviors and situations significantly reduced problem behaviors over time” Cipani said.

    Child behavior therapy can also help parents and children who are struggling, said David Reitman, PhD, of Nova Southeastern University, and Mark Roberts, PhD, of Idaho State University. Roberts presented information on the Hanf method of parenting, based on the work of Constance Hanf, PhD, which allows for an initial stage of positive discipline (i.e., rewarding children for good behavior) and eventually moves into more authoritative parenting techniques (i.e., timeout).

    Allowing the child a second chance to comply with parent instructions by offering a warning for noncompliance has proven beneficial. The number of timeouts during initial therapy declines, while the necessity and effectiveness of timeout remains,” Roberts said. “Over time both parent instructions and warnings becoming increasingly effective, reducing the necessity of timeout for noncompliance.”

    Reitman suggested that parents of typically developing children may view behavior therapy as concerned solely with punishment rather than having broad value for promoting positive child development.

    People who are critical of behavior therapists because they try to ‘control’ children’s behavior are not mindful of behavior therapists’ efforts to convey to parents the value of connecting positively with the child,” Reitman said. “Therapists can help parents understand the problem, facilitate changes in the environment and help the children acquire the skills they need to become successful.”

  10. Pedophiles more likely to have physical irregularities

    June 11, 2015 by Ashley

    From the Springer Science+Business Media media release:

    school_bullyStudy suggests physical deviations in the face and head of pedophiles develop during the prenatal period.

    New research suggests pedophiles are more likely to have superficial facial flaws, known as Minor Physical Anomalies (MPAs).

    They are also more likely to be left-handed, says Fiona Dyshniku of the University of Windsor in Canada. She led an investigation into the prevalence and distribution of physical anomalies among men who are sent for sexological assessment. The study in Springer’s journal Archives of Sexual Behavior adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests pedophilia develops prenatally, around the same time that such physical flaws develop.

    “Evidence is steadily accumulating to support a neurodevelopmental basis of pedophilia,” says Dyshniku. “If we find that pedophilia has a biological basis, with a very early, even prenatal onset, this will influence and hopefully improve methods of treatment for this group.”

    Facial anomalies could, among others, include having non-detached earlobes, malformed ears, or a high or steepled palate. These features develop during the sensitive first and early second trimesters while a baby is still in the womb, from the same primary embryonic tissue layer that gives rise to the central nervous system. They could develop because of prenatal exposure to viruses, alcohol or drugs, obstetric complications, or nutritional deficiencies. Such features are more prevalent among men, which might mean that the male brain is more susceptible to disruptive events during prenatal development.

    “If we know more about the etiology of an injurious behavior, we can create more effective treatments and look toward prevention,” says Rachel Fazio, clinical neuropsychologist and co-author of the study. “For years, it was thought that child molestation was somewhat of a learned behavior, potentially from the abusers having been sexually abused themselves as children. While this may be a factor in some cases, this is not the case in those with genuine pedophilia.”

    The 140 consenting participants who took part in Dyshniku’s study were referred to the Kurt Freund Laboratory of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto to be assessed for distressing or illegal sexual behavior. The routine sexological assessment consisted of a forensic and medical file review, a semi-structured interview spanning offense and sexual history, and a phallometric test for erotic preference. The presence of specific physical anomalies and participants’ right or left handedness were also assessed.

    The findings suggest that the pedophiles who participated in the study were more likely to have minor facial and head anomalies than was the case for men who were not pedophiles. These deviations were more prevalent on the head than elsewhere on the body. Those with quite a few of these facial deviations also scored higher on other indicators of pedophilia.

    The finding that such men are also more likely to be left-handed confirms previous research on the matter. Handedness is a result primarily of prenatal neural development and is solidified very early in life.