Moving Tough on Adolescents’ Mental Health, Study Finds

New research has found that moving to a new home can be mentally stressful, especially for adolescents.  Reuters has more on the study, which compared military with civilian families who were moving:

To see whether these kids nonetheless show signs of difficulty with moving, the researchers looked at medical records for 6- to 17-year-old children of active duty members from the Military Health System Medical Data Repository between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2009.

Altogether, the records for 548,336 children were included in the analysis, and nearly 180,000 – about 25 percent – had moved to a new city or town at least once during the past year.

Researchers divided the children into two groups by age: 6 to 11 years old and 12 to 17. They looked at whether each child had had at least one healthcare visit – outpatient, emergency room or hospitalization – with a mental health diagnosis during fiscal year 2009.

The study team also collected additional data from the records about the children and parents, including psychiatric history, service branch, military rank, gender, race and age.

Finally, they calculated the odds of a child having a visit for mental health diagnoses including anxiety, self-injury, adjustment, developmental, personality and mood disorders.

The study found that compared to peers who had not moved, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had moved over the past year had 20 percent higher odds of visiting the emergency room for a psychiatric issue, along with 4 percent higher odds of an office visit and 19 percent greater odds of a psychiatric hospitalization. Children between the ages of six and 11 had about 3 percent higher odds of having an office visit for mental health reasons.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that adolescents in particular – even more than younger people – have a difficult time making adjustments,” said Christopher Bellonci, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

“The job of adolescents is to find a peer group and an identity outside of the home, and that is harder when your peer group and school are disrupted by a move when they should provide support and strength,” he told Reuters Health.

For families with an upcoming move, preparing kids and teens is key, said Bellonci, who was not involved in the study.

“Change is stressful, and parents should talk with their kids about the transition coming up,” Bellonci said.

If possible, parents should help kids brainstorm ways to make the new space -such as their bedroom – their own. Getting a chance to meet future teachers and peers can also help smooth the transition to a new city. For parents and kids alike, it’s all about fostering a new support system of friends and peers.

Image: Moving truck, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Scientists Discover Protein that Links Sperm to Egg

The protein mechanism that allows a sperm and egg to connect to each other and fertilize to become an embryo has been identified by British scientists.  More from Reuters:

Fertilization takes place when an egg cell and a sperm cell recognize one another and fuse to form an embryo. But how they recognize each other in order to hook up had remained a mystery.

Researchers said on Wednesday they have identified a protein on the egg cell’s surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of a sperm cell, allowing the two cells to join.

This protein, dubbed Juno in honor of the ancient Roman goddess of fertility and marriage, and its counterpart in sperm, named Izumo after a Japanese marriage shrine, are essential for reproduction in mammals including people, they said.

This new understanding of the role of these two proteins could help improve the treatment of infertility and guide the development of new contraceptives, the researchers said.

“By identifying this interaction between Juno and Izumo, we now know the identity of the receptor proteins found on the surface of our father’s sperm and our mother’s egg that must interact at the moment at which we were conceived,” said Gavin Wright of the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, one of the researchers in the study published in the journal Nature.

The researchers are now screening infertile women to try to determine whether problems with the Juno receptor are to blame.

“It is remarkable that about 20 percent of infertility cases have an unexplained cause,” said Enrica Bianchi of the Sanger Institute, another of the researchers.

“We are now asking whether Juno is involved in these cases of unexplained infertility,” Bianchi added.

Wright said that if defects in the Juno receptor are in fact implicated in human infertility, a simple, non-invasive genetic screening test could be developed to identify affected women.

“This then would allow us to guide the fertility treatment,” Wright said, letting affected women proceed directly to a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection involving direct injection of sperm into an egg obtained from in vitro fertilization.

Image: Sperm and egg, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Missing Boy Found Safe in Toy Prize Machine

A 3-year-old Nebraska boy who snuck out of his home while his mother was in the bathroom was found safe at a nearby bowling alley, though he was certainly in an unexpected location.  More from Newser:

An astonished customer notified employees after spotting the boy in the machine. “I really don’t think he noticed any of us outside the machine because he was just picking up stuffed animals and putting them down where they come out of,” the establishment’s bartender tells KLKN.

The machine’s owner was called and he opened the machine so the uninjured boy could get out. He says the boy must have gotten in through the machine’s prize hole. “You have to weave your way in and out so he had to work pretty hard to get in there,” he explains. “I had heard about this happening in other parts of the country, it’s kind of a rarity.”

The boy was returned home with a stuffed animal from the machine as a souvenir, and police say his mother will not be charged because she was quick to report her son missing, reports the New York Daily News.

Image: Toy claw machine, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Fussy Babies May Get More Screen Time Than Calmer Peers

Despite repeated recommendations that parents avoid screen time for babies under age 2, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that fussy babies tend to have more time in front of television and other media than their less fussy peers.  More from CNN:

“We found that babies and toddlers whose mothers rated them as having self-regulation problems – meaning, problems with calming down, soothing themselves, settling down to sleep, or waiting for food or toys – watched more TV and videos when they were age 2,” said study author Dr. Jenny Radskey, who works in the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center.

“Infants with self-regulation problems watched, on average, about 9 minutes more media per day than other infants. This may seem small, but screen-time habits are established in these early years.”

“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics because they say “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

Radskey says the infants and toddlers who had the fussiest behavior were 40% more likely to exceed those  AAP guidelines. This study also found that 42% of 2 years-olds exceeded those guidelines.

What’s not clear, according to Radskey, is whether they watched more TV because they were fussy and their parents put them in front of the TV as a distraction, or if the heavy TV use contributed to their self-regulation problems. But Radskey says one thing is clear: “Several studies show that too much screen time before age 2 or 3 is associated with language and learning delays, ADHD, and difficulties in school – probably because the screen time replaced early learning activities. And also probably because early media habits predict later media habits.”

Image: Crying baby, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Babies Only Prefer Social Fairness If It Benefits Them

Babies are drawn to adults who distribute desired items fairly and equally–as long as they perceive that the “fairness” will benefit them.  These are the findings of a new study that examined how babies choose playmates based on whether the playmates share toys equally, or unequally based on race.  More from the University of Washington:

The findings, published in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology, show that 15-month-old babies value a person’s fairness – whether or not an experimenter equally distributes toys – unless babies see that the experimenter unevenly distributed toys in a way that benefits a person of the same race as the infant.

“It’s surprising to see these pro-social traits of valuing fairness so early on, but at the same time, we’re also seeing that babies have self-motivated concerns too,” Sommerville said.

Forty white 15-month-old babies sat on their parents’ laps while watching two white experimenters divide toys between recipients. One experimenter divided the toys equally, and the other experimenter divided the toys unequally….

Later, when the babies had a chance to choose who to play with, 70 percent of the time infants preferred the experimenter who distributed the toys fairly. This suggests that when individuals are the same race as the infant, babies favor fair over unfair individuals as playmates….

Next, Sommerville and her team asked a more complex question. What would happen when individuals who were of the same race as the infant actually stood to benefit from inequity?

In a second experiment, 80 white 15-month-old infants saw a fair and an unfair experimenter distribute toys to a white and to an Asian recipient. Half the babies saw the unfair experimenter give more to the Asian recipient; and the other half of babies saw the experimenter give more to the white recipient.

When it came time to decide a playmate, infants seemed more tolerant of unfairness when the white recipient benefited from it. They picked the fair experimenter less often when the unfair experimenter gave more toys to the white recipient versus the Asian recipient.

“If all babies care about is fairness, then they would always pick the fair distributor, but we’re also seeing that they’re interested in consequences for their own group members,” Sommerville said.

The findings imply that infants can take into account both race and social history (how a person treats someone else) when deciding which person would make a better playmate.

“Babies are sensitive to how people of the same ethnicity as the infant, versus a different ethnicity, are treated – they weren’t just interested in who was being fair or unfair,” said Monica Burns, co-author of the study and a former UW psychology undergraduate student. She’s now a psychology graduate student at Harvard University.

Image: Infants playing, via Shutterstock

Use our Baby Milestone Tracker to see if your Baby is developing on track.

Playing With Baby: Baby Toys
Playing With Baby: Baby Toys
Playing With Baby: Baby Toys

Add a Comment