Your Home Environment CAN Increase a Child’s Intelligence

Girl studentDoes nature or nurture influence how smart a child will be? Although genetics does influence intelligence, new research also suggests that children who are nurtured  in the most ideal environments tend to have greater intelligence.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared the cognitive ability of 436 male sibling pairs in Sweden, one of which was brought up by biological parents and the other by adoptive parents. The IQ of each sibling was measured between the ages of 18 and 20, and each parent’s education level was also rated on a five-point scale (though the study did not distinguish intelligence between the parents).

Researchers found that the IQ of siblings raised by their biological, and typically less-educated, parents were 4.4 points lower than siblings who had been adopted into higher-educated and more financially-secure families.

“The adoptive parents tended to be more educated and in better socioeconomic circumstances than the biological parents,” reports PsychCentral. But when biological parents were more educated, the raised sibling actually had a higher IQ.

Biological and adoptive parents aside though, the home environment was actually the most important reason for smarter kids. Some likely reasons: educated parents are more inclined to have interactive discussions during meals, to take their children to museums, and to read aloud to their children.

However, there is evidence from past studies that may dispute these recent findings. In particular, a 2014 study analyzed parental behaviors and verbal intelligence found that IQ may not actually be the result of parental socialization. Despite this, Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., one of the study’s joint first authors said, “We’re not denying that cognitive ability has important genetic components, but it is a naïve idea to say that it is only genes.”

Determined to boost your child’s intelligence as much as possible? There is recent evidence that breastfeeding your child for at least 12 months could increase their IQ by as much as four points. And another new study affirms that making sure your child has enough schooling — and academic challenges — can also help develop smart kids.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Income's Impact on Education
Income's Impact on Education
Income's Impact on Education

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Is Your Son Getting Special Treatment With Smartphones and Video Games?

Boy with tabletParents choose different techniques based on gender when it comes to raising their child—but they might not always realize it.

Recent research revealed that parents lie more in front of boys and that girls are unintentionally discouraged from pursuing math and science. Now a new study has determined that a parent’s technology choices are also influenced by gender.

PlayScience gathered information for their Parents and Platform Perceptions survey about digital devices and a child’s usage. The survey focused on 501 parents with children between the ages of 2 and 9; parents were asked which devices they owned, which ones their child had access to, when and why their child used them, and their own attitude toward the devices.

The survey showed that parents preferred their children to use tablets—especially children’s tablets—far more than smartphones. Parents perceived tablets to be four times more educational that smartphones, and children’s tablets to be six times more educational than smartphones.

Interestingly, gender differences became most pronounced when it came to child-friendly technology and video game use. Thirty-percent of parents allowed girls to use devices based on how “child-friendly” they were considered, compared to only 17 percent of parents with boys. Parents were also more likely to allow boys to use the device of their choice.

As for video game and smartphone usage, parents were three times more likely to allow them for boys. According to BetaBoston, parents “were also slightly more likely to use technology to manage the behavior of boys, such as getting them to go to bed or calming them down when they’re upset.”

“Ironically, parents have distinct and very different perceptions about devices, even when they have almost identical content,” said J. Alison Bryant, MD, co-chief executive and chief play officer at PlayScience. “This study puts parents on notice to be more attentive to their attitudes and behaviors about their children’s media use.”

What do you think? Are you protective of your daughter‘s technology use? Or are you more likely to let your son choose his favorite device?

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Could Your Bad Habit Increase Your Kid’s Risk for Heart Disease?

Secondhand SmokeAlthough the amount of Americans who are exposed to secondhand smoke has decreased, numerous harmful effects still remain, and regular exposure to secondhand smoke affects children well into adulthood. In fact, new research found that children whose parents smoked are nearly twice as likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries as adults, leaving them at a much greater risk for heart disease and strokes.

Researchers evaluated children’s exposure to their parents’ smoke for three years by analyzing how much cotinine was found in their blood. The individuals were then revisited over a period of six more years to determine the levels of plaque accumulation in their carotid arteries. The study, which was published in the journal Circulation, concluded that adults who had been exposed to smoke during their childhood from one or two parents were 1.7 times as likely to have plaque buildup than adults whose parents didn’t smoke.

There was even a noticeable difference in plaque levels between adults who were and weren’t shielded from smoke. According to Health Day, “the risk was 1.6 times higher for those whose parents smoked but tried to limit the exposure, and was four times higher for those whose parents did not try to limit exposure.”

Also, new evidence by Durham University found that children can be affected by smoke even in the womb. Ultrasound scans showed that the fetuses of moms who smoked had a much higher rate of mouth movements than what was normally expected.

As a parent, the only way to ensure that your children will not suffer from the dangers of secondhand smoke is to simply not smoke. For parents trying to quit, reduce a child’s exposure by keeping a distance while smoking, and never smoke inside your home and car, says Costan Magnussen, a senior research fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania in Australia.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

When to Worry: Asthma
When to Worry: Asthma
When to Worry: Asthma

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Parents of Preemies Experience More Stress Years Later

Stressed motherParents of premature babies worry more about about their child’s development, and this can translate into long-term stress.

According to new research, parents of preterm children (born at least seven weeks early) felt greater stress when their kids began misbehaving later in life than parents of full-term children.

Researchers measured (pre-term and full-term) children’s behaviors and intelligence levels at 7-years-old, and used questionnaires to determine parents’ stress levels. “After accounting for child behavior problems, IQ, gender, and the parents’ coping styles, the study found that parents were more likely to be stressed if their child acted out,” reports Reuters. The stress was especially evident when parents of preemies didn’t discipline their kids, especially if they were girls.

A difference in coping methods was also found — while preterm parents tended to use avoidance, parents of full-term children were more likely to use constructive-problem solving methods. Not surprisingly, the study pointed out that parents who were given support to deal with parenting challenges were less likely be overwhelmed.

The authors did note their uncertainty about whether a child behavior issues caused the stress, or if it was a result of bad behavior. Also according to Reuters, “mothers of children who act out already have higher stress levels and may play and interact with their children less than mothers whose kids behave…Having a preemie with medical complications may just make those interactions worse.”

Mark Linden, the study’s first author, suggests support groups, telephone help lines, or regular visits to the family general practitioner as resources to help parents find the best way to cope. Whatever the cause of parental stress may be, one thing’s for certain: it will likely have a negative effect on children unless addressed right away.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies

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IVF Connected to a Higher Risk for Autism

IVFThere have been a few recent studies about autism, and the latest study has found an association between children conceived via infertility treatments, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), and autism.

The report, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, followed nearly 6 million children, including 48,865 conceived through assisted reproduction and 32,922 with autism.

Researchers noticed that children were twice as likely to have autism if they were conceived through IVF, especially by women under 35. However, the risk of autism was significantly decreased when only a single embryo was transferred during IVF.

“Knowing that one can largely reduce the risk of autism by restricting the procedure to single-egg transfer is important for women who can then make better informed decisions,” said Peter Bearman, a professor of social sciences of Columbia University.

It’s important to note that the study did not conclude a direct cause-and-effect link, but an association—so the potential link could still be the result of other factors, including a mom’s birth age and multiple births, rather than the infertility procedure itself.

“There is an association between IVF and autism, but when we control for the characteristics of women who are more likely to use IVF, for example, age and social status, this association is lessened significantly,” said Dr. Bearman.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes
Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes
Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes

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