1. Disruptive children do not inspire similar behavior in their siblings

    March 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Friends of Tel Aviv University press release:

    A new Tel Aviv University study published in Child Development finds that the disruptive behavior of an individual child does not encourage similar behavior in their brothers and sisters.

    On the contrary, Dr. Ella Daniel of TAU’s Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education finds that siblings, predominantly older siblings, of disruptive children tend to exhibit less disorderly behavior over time. The research, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Jenkins and colleagues at the University of Toronto and funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research, examines the role of sibling training on disruptive behavior during early childhood and concludes that disruptive behavior produces greater disparity — rather than resemblance — among siblings.

    “The development of disruptive behavior in early childhood is extremely important, as disruptive behavior starts early in life and behavioral patterns may become stable and resistant to influence later on,” Dr. Daniel says. “We found that in early childhood, children do not learn from each other how to be disruptive, violent or disobedient.

    “In fact, they are more likely to learn what not to do, or how not to behave. The older siblings of young children who are disruptive tend to become less disruptive themselves over time, creating a polarizing effect on their behaviors.”

    Focusing on younger children

    Existing research on disruptive behavior is largely focused on adolescents. The new study harnessed data assessing the rate of disruptions as witnessed by both parents to track 916 toddlers and their preschool- and school-aged siblings in some 400 families in and around Toronto.

    The families examined had given birth to an infant between 2006 and 2008, and had at least one other child (younger than four years of age) at home. The researchers conducted observations and interviews with the family, including all the siblings in the family, every 18 months.

    The scientists collected information when the youngest child in the family was 18, 36 and 54 months old. On these three occasions, both parents reported the disruptive behaviors of each of their children. Using advanced statistical models, the researchers were able to identify the role of siblings in the development of each child’s disruptive behavior over time, taking into account heredity, parenting, social environment and shared history.

    “The study teaches us that we have little to worry about one sibling being ‘a bad influence’ on their brothers or sisters,” says Dr. Daniel. “Instead, we should be more worried of pigeon holing: that one child will be labeled as a ‘black sheep,’ and that all children in the family will develop based on pre-assigned roles. We should let each child develop his or her individuality, which naturally changes over time.”

    The researchers are currently examining the role of siblings in the development of childhood depression and anxiety.


  2. Too much TV can impact primary school readiness for some kids

    March 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Concordia University press release:

    We interrupt this program for an important message: Watching television for more than a couple of hours a day has been linked to lower school readiness skills in kindergarteners.

    That’s according to a new study by researchers from Concordia’s PERFORM Centre and New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, which shows the particular impact on children from low-income families.

    The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, reinforce the need for limits on screen time, such as those laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization recently changed its norms to recommend that children between two and five watch no more than one hour daily — down from its previous recommendation of two hours.

    Given the current prevalence of smartphones and tablets, screens play a bigger role in many families’ lives now than ever before.

    “Research has shown that watching TV is negatively associated with early academic skills, but little is known about how socio-economic status influences viewing,” says study co-author and PERFORM Centre researcher Caroline Fitzpatrick.

    “We wanted to examine whether the negative relationship between watching TV and school readiness varied by family income.”

    Lower math skills and executive functioning

    Fitzpatrick and NYU Steinhardt co-authors Andrew Ribner and Clancy Blair looked at data from 807 kindergarteners of diverse backgrounds. Parents of participants reported family income, as well as the hours of TV their children watch on a daily basis. Video game, tablet and smartphone use was not included in the measurement.

    To determine school readiness, the study measured the children’s math skills and knowledge of letters and words.

    The researchers also assessed executive functions, which are key cognitive and social-emotional competencies, including working memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control. Executive functions are essential for everyday problem-solving and self-control of behaviours and emotional responses.

    “We found that the number of hours young children watch TV is related to decreases in their school readiness, particularly when it comes to math and executive function,” confirms Ribner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.

    “This association was strongest when children watched more than two hours daily.”

    Poorer families take the hardest hit

    As family incomes decreased, the link between TV watching and school readiness grew.

    Those at or near the poverty line — an annual income of around $21,200 for a family of four — saw the largest drop in school readiness when children watched more than two hours of TV a day.

    The study noted a more modest drop among middle-income families, measured as $74,200 per year for a family of four. And researchers found no link between school readiness and TV viewing in high-income homes, which were measured as around $127,000 per year for a family of four.

    “Our results suggest that the circumstances that surround child screen time can influence its detrimental effects on learning outcomes,” says Fitzpatrick, who also teaches at Université Sainte-Anne.

    “We recommend that pediatricians and child care centres help parents limit the amount of TV children watch to less than two hours a day, especially those from middle- to lower-income families.”


  3. How to get kids to use salad bars at school

    March 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the BYU press release:

    Thanks to a national initiative, salad bars are showing up in public schools across the country. Now a Brigham Young University researcher is trying to nail down how to get kids to eat from them.

    BYU health sciences professor Lori Spruance studies the impact of salad bars in public schools and has found one helpful tip: teens are more likely to use salad bars if they’re exposed to good, old-fashioned marketing. Students at schools with higher salad bar marketing are nearly three times as likely to use them.

    “Children and adolescents in the United States do not consume the nationally recommended levels of fruits and vegetables,” Spruance said. “Evidence suggests that salad bars in schools can make a big difference. Our goal is to get kids to use them.”

    Some 4,800 salad bars have popped up in public schools around the country according to the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative. About 50 percent of high school students have access to salad bars at schools, 39 percent of middle school kids and 31 percent of elementary school children.

    Spruance’s study, published in Health Education and Behavior, followed the salad bar usage of students in 12 public schools in New Orleans. Spruance and coauthors from Tulane University administered surveys to the students and tracked the school environment through personal visits.

    Not only did they find better marketing improved salad bar usage among secondary school students, but they also found female students use salad bars more often than male students, and children who prefer healthy foods use them more frequently.

    “The value of a salad bar program depends on whether students actually use the salad bar,” Spruance said. “But few studies have examined how to make that happen more effectively.”

    Some examples of successful salad bar marketing efforts included signage throughout the school promoting the salad bar, information in school publications and newsletters, and plugs for the salad bar on a school’s digital presence.

    Spruance suggests that schools engage parents in their efforts to improve the school food environment–such as reaching out to parents through newsletters or parent teacher conferences. Of course, she says, offering healthy options at home makes the biggest difference.

    “It takes a lot of effort and time, but most children and adolescents require repeated exposures to food before they will eat them on their own,” Spruance said. “If a child is being exposed to foods at home that are served at school, the child may be more likely to eat those fruits or vegetables at school.”

    Spruance’s research builds off of previous studies that show students are more likely to use salad bars if they are included in the normal serving line.

    There have now been 2,401,500 kids served from salad bars in public schools nationwide. However, only two Utah public schools currently have salad bars funded by the Let’s Move initiative.


  4. Cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation, research finds

    March 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    Cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying — and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims — according to research from the University of Warwick.

    Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

    In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11-16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

    During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

    They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online,” “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission,” or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

    All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

    However, those who were bullied by multiple means — direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined — demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

    The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

    As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying — as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

    Professor Wolke comments, “Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

    “Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

    The research is published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


  5. Dogs, toddlers show similarities in social intelligence

    March 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Arizona press release:

    Most dog owners will tell you they consider their beloved pets to be members of their families. Now new research suggests that dogs may be even more like us than previously thought.

    Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, found that dogs and 2-year-old children show similar patterns in social intelligence, much more so than human children and one of their closest relatives: chimpanzees. The findings, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, could help scientists better understand how humans evolved socially.

    MacLean and his colleagues looked at how 2-year-olds, dogs and chimpanzees performed on comparable batteries of tests designed to measure various types of cognition. While chimps performed well on tests involving their physical environment and spatial reasoning, they did not do as well when it came to tests of cooperative communication skills, such as the ability to follow a pointing finger or human gaze.

    Dogs and children similarly outperformed chimps on cooperative communication tasks, and researchers observed similar patterns of variation in performance between individual dogs and between individual children.

    A growing body of research in the last decade has looked at what makes human psychology special, and scientists have said that the basic social communication skills that begin to develop around 9 months are what first seem to set humans apart from other species, said MacLean, assistant professor in the School of Anthropology in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    “There’s been a lot of research showing that you don’t really find those same social skills in chimpanzees, but you do find them in dogs, so that suggested something superficially similar between dogs and kids,” MacLean said. “The bigger, deeper question we wanted to explore is if that really is a superficial similarity or if there is a distinct kind of social intelligence that we see in both species.

    “What we found is that there’s this pattern, where dogs who are good at one of these social things tend to be good at lots of the related social things, and that’s the same thing you find in kids, but you don’t find it in chimpanzees,” he said.

    One explanation for the similarities between dogs and humans is that the two species may have evolved under similar pressures that favored “survival of the friendliest,” with benefits and rewards for more cooperative social behavior.

    “Our working hypothesis is that dogs and humans probably evolved some of these skills as a result of similar evolutionary processes, so probably some things that happened in human evolution were very similar to processes that happened in dog domestication,” MacLean said. “So, potentially, by studying dogs and domestication we can learn something about human evolution.”

    The research could even have the potential to help researchers better understand human disabilities, such as autism, that may involve deficits in social skills, MacLean said.

    Looking to dogs for help in understanding human evolution is a relatively new idea, since scientists most often turn to close human relatives such as chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas for answers to evolutionary questions. Yet, it seems man’s best friend may offer an important, if limited, piece of the puzzle.

    “There are different kinds of intelligence, and the kind of intelligence that we think is very important to humans is social in nature, and that’s the kind of intelligence that dogs have to an incredible extent,” MacLean said. “But there are other aspects of cognition, like the way we reason about physical problems, where dogs are totally dissimilar to us. So we would never make the argument that dogs in general are a better model for the human mind — it’s really just this special set of social skills.”

    MacLean and his collaborators studied 552 dogs, including pet dogs, assistance-dogs-in-training and military explosive detection dogs, representing a variety of different breeds. The researchers assessed social cognition through game-based tests, in which they hid treats and toys and then communicated the hiding places through nonverbal cues such as pointing or looking in a certain direction. They compared the dogs’ results to data on 105 2-year-old children who previously completed a similar cognitive test battery and 106 chimpanzees assessed at wildlife sanctuaries in Africa.


  6. Study finds new link between childhood abuse and adolescent misbehavior

    by Ashley

    From the University of Pittsburgh press release:

    An important learning process is impaired in adolescents who were abused as children, a University of Pittsburgh researcher has found, and this impairment contributes to misbehavior patterns later in life.

    Associative learning — the process by which an individual subconsciously links experiences and stimuli together — partially explains how people generally react to various real-world situations. In a newly released study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Pitt Assistant Professor Jamie L. Hanson detailed the connection between impaired associative learning capacities and instances of early childhood abuse.

    “We primarily found that a poorer sense of associative learning negatively influences a child’s behavior patterns during complex and fast-changing situations. Having this knowledge is important for child psychologists, social workers, public policy officials and other professionals who are actively working to develop interventions,” said Hanson, who teaches in Pitt’s Department of Psychology within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences with a secondary appointment in the University’s Learning Research and Development Center. “We have long known that there is a link between behavioral issues in adolescents and various forms of early life adversities. Yet, the connection isn’t always clear or straightforward. This study provides further insight into one of the many factors of how this complicated relationship comes to exist.”

    To uncover these relationships, researchers asked 81 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 to play computer games where the child had to figure out which set of visual cues were associated with a reward. Forty-one participants had endured physical abuse at a young age, while the remaining 40 served as a comparison group. The most important aspect of the test, said Hanson, was that the cues were probabilistic, meaning children did not always receive positive feedback.

    “The participants who had been exposed to early childhood abuse were less able than their peers to correctly learn which stimuli were likely to result in reward, even after repeated feedback,” said Hanson. “In life we are often given mixed or little to no feedback from our significant others, bosses, parents and other important people in our lives. We have to be able to figure out what might be the best thing to do next.”

    Hanson and his colleagues also observed that mistreated children were generally less adept at differentiating which behaviors would lead to the best results for them personally when interacting with others. Additionally, abused children displayed more pessimism about the likelihood of positive outcomes compared to the group who hadn’t been abused. Taken as a whole, these findings clarify the relationship between physical abuse and the aggressive and disruptive behaviors that often plague abused children well into the later stages of childhood.


  7. Video games can mitigate defensiveness resulting from bad test scores

    by Ashley

    From the Texas Tech University press release:

    One of the worst feelings a student can have is receiving a bad grade on an exam, whether it’s a test they prepared well for or didn’t prepare at all. The prevalence of video games in today’s society helps mitigate some of the effects felt by students from those low test scores by reaffirming their abilities in another area they deem important.

    Video game players can get temporarily lost in alternative worlds, whether it’s transforming into the ultimate fighting machine or the greatest athlete on the planet. But no matter the game, the goal is to find a way to put the empty feeling of the bad test at school behind him by reaffirming his excellence in his favorite video game. It’s a scene that plays out all across the country, and one that has received criticism at times for placing too much emphasis on the game and not enough on schoolwork.

    But John Velez, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism & Electronic Media in the Texas Tech University College of Media & Communication, says that may not always be the case. In fact, his research suggests those who value video game success as part of their identity and received positive feedback on their video game play were more willing to accept the bad test score and consider the implications of it, something that is crucial for taking steps to change study habits and ensure they do better on future exams.

    Conversely, those who do not value success in video games but received positive video game feedback were actually more defensive to having performed poorly on a test. They were more likely to discredit the test and engage in self-protective behaviors. Regardless, the results seem to throw a wrench into the theory that video games and schoolwork are detrimental to each other.

    The key, however, is making sure those playing video games after a bad test are not doing it just as an escape, but making sure after playing video games they understand why they did badly on the test and what they need to do to perform better on the next one.

    “People always kind of talk about video-game play and schoolwork in a negative light,” Velez said. “They talk about how playing video games in general can take away from academic achievement. But for me and a lot of gamers, it’s just a part of life and we use it a lot of times to help get through the day and be more successful versus gaming to get away from life.

    “What I wanted to look into was, for people who identify as a gamer and identify as being good at games, how they can use playing video games after something like a bad exam to help deal with the implications of a bad exam, which makes it more likely they will think about the implications and accept the idea that, ‘OK, I didn’t do well on this exam and I need to do better next time.'”

    Negative results, positive affirmation Velez said past research suggests receiving negative feedback regarding a valued self-image brings about a defensive mechanism where people discredit or dismiss the source of the information. Conversely, the Self-Affirmation Theory says that affirming or bolstering an important self-image that is not related to the negative feedback can effectively reduce defensiveness.

    “If you’re in a bad mood, you can play a good game and get into a good mood,” Velez said. “But I wanted to go deeper and think about how there are times when you are in a bad mood but you are in a bad mood for a very specific reason. Just kind of ignoring it and doing something to get into a good mood can be bad. It would be bad if you go home and play a video game to forget about it and the next time not prepare better for the test or not think about the last time you did badly on a test.”

    For the research, Velez was interested in two types of people — those who identify as placing importance on good video game play and those who do not. How good they were at playing the game was not a factor, just that they identified as it being important to their identity or not.

    Participants in the research were administered a survey to assess their motivations for video-game play and the importance of video games to their identity. They were then given an intelligence test and were told the test was a strong measure of intelligence. Upon completing the test, participants were given either negative feedback on their performance or no feedback at all.

    That negative feedback naturally produces an amount of defensiveness for anyone regarding their performance, regardless of the importance they put on being successful at video games.

    Participants then played a generic shooting video game for 15 minutes that randomly provided positive or no feedback to the player, and players were told the game was an adequate test of their video-game playing skills. Participants then completed an online survey containing ratings of the intelligence test and self-ratings on intelligence.

    What Velez discovered was those who place importance on being successful at video games were less likely to be defensive about the poor performance on the intelligence test.

    “Defensiveness is really a bad thing a lot of times,” Velez said. “It doesn’t allow you to think about the situation and think about what you should have done differently. A lot of times people use it to protect themselves and ignore it or move on, which makes it likely the same thing is going to happen over and over again.”

    It’s the second discovery that Velez didn’t expect, the result where those who performed badly on the intelligence exam and don’t identify as video game players became even more defensive about their intelligence exam result. Instead, they were more likely to use the positive video game feedback as further evidence they are intelligent and the test is flawed or doesn’t represent their true intelligence.

    “That was like this double-edged sword that I didn’t realize I was going to find,” Velez said. “It was definitely unexpected, but once you think about it theoretically, it intuitively makes sense. After receiving negative information about yourself you instinctively start looking for a way to make yourself feel better and you usually take advantage of any opportunities in your immediate environment.”

    Changing behavior A common punishment administered by parents for inappropriate behavior or poor performance in school has been to take away things the child enjoys, such as television, the use of the car, or their video games.

    One might infer from this research that taking video games from the child might actually be doing them harm by not allowing them to utilize the tool that makes them feel better or gives them an avenue to understand why they performed poorly in school and how they must do better.

    Velez, however, said that’s not necessarily the case.

    “I don’t think parents should change their practices until more research is conducted, particularly looking at younger players and their parents’ unique parenting styles,” Velez said. “The study simply introduces the idea that some people may benefit from some game play in which they perform well, which may make it easier for them to discuss and strategize for the future so they don’t run into this problem again after playing.”

    Velez said the study also introduces specific stipulations about when the benefits of video-game play occur and when it may actually backfire.

    “If parents know their child truly takes pride in their video-game skills, then their child may benefit from doing well in their favorite game before addressing the negative test grade,” Velez said. “However, there’s the strong possibility that a child is using the video game as a way to avoid the implications of a bad test grade, so I wouldn’t suggest parents change how they parent their children until we’re able to do more research.”

    Therein lies the fine line, because the study also suggests receiving positive feedback on video games doesn’t necessarily translate into a better performance on a future exam. Velez said the common idea is that defensiveness prevents people from learning and adapting from the feedback they received. Those who are less defensive about negative self-information are more likely to consider the causes and precursors of the negative event, making it more likely a change in behavior will occur. But this was not a focus of this particular study and will have to be examined further.

    Velez said he would also like to identify other characteristics of video-game players who are more likely to benefit from this process compared to increased negative defensive reaction. This could be used to help identify a coping strategy or lead to further research about parenting strategies for discussing sensitive subjects with children.

    “What I want to get out of this research is, for people who care about gaming as part of their identity, how they can use video games in a positive way when dealing with negative things in life,” Velez said.


  8. Poor sleep in early childhood may lead to cognitive, behavioral problems in later years

    March 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Massachusetts General Hospital press release:

    A study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital pediatrician finds that children ages 3 to 7 who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with attention, emotional control and peer relationships in mid-childhood. Reported online in the journal Academic Pediatrics, the study found significant differences in the responses of parents and teachers to surveys regarding executive function — which includes attention, working memory, reasoning and problem solving — and behavioral problems in 7-year-old children depending on how much sleep they regularly received at younger ages.

    “We found that children who get an insufficient amount of sleep in their preschool and early school-age years have a higher risk of poor neurobehavioral function at around age 7,” says Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of General Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children , who led the study. “The associations between insufficient sleep and poorer functioning persisted even after adjusting for several factors that could influence the relationship.”

    As in previous studies from this group examining the role of sleep in several areas of child health, the current study analyzed data from Project Viva, a long-term investigation of the health impacts of several factors during pregnancy and after birth. Information used in this study was gathered from mothers at in-person interviews when their children were around 6 months, 3 years and 7 years old, and from questionnaires completed when the children were ages 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. In addition, mothers and teachers were sent survey instruments evaluating each child’s executive function and behavioral issues — including emotional symptoms and problems with conduct or peer relationships, when children were around 7.

    Among 1,046 children enrolled in Project Viva, the study team determined which children were not receiving the recommended amount of sleep at specific age categories — 12 hours or longer at ages 6 months to 2 years, 11 hours or longer at ages 3 to 4 years, and 10 hours or longer at 5 to 7 years. Children living in homes with lower household incomes and whose mothers had lower education levels were more likely to sleep less than nine hours at ages 5 to 7. Other factors associated with insufficient sleep include more television viewing, a higher body mass index, and being African American.

    The reports from both mothers and teachers regarding the neurobehavioral function of enrolled children found similar associations between poor functioning and not receiving sufficient sleep, with teachers reporting even greater problems. Although no association was observed between insufficient sleep during infancy — ages 6 months to 2 years — and reduced neurobehavioral functioning in mid-childhood, Taveras notes that sleep levels during infancy often predict levels at later ages, supporting the importance of promoting a good quantity and quality of sleep from the youngest ages.

    “Our previous studies have examined the role of insufficient sleep on chronic health problems — including obesity — in both mothers and children,” explains Taveras, who is a professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS). “The results of this new study indicate that one way in which poor sleep may lead to these chronic disease outcomes is by its effects on inhibition, impulsivity and other behaviors that may lead to excess consumption of high-calorie foods. It will be important to study the longer-term effects of poor sleep on health and development as children enter adolescence, which is already underway through Project Viva.”


  9. Conformity is not a universal indicator of intelligence in children

    by Ashley

    From the UT Austin press release:

    Because innovation is part of the American culture, adults in the United States may be less likely to associate children’s conformity with intelligence than adults from other populations, according to research from developmental psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin.

    U.S. children are often encouraged to engage in non-conformist and creative behavior. But researchers say this stands in contrast to populations in which child socialization is based on fostering collective and cooperative values that emphasize social conformity.

    In a study appearing in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, UT Austin researchers examined how adults view children’s behavioral conformity as an indication of their intelligence and good behavior, comparing the U.S. and Vanuatu, a Melanesian archipelago in the South Pacific.

    “Cross-cultural comparisons provide critical insight into variation in reasoning about intelligence. Examining variation in adults’ beliefs about children’s intelligence provides insight into the kinds of behavior adults value and encourage children to engage in,” said Cristine Legare, an associate professor of psychology at UT Austin.

    The study combined methodologies from experimental psychology and comparative anthropology to examine the kinds of behaviors adults associated with intelligence in each population. Rather than describing what makes a child intelligent, participants watched videos of an adult demonstrating a task, followed by two videos: one of a child imitating the actions exactly as they had been demonstrated; and another of a child deviating from the modeled task. Participants then indicated which child was smartest and which child was most well-behaved.

    Ni-Vanuatu adults were more likely to identify the high-conforming child as both smart and well-behaved, particularly when the child was from the same population as them; whereas U.S. adults were less likely to endorse the high-conforming child as intelligent.

    “Conformity is interpreted in different ways in each population — adults from Vanuatu interpret conformity as evidence of children’s competency and adults from the U.S. interpret non-conformity as evidence of children’s creativity,” Legare said.

    Additionally, the researchers examined potential differences in adults’ judgments across socioeconomic status groups within the U.S. to determine the extent to which education level influenced U.S. adult’s judgments of children’s conformity. Results indicated that adults with no college experience were more likely to endorse the high-conforming child on both measures than adults with higher levels of education, but still less likely than Ni-Vanuatu adults to select the high-conforming child as intelligent.

    Children’s learning environments can differ significantly between high and low socioeconomic families, including parents’ beliefs about how children should behave and the extent to which children should be self-directed and independent,” said Jennifer Clegg, the study’s lead author and UT Austin psychology alumna who is now a post-doctoral researcher at Boston University. “Examining variation in adults’ beliefs about children’s intelligence provides insight into the kinds of behavior children are encouraged to engage in diverse populations with distinct childrearing goals and values.”


  10. Childhood bullying may lead to increased chronic disease risk in adulthood

    March 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Wolters Kluwer Health media release:

    Being bullied during childhood might have lifelong health effects related to chronic stress exposure — including an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes in adulthood, according to a research review in the March/April issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

    Recent advances in understanding of the negative health effects of chronic stress highlight a pressing need to clarify the longer-term health implications of childhood bullying, according to the review by Susannah J. Tye, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic and colleagues. “Bullying, as a form of chronic social stress, may have significant health consequences if not addressed early,” Dr. Tye comments. “We encourage child health professionals to assess both the mental and physical health effects of bullying.”

    Health Impact of Bullying — What’s the Evidence?

    “Once dismissed as an innocuous experience of childhood, bullying is now recognized as having significant psychological effects, particularly with chronic exposure,” Dr. Tye and co-authors write. Bullying has been linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, although there are still questions about the direction of that association.

    Bullied children also have increased rates of various physical symptomsrecurrent and unexplained symptoms may be a warning sign of bullying. Dr. Tye comments, “It is important that we appreciate the biological processes linking these psychological and physiological phenomena, including their potential to impact long-term health.”

    Studies of other types of chronic stress exposure raise concerns that bullying — “a classic form of chronic social stress” — could have lasting effects on physical health. Any form of continued physical or mental stress can put a strain on the body, leading to increasing “wear and tear.” This process, called allostatic load, reflects the cumulative impact of biological responses to ongoing or repeated stress — for example, the “fight or flight” response.

    “When an individual is exposed to brief periods of stress, the body can often effectively cope with the challenge and recover back to baseline,” Dr. Tye explains. “Yet, with chronic stress, this recovery process may not have ample opportunity to occur, and allostatic load can build to a point of overload. In such states of allostatic overload, physiological processes critical to health and well-being can be negatively impacted.”

    With increasing allostatic load, chronic stress can lead to changes in inflammatory, hormonal, and metabolic responses. Over time, these physiological alterations can contribute to the development of diseases — including depression, diabetes, and heart disease — as well as progression of psychiatric disorders.

    Early-life stress exposure can also affect the way in which these physiological systems respond to future stressors. This may occur in part through epigenetic changes — alterations in gene function related to environmental exposures — that alter the stress response itself. Chronic stress may also impair the child’s ability to develop psychological skills that foster resilience, reducing their capacity to cope with future stress.

    The authors emphasize that although no cause-and-effect relationship can be shown so far. Future research — in particular, collaborations between clinical and basic science researchers — could have important implications for understanding, and potentially intervening in, the relationship between childhood bullying and long-term health.

    Dr. Tye and colleagues believe that current research shows the importance of addressing bullying victimization as a “standard component” of clinical care for children — at the primary care doctor’s office as well as in mental health care. They conclude, “Asking about bullying…represents a practical first step towards intervening to prevent traumatic exposure and reduce risk for further psychiatric and related morbidities.”