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January 2011



Recent Posts



New Study: Spanking Promotes Aggression in Kids

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 13th 2010

A study recently came out that showed spanking as a strong predictor in influencing aggressive behavior in children later on. We’ve experienced these signs of aggression as arguing, bullying, meanness, destructive, fighting and/or threatening others.

Catherine Taylor, Ph.D., from Tulane University School of Public Health, co-authored this study which asked nearly 2500 mothers how often they spanked their 3 year old child in the last month. The study controlled for many confounding factors and found that those parents who frequently spanked their children (more than twice in a month) correlated with higher levels of aggression by age 5.

Spanking promotes fear

Now, that’s interesting, but what I thought was most interesting was a quote by Dr. Jayne Singer, clinical director of the child and parent program at Children’s Hospital Boston, who was not involved in the study. In a press release at Tulane she said that the reason spanking is not effective in the long run is because while it may stop the behavior in the moment, it doesn’t create understanding and promotes fear.

That made a lot of sense to me. Just because we spank a child doesn’t mean they understood what or why what they had did was wrong, they just create a stress reaction around the behavior and therefore may have an aversion to it. My hunch is that they may also get a sense that what they did was wrong, but why?

Even a time-out, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t mean the child understands why what they did was wrong. There still needs to be a promotion of how to communicate with children to instill an understanding in them, this promotes a much deeper level of behavior change.

What is this research missing?

Children act out from fear, anger, confusion, or feeling a need for attention. What we want is to instill an internal compass inside our children for right and wrong. We also want to cultivate a sense of confidence and self-acceptance.

As parents and caregivers we can model this by attuning to the child, letting them know we understand what they’re feeling and why they might be feeling that way and what they’re doing is not Ok as it hurts others or whatever the negative outcome is. We can do this before or after the time-out depending on their emotional state.

So, my thoughts on this are for promoting understanding, self confidence and self acceptance through parental discipline. So, while this research is encouraging, we need to take it a bit further in helping parents learn ways to work with difficult children that promote resiliency.

Source:  http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36525&cn=82


Discovery Of Link Between Cumulative Hardships And Health In Low-Income Young Children

Article Date: 13 Apr 2010 – 5:00 PDT

Pediatric researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC), in partnership with other Children’s HealthWatch investigators in Minneapolis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, have found that the cumulative effects of crowded and unstable housing and uncertain supplies of food and heat act together to decrease the chances of normal growth and development and good physical health among infants and toddlers. The findings, which appear in the April 12th online issue of the journal Pediatrics,

Poverty influences a child’s well-being through multiple environmental stressors, the report says, but research and interventions often fail to take into account the remediable “material hardships” that may have direct physiologic impacts on children. These hardships include food insecurity (lack of access to enough healthful food for an active healthy life) housing insecurity (unstable or overcrowded housing) and energy insecurity (inability of families to afford consistent home heating or cooling).

In order to test the cumulative effect of these multiple hardships, Children’s HealthWatch researchers evaluated more than 7,000 children between 4 and 36 months old who were waiting for care at one of five urban primary-care clinics or emergency departments. The researchers found that as scores on a cumulative index of the hardships increased in severity, the chances of young low- income children simultaneously experiencing normal growth, health, and development (which the investigators term “wellness”) decreased, even after controlling for multiple background factors.

According to the researchers, cumulative hardships–a diet of inadequate quality or quantity, temperature stress from lack of heat or cooling, and frequent moves or increased exposure to infectious disease and noise in crowded households–exert direct negative physiologic consequences on children.

“The current findings raise serious concerns about the future well-being of America’s young children, given rising poverty among families with young children and many households’ inadequate wages and benefits to meet fluctuating food, housing, and energy costs,” explained lead author Deborah Frank, MD, director of BMC’s Grow Clinic and a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “We know that deprivations in early life can become biologically embedded, forcing children onto negative trajectories that jeopardize their health, their school readiness, and their ability to earn a living as adults. We also know that the remedies for many of these hardships are within reach if our society chooses to prescribe them.”

Major funding for this study was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with additional support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Anthony Spinazzola Foundation, Citizen’s Energy, the Claneil Foundation, the Eos Foundation, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving as directed by Jean and Vance Schiro-Zavela, General Mills, the Gryphon Fund, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Krupp Family Foundation, the Larson Family Foundation, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Susan Davies and Richard Talkov, Susan Schiro, Peter Manus, and anonymous donors.

Gina DiGravio
Boston University Medical Center
bring attention to remediable conditions that influence the health, development and growth of America’s youngest children.


Where Are Concern, Empathy and Moral Thinking?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 11th 2010

Moral Development:

“The process by which individuals internalize standards of right and wrong conduct.” This is also known as ethics. Ethics involves having Integrity.

1. A woman adopts a 7 year old orphan from Russia but puts him on an airplane back to Moscow because of his emotional problems. She sends him unescorted and complains that the adoption agency failed to inform her about his problems.

2. A fifteen year old female Irish immigrant commits suicide after months of being bullied and threatened by male and female classmates in her new school.

It seems as though there is a lack of moral thinking in this anonymous world of our’s today.

1. By now, most people are aware of the tragedy that occurred when a Tennessee woman adopted a 7 year old male child from Russia and then put him on an airplane back to Moscow claiming he is psychopathic and violent.

Adoption of an older child always brings with certain risks connected to the fact that these children have spent too many years in institutions. Attachment or bonding is critically important to the healthy growth and development of a child. Therefore, attachment can be a problem for those youngsters who were raised in foster care of adoptive institutions. The many other children in these institutions and the lack of staff interfere with the entire process of bonding. Renee Spitz did a now famous study of orphaned children in post World War II Europe. His results demonstrated the fact that many of these children were not able to thrive because of the absence of any parenting from birth and onward. Some literally stopped eating ans starved to death.

In this case, not only had this boy suffered terrible losses and rejection at the hands of his biological mother, a prostitute, but impersonal care in an institution for foster children and, finally, suffers an added rejection at the hands of an adoptive mother who makes it clear she does not want him. To repeat, this child is only 7 years old.

Whether people have children via natural childbirth or adoption, can anyone predict the nature,personality and temperament of the new member of the family? When problems arise, is it not the responsibility of parents to get medical and psychiatric help for their youngsters?

2. A young and attractive teenager moves from Ireland with her family and is faced with nothing but hostility and rejection of her classmates in her new school in a foreign land. Where was the compassion and understanding of both teachers and students in welcoming someone from a different culture?

Teachers claim they knew nothing about the bullying and the students, facing trial because they are accused of driving the young woman to suicide, claim that they are innocent. In other words, no one is guilty of at the very least, callous indifference in this tragedy? An American High School and its students are not supposed to welcome, embrace and help assimilate those who are different?

As a mental health worker what worries me is the fact that these and other stories reflect what appears to be a lack of concern about others. Recent research tells us that even the smallest babies have an inborn sense of altruism and that as early as two years old, they demonstrate a sense of caring about others. However, in these and other cases, something went wrong in the development of a higher moral conscience in people.

Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory of moral development that parallelled that of Piaget in terms of cognitive development. A brief explanation of Kohlberg can be found at:

He stated that the highest stage of moral thinking is Post Conventional because a person at this level makes decisions based on deeply held values rather than personal gain, avoidance of punishment or absently following the law or what others in the crowd are doing. There is great concern about the health, rights and well being of others as well as a deep consideration of the consequences for decisions.

According to Kohlberg, moral development is an ongoing process throughout life and people shift from one level of thinking to the next, depending on a given situation.

What are your views about cases like those discussed in this article? Are you an ethical thinker? Have we stopped encouraging the development of ethical ways of thinking?

Source:  http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36514&cn=462


Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated With Streptococcal Infections Affected by Stress

ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2010) — PANDAS is an abbreviation for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. This diagnosis was created when clinicians observed that following streptococcal infections, which include strep throat, scarlet fever, and impetigo, children developed tics and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In a new longitudinal study appearing in Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier, researchers identified new infections in children and adolescents with Tourette syndrome (TS) and/or OCD, and compared them with healthy control subjects. They also measured the participants’ levels of emotional stress. Prior research has shown that stress is an important factor in developing depression, and that individuals with TS or OCD tend to be particularly sensitive to stress.

They then used this data to examine the power of the infections and measures of psychosocial stress to predict future tic, obsessive-compulsive, and depressive symptom severity.

Dr. James Leckman, senior author of this project, explains their findings: “We found that periods of tic and OC symptom worsening were independently associated with antecedent newly diagnosed strep infections as well as higher levels of antecedent psychosocial stress. When we looked at just the PANDAS, we also found similar results.”

In other words, stress may aggravate the impact of prior streptococcal infection in promoting symptoms of TS and OCD. There was no impact of prior streptococcal infections on depressive symptoms.

PANDAS remain a controversial topic for many Tourette’s experts. For example, another recently completed intensive longitudinal study that tracked a larger number of PANDAS cases found little evidence to support a link between newly diagnosed strep infections and a marked worsening of tic or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

PANDAS is also frequently diagnosed in the community without the application of all the published diagnostic criteria. This has resulted in unwarranted use of antibiotic treatment for TS or OCD when there is no evidence of a recent strep infection.

However, some version of PANDAS likely does exist. The typical PANDAS case appears to have an abrupt sudden onset of separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, a loss of writing skills, and sleep problems. Tics are often present, but they can also confuse the picture, especially if they had been present in some form prior to PANDAS onset.

It is important to note that the number of PANDAS cases in this study was too small to allow firm conclusions, but it does indicate how important psychosocial stress is in TS and OCD, as well as depression.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lin et al. Streptococcal Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Psychosocial Stress Predict Future Tic and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptom Severity in Children and Adolescents with Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 2010; 67 (7): 684 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.08.020



Cultural differences in childhood amnesia:

Childhood amnesia is the phenomenon where we are generally unable to remember the earliest years of childhood. This is often assumed to be purely because the brain is too underdeveloped to successfully store and organise memories but an interesting study from 2000 reported that the extent of childhood amnesia differs between cultures and sexes.

Cross-cultural and gender differences in childhood amnesia

Memory. 2000 Nov;8(6):365-76.

MacDonald S, Uesiliana K, Hayne H.

In two experiments, we examined cross-cultural and gender differences in adults’ earliest memories. To do this, we asked male and female adults from three cultural backgrounds (New Zealand European, New Zealand Maori, and Asian) to describe and date their earliest personal memory. Consistent with past research, Asian adults reported significantly later memories than European adults, however this effect was due exclusively to the extremely late memories reported by Asian females. Maori adults, whose traditional culture includes a strong emphasis on the past, reported significantly earlier memories than adults from the other two cultural groups. Across all three cultures, the memories reported by women contained more information than the memories reported by men. These findings support the view that the age and content of our earliest memories are influenced by a wide range of factors including our culture and our gender. These factors must be incorporated into any comprehensive theory of autobiographical memory.

This doesn’t mean that brain development plays no role, of course, but it raises the question of how many of the things we recall from childhood are influenced by culture.

For example, memories that seem genuinely to be from the early years may appear that way due to us being brought up with the retelling of family stories or from seeing photographs and subsequently absorbing them as our own memories thanks to source amnesia.

It could be that this form of social remembering differs between cultures or is influenced by the sex of the child which may encourage people to report earlier or later memories, or alternatively, may actually strengthen genuine memories as they are re-told during our early years.

pdf of full text of culture and childhood amnesia study.
Link to PubMed entry for same.




Children Of Combat-Deployed Parents Show Increased Worries, Even After Parent Returns

Article Date: 10 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in extended and repeated combat-related deployments of U.S. military service members. While much has been reported about the problems, both physical and psychological, many bring back with them, new research out of UCLA shows that the family back home can have issues as well.

The suddenly single parents left at home and their children must quickly adjust to altered family roles and the stress of having a loved one in a distant and dangerous land, in addition to dealing with potential psychological or physical health problems the active-duty parent may have upon their return.

Reporting in the April edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry Dr. Patricia Lester and her colleagues found that it is the number and length of repeated deployments that cause higher levels of anxiety in children and that this anxiety persists even after the deployed parent returns home.

Second, they found that the level of anxiety children experience can be predicted by the amount of psychological distress shown by both the active-duty parent and the at-home parent.

Lester and her colleagues studied 171 families in which either the mother or father was on active duty, currently deployed or recently returned from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the sample, the active-duty parent had, on average, been deployed more than twice and had been away from home for 16 months.

The researchers found that approximately one-third of the children in these families had increased symptoms of anxiety. Strikingly, the anxiety remained even after the deployed parent returned home.

“It’s known that, in general, a child’s level of distress is linked to parental distress,” Lester said. “Here, we found that approximately one-third of the at-home parents and almost 40 percent of the recently returned deployed parents showed elevations in anxiety and depression.

“We also found that the at-home parent showed higher levels of anxiety when their spouse was deployed. But the two key markers for anxiety in the child were the distress levels of both parents and the number of months a parent had been deployed during the child’s lifetime.”

Interestingly, the study suggests that school-aged boys and girls behave differently during and after a parent’s deployment. Girls showed an increase in acting out and disruptive behavior when the parent was deployed, while boys appeared to have more difficulties after the deployed parent returned.

“For the boys, this may be related to reduced autonomy and increased structure in the family life upon the return of the deployed parent,” Lester said.

Notably, the children also showed indices of resilience, and their experiences of other types of emotional and behavioral problems were comparable to what is seen normally within any general community of kids.

Lester noted that the military demographic in the U.S. has changed in the past several decades to include a much larger proportion of service members with families. She said planning is needed for extended military operations to take into account the impact on family members.

“These findings suggest that there is a cumulative wear and tear upon the military family from multiple deployments during wartime,” she said.

Lester and her colleagues have developed a program to help such military families. Called FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress), the program provides both parents and children customized training that addresses the impact of wartime deployment on families and helps them learn very specific communication and problem-solving skills to address these challenges.

Other authors on the study included Dorie Glover, Catherine Mogil, William Saltzman, Robert Pynoos and Katherine Wilt of UCLA; Kris Peterson and Larry Knauss of the Madigan Army Medical Center; James Reeves of the Naval Medical Center San Diego; Naihua Duan of Columbia University; and William Beardslee of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute for Child and Human Development. The authors express no conflicts of interest.

Mark Wheeler
University of California – Los Angeles  


One in 20 Adolescents With a Serious Respiratory Condition Has Used Potentially Deadly Inhalants in the Past Year

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2010) — Approximately 143,000 young people aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year while dealing with a condition like pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, or sinusitis, according to a new study sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study determined that the rate of use was 4.4 percent among adolescents who had at least one of the aforementioned respiratory conditions, similar to the rate among adolescents overall (4.1 percent).

The use of inhalants can seriously impair the proper functioning of the respiratory system in otherwise healthy individuals resulting in unconsciousness, coma or death — so it may pose an even greater risk to those with serious underlying respiratory conditions. Under any circumstances, inhalant use, or “huffing” can cause severe permanent injury or death even after just one use. Inhalants take many forms, are easily accessible and can become very addictive.

“No one should engage in huffing. The consequences can be deadly,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “The fact that adolescents with respiratory problems are just as likely to engage in huffing as adolescents in general underscores the continued need to educate parents, teachers, service providers and young people about what they can do to prevent this misuse of common everyday products.”

The study also provides insight into the prevalence of adolescent inhalant use by various demographic factors. For example it shows that among the general population, American Indian or Alaskan Natives adolescents were more than twice as likely to engage in huffing than Black or African American adolescents (5.5 percent vs. 2.5 percent). In addition, the study examines other issues such as the types of inhalants most commonly used by adolescents with at least one of the selected respiratory conditions used in the survey (pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, or sinusitis).

The report, Adolescent Inhalant Use and Selected Respiratory Conditions is based on data collected during 2006 to 2008 from a nationally representative sample of 67,850 persons aged 12 to 17 who participated in SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Full report.

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).



New Guide For Parents Busts Myths About Teens

Article Date: 10 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

The new book, The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, dispels many common myths about adolescence with the latest scientific findings on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and spiritual development of teens. Authors Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard from the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provide useful tips and strategies for real-life situations and experiences from bullying, to nutrition and sexuality.

Created in partnership with an alliance of youth-serving professionals, The Teen Years Explained is science-based and accessible. The practical and colorful guide to healthy adolescent development is an essential resource for parents and all people who work with young people.

“Whether you have five minutes or five hours, you will find something useful in the guide,” said McNeely. “We want both adults and young people to understand the changes – what is happening and why – so everyone can enjoy this second decade of life.”

Popular Myths about Teenagers:

Myth: Teens are bigger risk-takers and thrill-seekers than adults. Fact: Teens perceive more risk than adults do in certain areas, such as the chance of getting into an accident if they drive with a drunk driver.

Myth: Young people only listen to their friends. Fact: Young people report that their parents or a caring adult are their greatest influence – especially when it comes to sexual behavior.

Myth: Adolescents live to push your buttons. Fact: Adolescents may view conflict as a way of expressing themselves, while adults take arguments personally.

Myth: When you’re a teenager, you can eat whatever you want and burn it off. Fact: Obesity rates have tripled for adolescents since 1980.

Myth: Teens don’t need sleep. Fact: Teens need as much sleep or more than they got as children – 9 to 10 hours is optimum.

Three years in the making, the guide came about initially at the request of two of the Center’s partners, the Maryland Mentoring Partnership and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who felt there was a need in the community for an easily navigated and engaging look at adolescent development.

“Add The Teen Years Explained to the ‘must-read’ list,” said Karen Pittman, director of the Forum for Youth Investment. “In plain English, the book explains the science behind adolescent development and challenges and empowers adults to invest more attention and more time to young people.”

The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development will be available for purchase on April 10 through Amazon.com. Electronic copies will also be available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website at http://www.jhsph.edu/adolescenthealth. Discount rates for bulk purchase and non-profits are available.

The Center for Adolescent Health is a Prevention Research Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is committed to assisting urban youth in becoming healthy and productive adults. Together with community partners, the Center conducts research to identify the needs and strengths of young people, and evaluates and assists programs to promote their health and well-being. The Center’s mission is to work in partnership with youth, people who work with youth, public policymakers and program administrators to help urban adolescents develop healthy adult lifestyles.

Tim Parsons
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health  


The Importance Of Good Influences

Why control isn’t what we really need at all.


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