1. Study suggests inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

    February 13, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Rutgers University press release:

    When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter — more than we think.

    Those are the findings of Rutgers University psychologists Louis Matzel and Bruno Sauce, based on an integrative review of recent studies on the nature of human intelligence. Their study is published in the December issue of the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

    “Genetic influences don’t run the show, nor do environmental effects. It’s the genetic-environmental interplay that is the ringmaster,” said Matzel, a professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick. Sauce is a graduate student in Rutgers’ School of Graduate Studies.

    The study, the researchers say, has significant implications for the way we educate children, whose inherited IQ can increase, especially during early childhood, with the right kind of stimulation and attention.

    “We educate children the hard way in this country,” Matzel said. “We go to impoverished high schools and try to remediate kids, which is a perfectly good thing to do. But it’s often too late; the time to reach those kids is when they start school, while their intelligence is most malleable.”

    Scientists measure the heritability of traits on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. Eye color has a heritability score of .99, meaning that it’s highly genetic. Intelligence typically rates at .8, Matzel and Sauce said, which means that it, too, is very heritable. However, Matzel and Sauce believe people often underestimate the role of environment.

    “Through interactions and correlations with the environment, genetic influences can be expressed in wildly different ways, and environmental influences are much more powerful than many scientists believe,” Sauce said.

    The researchers said the heritability of IQ can be as low as .3 in young children, which leaves plenty of room for changes in intelligence. But school systems often ignore this opportunity, they believe, focusing on increasing rote knowledge at the expense of critical thinking. Intervention programs then often fail to create lasting changes to children’s environment.

    Consider children who take part in Head Start, the federal program that provides low-income children with comprehensive early childhood education, nutrition and parent-involvement services. Matzel said those children’s IQ scores increase significantly while they’re part of the program, but frequently regress after they leave it — a common criticism of these programs. That, he said, is because the stimulation and encouragement received in Head Start is missing when the child returns to their more restrictive environment.

    Or consider identical twins separated at birth. If their IQs are nearly identical, and they have equal opportunities, they will be equally smart as adults. However, if one is deprived of opportunities, their cognitive abilities will diverge, Matzel said. This highlights the important role that environmental opportunity plays in the establishment of an individual’s intelligence.

    While twins may have the same basic mental equipment with which to face the world, the twin raised in the better environment can thrive while his sibling is thwarted. “The environment is the critical tool that allows our genetic equipment to prosper,” Matzel said.


  2. Study finds more screen time correlated with less happiness in young people

    by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

    To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

    On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.

    Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

    “Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

    Total screen abstinence doesn’t lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

    “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use,” Twenge said. “Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising — two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”

    Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens. Specifically, young people’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That’s the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

    “By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” she said. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”


  3. Study suggests teenagers are sophisticated users of social media

    February 8, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Taylor & Francis Group press release:

    Teenagers are far more critical users of social media than we give them credit for, and need to be better supported in reaping the benefits social media can have.

    A new study published today in Sport, Education and Society sheds light upon teens’ online habits, finding that young people are not simply passive recipients of all the content available online, as commonly thought.

    Analyzing 1,300 responses from teenagers aged 13 to 18 from ten UK schools, researchers set out to discover how young people engaged with health-related social media, and understand the influence this had on their behaviors and knowledge about health.

    They discovered that most teenagers would ‘swipe past’ health-related content that was not relevant to them, such as ‘suggested’ or ‘recommended’ content, deeming it inappropriate for their age group.

    Many were also highly critical of celebrity-endorsed content, with one participant referring to the celebrity lifestyle as ‘a certain lifestyle that we are not living’, because they were more likely to be ‘having surgery’ than working out in the gym.

    However, many participants still found it difficult to distinguish between celebrity-endorsed content and that posted by sportsmen and women, leaving them vulnerable to celebrity influence.

    The pressure of peers’ ‘selfies’, which often strived for perfection, and the complex social implications of ‘liking’ each other’s posts, were recurring themes in the young people’s responses. Both of these activities had the potential to alter teenagers’ health-related behaviors.

    Lead author Dr Victoria Goodyear, of the University of Birmingham, emphasized the need to be more aware of both the positive and negative impacts social media can have upon young people. She said: “We know that many schools, teachers and parents/guardians are concerned about the health-related risks of social media on young people.

    “But, contrary to popular opinion, the data from our study show that not all young people are at risk from harmful health-related impacts. Many young people are critical of the potentially damaging information that is available.”

    Despite teenagers’ ability to assess content, the study emphasizes that adults still have a crucial role to play in supporting young people, and helping them to understand how harmful health-related information might reach them.

    Professor Kathleen Armour, the University of Birmingham’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, adds: “It is important to be aware that teenagers can tip quickly from being able to deal competently with the pressures of social media to being overwhelmed.

    “If they are vulnerable for any reason, the sheer scale and intensity of social media can exacerbate the ‘normal’ challenges of adolescence. Adult vigilance and understanding are, therefore, vital.”

    Dr Goodyear suggests that adults should not ban or prevent young people’s uses of social media, given that it provides significant learning opportunities. Instead, schools and parents/guardians should focus on young people’s experiences with social media, helping them to think critically about the relevance of what they encounter, and understand both the positive and harmful effects this information could have.

    Crucially, these discussions must be introduced into the classroom to help address the current gap which exists between the ways in which young people and adults understand social media.


  4. Study suggests young people with shared residency have fewer mental problems

    January 29, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Uni Research press release:

    Young people with shared residency after their parents’ divorce have fewer mental problems than young people with other residency arrangements.

    This was the conclusion researchers at RKBU Vest (Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare), Uni Research Health, arrived at when they compared the mental health of young people in different residency arrangements after a divorce.”

    Youth with shared residency after a divorce reported less mental issues than those living mostly with a single parent or in a stepfamily. Furthermore, we found that youths with joint residency did not have more mental problems than young people living with their two non-divorced parents, says Sondre Aasen Nilsen,” researcher at RKBU Vest who is one of the researchers behind the study.

    More young people with shared residency

    During the last ten years there has been a large increase in the number of parents who chose a shared residency scheme for their children after a divorce, where the child lives approximately as much with the mother as with the father. Several international studies show a correlation between this form of living and fewer mental problems among children with divorced parents, compared to those living mostly with the mother or the father.

    Shared residency in dispute

    Nevertheless, shared residency is in dispute and it has been argued that the constant move between two homes may impede the child’s adjustment after a divorce. The latest comprehensive study that examined adjustment in different residency arrangements after a divorce in Norway used data collected in 1997. “We have therefore lacked information about how young people adapt in different residency arrangements today, following the large increase in families who choose a shared residency scheme,” Nilsen says.

    The largest study in Norway

    In the “ung@hordaland” survey at RKBU Vest, about 7700 young people answered detailed questions about their parents’ divorce, the family’s financial resources, how and who they lived with after the divorce. Their mental health was also mapped. This is the largest Norwegian study that has examined young people’s adaptation in different residency arrangements after the parents’ divorce.

    This study is part of Sondre Aasen Nilsen’s PhD project in association with RKBU Vest, Uni Research Helse. The collaborating partner in the project is Save the Children Norway (Redd Barna), and the project is funded by Extrastiftelsen.


  5. Study suggests link between gambling participation and low academic performance

    January 21, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    The odds are stacked against teenagers who regularly gamble. A new study in Springer’s Journal of Gambling Studies shows that a 14-year-old who gambles is more likely to struggle at school. The study was led by Frank Vitaro of the University of Montreal, Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and the Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment in Canada.

    In this long-term population-based study, 766 Canadian children were assessed when they were 14 and 17 years old through self-reports and responses from their parents. They were questioned about their gambling habits and academic performance with a focus on how many different types of gambling activities they participated in, rather than how often they gambled. This is because a diversity in someone’s gambling habits has been found to better predict whether someone will develop gambling problems.

    Information about the social status and structure of the families the children grew up in was also gathered from their parents. This took account of the level of education that the children’s parents had attained, and the jobs they held.

    A significant, albeit modest, correlation was found between a teenager who gambled at the age of 14 and 17 and his or her subsequent academic performance. Young people who already gambled regularly by the time they were 14 years old most often also saw a drop in their academic performance in the years following.

    Vitaro says that teenagers’ gambling activities after school hours often take up much of the time they might otherwise have spent on school-related work. Many gamblers are also known to skip classes.

    He explains that through gambling, adolescents are also often exposed to antisocial peer groups, which in turn might diminish school engagement and school performance, either directly or through the increase of behavioral and social problems.

    “Our results also confirm the pervasive role of socio-familial risk, which has been related to both elevated levels of gambling involvement and low academic performance among adolescents in previous studies,” says Vitaro, who adds that personal factors such as impulsivity also play a role.

    “From a clinical perspective, these findings suggest that children living in an unfavorable environment and manifesting high levels of impulsivity should be targeted for early prevention purposes,” adds Vitaro. “Failing early prevention, reducing gambling involvement may also curb to some extent the decline in academic performance.”


  6. Study suggests quality of contact with grandparents is key to youths’ views of ageism

    January 7, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Society for Research in Child Development press release:

    Ageism — stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discrimination against older people — occurs frequently in young adults and can be seen in children as young as 3. A new study from Belgium sought to identify the factors underlying this form of discrimination. It found that ageist stereotypes in children and adolescents generally decrease around ages 10 to 12, and that young people who say they have very good contact with their grandparents have the lowest levels of ageism.

    The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium, appears in the journal Child Development.

    “The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of contact with grandparents,” explains Allison Flamion, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Liege, who led the research team. “We asked children to describe how they felt about seeing their grandparents. Those who felt unhappy were designated as having poor quality of contact. When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency.”

    To assess aspects of ageism, the researchers studied 1,151 children and adolescents ages 7 to 16 in the French-speaking part of Belgium; the youths were primarily White, from urban and rural areas, and from a range of socioeconomic statuses. In questionnaires, the researchers asked the youths their thoughts on getting old and about the elderly. They also collected information about the health of the youths’ grandparents, how often the two generations met, and how the young people felt about their relationships with their grandparents.

    In general, views on the elderly expressed by the children and adolescents were neutral or positive. Girls had slightly more positive views than boys; girls also tended to view their own aging more favorably, the researchers note.

    Ageist stereotypes fluctuated with the ages of the youths studied, with 7- to 9-year-olds expressing the most prejudice and 10- to 12-year-olds expressing the least, the study found. This finding mirrors other forms of discrimination (e.g., those related to ethnicity or gender) and is in line with cognitive-developmental theories: For example, acquiring perspective-taking skills around age 10 reduces previous stereotypes. With ageism, prejudice seemed to reappear when the participants in this study reached their teen years: 13- to 16-year-olds also had high levels of ageism.

    Grandparents’ health was also a factor in youths’ views on ageism: Young people with grandparents in poor health were more likely to hold ageist views than youths with grandparents in better health.

    The most important factor influencing youths’ views of the elderly was the quality of their contact with their grandparents. The study characterized youths’ contact as good or very good when they said they felt happy or very happy (respectively) when they saw and shared with their grandparents. Those who described their contact with grandparents as good or very good had more favorable feelings toward the elderly than those who described the contact less positively. Furthermore, the benefit of meaningful contact occurred in both children with the lowest level of ageism and those with the highest level, and boys seemed to benefit more than girls from high-quality contact.

    Frequency of contact, while mattering considerably less, also played a role: 10- to 12-year-olds who saw their grandparents at least once a week had the most favorable views toward the elderly, likely because of the multiplying effect of frequency with quality, the researchers suggest.

    “For many children, grandparents are their first and most frequent contact with older adults,” notes Stephane Adam, professor of psychology at the University of Liege, who coauthored the study. “Our findings point to the potential of grandparents to be part of intergenerational programs designed to prevent ageism. Next, we hope to explore what makes contacts with grandparents more rewarding for their grandchildren as well as the effects on children of living with or caring for their grandparents.”


  7. Study suggests graphic anti-smoking posters may actually backfire

    December 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the RAND Corporation press release:

    Exposing teens to graphic anti-smoking posters may actually increase the risk that some start smoking, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

    Conducted in a one-of-a-kind laboratory that replicates a convenience store, the study found that some teens who viewed posters depicting gruesome displays of smoking-caused diseases actually reported being more susceptible to cigarette smoking after viewing the displays during a shopping trip.

    The negative effects were found among teens who, before viewing the posters, reported being at some risk for smoking. The graphic posters did not appear to have any effect on teens who were committed to never smoking.

    “Our findings are counter intuitive and suggest that some anti-smoking strategies may actually go too far,” said William Shadel, lead author of the study and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

    The study is published online by the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

    Most of the tobacco industry’s advertising spending is focused on point-of-sale retail locations such as convenience stores. These outlets are awash in posters for tobacco products, signs for price promotions and the tobacco power wall — the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products that is prominent behind the checkout counter.

    Studies indicate that most adolescents visit locations that sell tobacco on a near weekly basis, placing them at significant risk for repeated exposure to tobacco advertising. Numerous studies have linked such exposures to more-positive attitudes toward smoking among adolescents.

    In response, some jurisdictions have proposed that graphic cigarette warning posters be displayed alongside the tobacco power wall and near the cash register. New York City mandated such warnings in 2009, but courts voided the regulation after lawsuits initiated by the tobacco industry.

    For the RAND study, researchers had teens visit a replica of a convenience store to buy a few items. With about half of the teens, the checkout counter or the wall behind the cash register displayed a prominent poster showing a photo of a diseased mouth and the words “WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer.”

    The poster used was drawn from among nine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had intended to put on cigarette packages and was the one had been rated as the most effective image by adolescents in previous research.

    The 441 adolescents aged 11 to 17 who participated in the RAND experiment were surveyed about their attitudes toward cigarette smoking and asked about other items both before and after shopping in the replica convenience store. About 5 percent of the participants reported prior cigarette smoking and about 20 percent were considered at-risk for future cigarette smoking before visiting the convenience store.

    Researchers say their analysis found that rather than disrupting the positive point-of-sale advertising in the convenience store, the graphic anti-smoking poster seemed to further heighten the smoking susceptibility of adolescents already considered at-risk for future tobacco use.

    “It is possible that at-risk adolescents responded to the graphic warning posters in a defensive manner, causing them to discount or downplay the health risks portrayed in the poster,” Shadel said. “It may also be possible that the graphic posters caused adolescents to divert their attention to the tobacco power wall, where they were exposed to pro-tobacco messages.”

    Researcher say that a shortcoming of their study is that they tested only one anti-smoking poster with the adolescents and they did not experiment with a variety of poster sizes or a greater variety of store placement.

    “Our findings do suggest that policymakers should be careful when considering graphic warning posters as part of anti-tobacco education in retail environments,” Shadel said. “This type of action either needs additional research or potentially should be abandoned in favor of better-demonstrated anti-smoking efforts.”


  8. Study suggests health warnings on cigarettes could deter young people

    December 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Cancer Research UK press release:

    Young people are less likely to try cigarettes with the printed health warning ‘Smoking kills’ on each stick than standard cigarettes, according to a new study by Cancer Research UK published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

    Researchers wanted to examine new, innovative ways to reinforce health messages around smoking. They surveyed nearly 1000 16-24 year olds from across the UK to evaluate their response to different cigarette designs.

    A health warning on the side of each cigarette meant young people — including smokers and non-smokers — were around three times less likely to want to try them than standard cigarettes. Smokers were the most put off by them.

    Young people also said that green cigarettes were less tempting than standard cigarettes.

    Smoking tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK and the leading cause of preventable death. While smoking rates among young people in the UK are going down, one in every six 16-24 year olds is a smoker in Great Britain. And in Scotland a fifth of all 16-24 year olds smoke.

    Dr Crawford Moodie, Cancer Research UK-funded scientist and lead author said: “The study shows how cigarettes can be an important communication tool and that altering their appearance, with a health warning or an unappealing colour, can make them less desirable. Young people who start smoking are likely to continue to do so into adulthood, so anything that may deter smoking among this group could help to tackle the potential health repercussions in later life.”

    George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy manager said: “Too many young people are still taking up smoking in the UK. Government anti-smoking campaigns and tax rises on cigarettes remain the most effective methods to stop young people starting. We need to continue to explore innovative ways to turn young people off cigarettes to ensure that youth smoking rates continue to drop. This study shows that tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this.”


  9. Study suggests teens who help strangers have more confidence

    December 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    Tis the season for helping at a soup kitchen, caroling at a care facility or shoveling a neighbor’s driveway.

    While those gifts of self surely help others, new research suggests that such selfless and serving behaviors have a specific benefit to teens.

    BYU School of Family Life professor Laura Padilla-Walker, in a longitudinal study she coauthored with a former student (Xinyuan Fu, Central University of Finance and Economics, China) in the Journal of Adolescence, found that adolescents who exhibited prosocial behavior — such as helping, sharing and comforting — toward strangers had higher self-esteem a year later. The same was not true for those in the study who exhibited prosocial behavior solely to friends and family.

    “This study helps us to understand that young people who help those with whom they do not have a relationship report feeling better about themselves over time,” Padilla-Walker said. “Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one’s moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviors as well.”

    Padilla-Walker has authored multiple studies looking at prosocial behavior. While she’s found that teens who exhibit these positive behaviors stay out of trouble and have better familial relationships, this was her first time tying it to self-esteem.

    In the study, researchers looked at 681 adolescents, 11-14 years old, in two U.S. cities. They tracked them for four different time points, starting in 2008 through 2011. The participants responded to 10 statements such as “I feel useless at times” or “I am satisfied with myself” to assess self-esteem. Prosocial behavior was measured by self-reports, looking at various aspects of kindness and generosity, such as “I help people I don’t know, even if it’s not easy for me” or “I go out of my way to cheer up my friends” or “I really enjoy doing small favors for my family.”

    “A unique feature of this study is that it explores helping behaviors toward multiple different targets,” Padilla-Walker said. “Not all helping is created equal, and we’re finding that prosocial behavior toward strangers is protective in a variety of ways that is unique from other types of helping. Another important finding is that the link between prosocial behavior and self-esteem is over a one-year time period and present across all three age lags in our study. Though not an overly large effect, this suggests a stable link between helping and feeling better about oneself across the early adolescent years.”

    For many adolescents, this time of life can be confusing for them. In a state of such self-exploration and self-identification, Padilla-Walker suggests that helping your kids find confidence, self-respect and self-worth can be of monumental importance.

    “For teens who sometimes have a tendency to focus on themselves, parents can help by providing opportunities for their children to help and serve others who are less fortunate,” Padilla-Walker said. “It is best if teens can directly see the benefit of their help on others. This can increase gratitude in young people and help them to focus less on their own problems. It is also a way to help them meet new friends or spend time with family. A family tradition of helping those who are less fortunate throughout the year or during the holidays is a great way to instill in children a desire to serve and a greater sense of self-worth.”


  10. Study suggests mindful yoga can reduce risky behaviors in troubled youth

    December 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Cincinnati press release:

    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.