Archive for the ‘ Parenting News ’ Category

Growth Hormone Linked with Depression in Kids

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Children who are short but otherwise healthy, and who are treated with growth hormone (GH) do in fact become taller, but they also are at increased risk of suffering from depression as they grow older, according to new research presented to the a joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society.  The findings compared kids who received GH treatment to kids who were of similar height and age but did not receive treatment.  Kids who received treatment had more psychological and psychosocial issues than those who did not–although the researchers urged more research on whether it’s the treatment itself or the culture around receiving treatment that had the greatest impact on mental health.  More from ScienceDaily:

“Daily injections, frequent clinic visits and repeated discussions about height might exacerbate instead of improve psychosocial concerns in children with idiopathic short stature (ISS) who are otherwise healthy, and give them no cognitive improvements,” said lead author Emily C. Walvoord, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

While the link between using GH to increase height and improved psychological adaptation is being debated, early data suggest that the subtle cognitive problems seen in adults with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) might also occur in children with GHD and might improve with treatment.

Dr. Walvoord and her colleagues evaluated the cognitive and behavioral status of children with GHD and ISS after they received either GH therapy or observation alone, and their preliminary results presented here challenge the idea that improvements in height also result in improvements in psychological functioning. Their findings also raise the concern that GH treatment of these otherwise healthy children might even worsen their emotional symptoms.

Image: Short child, via Shutterstock

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Some Fortified Cereals May Pose Health Risk to Kids

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Some breakfast cereals that are overly fortified with nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, and niacin may actually pose health risks to children because the foods are fortified to provide an adult’s recommended intake of those nutrients.  These are the findings of a report by the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy organization that says millions of American children are eating overly fortified cereals every day.  Part of the problem, the group says, is that nutrition labels are not age-specific–and higher nutrient levels on cereal packages may actually sway parents’ purchasing decisions because they think the products are healthier for their kids.

More from USA Today:

Only “a tiny, tiny percentage” of cereal packages carry nutrition labels that list age-specific daily values, Sharp says. “That’s misleading to parents and is contributing to the problem.”

The daily values for most vitamins and minerals that appear on nutrition facts labels were set by the FDA in 1968 and haven’t updated, she says, making them “wildly out-of-sync” with currently recommended levels deemed safe by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

Getting adequate amounts of all three nutrients is needed to maintain health and prevent disease, but the report says that routinely ingesting too much vitamin A can, over time, lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal abnormalities. . High zinc intakes can impair copper absorption and negatively affect red and white blood cells and immune function, and consuming too much niacin can cause short-term symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting, the report says.

Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids

Image: Cereal bowl with milk, via Shutterstock

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Parents of an Autistic Child Often Decide Not to Have More Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

A new study conducted by University of California researchers has found that parents who have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often choose not to have more children, citing the energy, expense, and complicated logistics required to care for an autistic child.  More from HealthDay News:

In the study, a team led by Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at nearly 20,000 families in California. All of the families included a child with autism born between 1990 and 2003.

These families were compared to a “control” group of more than 36,000 families that did not have a child with autism.

Parents whose first child had autism were about one-third less likely to have a second child than parents in the control group, the study found, while parents who had a later-born child with autism were equally less likely to have more children.

The researchers also found that parents of children with autism were likely to continue having other children until the child with autism began showing signs of or was diagnosed with the disorder. This suggests that not having more children is a decision made by parents, rather than a reproductive problem, the study authors said.

According to Risch’s team, in calculating the risk to families of having a second child with autism, most prior studies on the issue have ignored the fact that many families with an autistic child may have already made the decision to stop reproducing. That means the real risk of having a second child with autism may be higher than has been generally thought, they noted.

So, in the new study, Risch’s team accounted for the decision by some couples to stop having kids after they had already had a child with autism. When that factor was taken into account, there was about a one in 10 chance that the parents of child with autism who did decide to have more children would have a second child with autism, the investigators found.

The study was published June 18 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“While it has been postulated that parents who have a child with [autism] may be reluctant to have more children, this is first time that anyone has analyzed the question with hard numbers,” Risch, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said in a university news release.

He believes that the “findings have important implications for genetic counseling of affected families.”

Study co-author Lisa Croen, an epidemiologist and director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, noted, “unfortunately, we still don’t know what causes autism, or which specific conditions make it more likely.”

And, she added, “We are hoping that further research will enable us to identify both effective treatment strategies and, ultimately, modifiable causes of the disorder, so parents won’t have to curtail their families for fear of having another affected child.”

Image: Boy at a playground, via Shutterstock

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Pediatricians Urged to Promote Listening to Combat Toxic Stress

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

A meeting of a sub-group of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that studies childhood resilience and the effects of toxic stress heard from a number of experts who all urged doctors to practice versions of the same advice–make understanding of the parent-child relationship a priority, and do that by modeling and teaching parents good listening skills.  Too many doctors, the group heard, work with stressed out kids (on a rushed timetable, at that) without offering holistic support for the families, which includes understanding the mechanisms of how stress affects parents as well.

Toxic stress is chronic, unrelenting stress that can have serious and ongoing health effects on kids (and parents).  More on the AAP’s prescribed “two generation approach” to helping families cope from The Boston Globe:

People need to feel safe to be able talk about what is important.  This includes both the clinician and the parent. When the pediatrician feels stressed by a waiting room full of patients that the current system of care demands he must see, he is not able to be present with a parent in the way that careful listening requires.

It  is like a set of Russian dolls. The society values the clinician’s time, offering the opportunity to listen to the parent, who listens to the child. And as many at the symposium recognized, it is not just pediatricians, but also child care workers, teachers, home visitors and others who have the opportunity to support stressed parents. All policy needs to be focused on protecting space and time to listen. Listening is not high tech. But it is this space and time, where parents feel safe and valued, that we have the opportunity to grow healthy brains and minds….

….when parents, who may be stressed and overwhelmed, feel heard, recognized and understood, they are better able to do the same for their child. When  parents listen to their child, are fully present with their child, they offer the opportunity build resilience and the capacity to manage adversity. It is not about giving information, or even about teaching skills. It is about supporting parents’ efforts to connect with their most competent self.

Image: Stressed-out mother, via Shutterstock

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Violence at Home Can Cause Kids Future Health Problems

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Children who witness violence at home, including a parent’s incarceration, physical abuse, or violent death may develop a genetic “marker” that puts them at higher risk of developing a range of health problems later in life.  Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes may be more likely to develop, along with psychological issues like depression and anxiety, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.  More from The Wall Street Journal:

The study’s lead author, Tulane professor Stacy Drury, took a closer look at a genetic marker that’s been linked with negative health outcomes later in life: the length of a person’s telomeres.

Telomeres are DNA elements that cap the ends of chromosomes, and they become shorter when cells divide and age. But shorter telomere lengths have also been associated with stress-related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The study surveyed and tested the DNA of 80 kids between the ages of 5 and 15 in New Orleans; those who had experienced more family-related violence at home were found to have shorter telomeres.

“The more adverse childhood events you have when you’re little, the greater the risk of pretty much any health condition when you get older,” Drury said in an interview. “That’s a biological type of scar that happens when you’re a kid.”

The new research adds to a growing body of information about the physical as well as emotional effects of violence on children–although at least one study has found that today’s kids are exposed to less violent crime than they were a decade ago.

Image: Sad boy, via Shutterstock

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