Posts Tagged ‘ adolescence ’

Doctors Barely Talk to Adolescents About Sex, Study Finds

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

A new report published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found that most pediatricians spend an average of only 36 seconds talking with adolescent patients about sex and sexuality. This finding is discouraging in light of recommendations that doctors cultivate relationships with teens that encourages them to feel comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics including sex. More from CNN.com:

About one-third of adolescent patient-doctor interactions result in no talk at all about sexuality – which includes things like sexual activity, dating and sexual orientation.

“A lot of these are one-way conversations,” said Stewart C. Alexander, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of the study. “The adolescent barely talks or responds (when issues of sexuality are raised).

“Doctors just lob it up there and when there isn’t participation, they stop going there.”

About 30% of the time, the conversations lasted between one and 35 seconds (out of an average 22-minute appointment), while 35% of conversations went a bit longer, according to the study.  On the high end of the spectrum, the sex-talk lasted just under two minutes – hardly enough time to delve deeply into a topic.

Researchers listened to audio recordings of annual doctors’ visits with 12 to 17 year olds (with their parents’ consent) in the North Carolina area from 2009-2012; study participants included 253 adolescents and 49 physicians.

They analyzed the conversations according things like how often sexuality was raised, how engaged the adolescent was during those conversations, and who brought up issues of sexuality.

Questions ranged from “Are you having sex?” and “How many partners do you have?” to more innocuous-seeming fare, like “Are you dating?”  Not surprisingly, the usual response from the adolescents tended toward one-word answers.

What should be happening, according to organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, is for children and adolescents to “discuss potentially embarrassing experiences, or reveal highly personal information to their pediatricians,” according to a policy statement on the AAP website.

Image: Teen at doctor’s appointment, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Puberty Coming Earlier for U.S. Girls

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

A new study has confirmed what many have observed–that American girls are hitting puberty and younger and younger ages.  Reuters has more on new research that attributes the drop in the puberty age to a rise in childhood obesity, among other factors:

Researchers found African American girls started getting breasts just before they turned nine, on average. Among white girls the average age was about nine and a half – a few months earlier than in the 1990s.

The findings “confirm an ongoing downward trend in pubertal timing among U.S. girls,” said Dr. Anders Juul.

“It’s been worrying for the U.S. as well as the rest of the world,” Juul said. He heads the Department of Growth and Reproduction at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, and wasn’t involved in the new report.

The data come from a long-term study of more than 1,200 girls in and around San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York City. Girls were enrolled in the study between ages six and eight and followed with annual or semi-annual visits.

At each visit, staff assessed breast development using Tanner stages, which measure how far along a young person is in puberty.

African American girls first showed signs of breast development at eight years, 10 months, on average. That compared to nine years, four months among Hispanic girls and nine years, eight months among white and Asian girls.

For white girls, puberty hit about four months earlier than in a 1997 study that also measured breast development. That study concluded girls were entering puberty earlier than in the past.

Heavier girls tended to start developing at younger ages. Rising obesity rates seem to be a “prime driver” behind breast development starting earlier, Dr. Frank Biro and his colleagues wrote Monday in Pediatrics.

Still, Juul’s own work has suggested obesity isn’t behind earlier breast development among Danish girls.

Researchers said how much exercise girls get, diabetes precursors and chemicals in the environment that can mimic hormones may all play a role in pushing up the onset of puberty.

“One of our challenges is going to be, there are literally hundreds of chemicals that could be candidates,” Biro said. He works in the adolescent medicine division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Where girls live, meat and dairy in their diets and family stress have also been tied to earlier development, Marcia Herman-Giddens wrote in a commentary on the report. She studies maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study didn’t look at when girls started getting their periods, or at other measures of puberty.

The researchers said maturing at a younger age could come with long-term risks for some girls.

For instance, those who hit puberty earlier could be at higher risk of breast and other cancers because their bodies spend more years making and being exposed to estrogen.

They also tend to start having sex or using drugs and alcohol at younger ages and are more likely to become depressed or develop low self-esteem.

“You’ve got a 10-year-old who looks like a 14-year-old. We interact with kids based on the way that they look,” Biro said. “Kids interact with each other that way also.”

Is your child bound to be a doctor or a fashion designer? Take this quick quiz and find out. Plus, do you know which sick kid symptoms you should never ignore?

Image: Girl with acne, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Empathy Skills Continue to Develop in Adolescence

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Even though parents teach children to consider others’ feelings and be kind starting in toddlerhood, the most important cognitive skills associated with empathy are still developing well into adolescence–later for boys than girls, according to a new six-year study published in the journal Developmental Psychology.  More from The Wall Street Journal:

In adolescence, critical social skills that are needed to feel concern for other people and understand how they think are undergoing major changes. Adolescence has long been known as prime time for developing cognitive skills for self-control, or executive function.

“Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict.

Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings, according to the study, co-authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the boys’ sensitivity recovers in the late teens. Girls’ affective empathy remains relatively high and stable through adolescence.

The riptides are often noticeable to parents. Susan Burkinshaw has tried to cultivate empathy in her two teenage sons, 16 and 18, since they were toddlers, encouraging them to think about others’ feelings. Yet one “went through a period in eighth grade where he was just a bear to deal with. He always had an attitude,” says Ms. Burkinshaw, of Germantown, Md. “Then as quickly as it came on, it turned back off again.”

The findings reflect a major expansion in researchers’ understanding of cognitive growth during adolescence, according to a 2012 research review co-authored by Ronald Dahl, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley. Researchers used to believe that both forms of empathy were fully formed during childhood.

Now, it’s clear that “the brain regions that support social cognition, which helps us understand and interact with others successfully, continue to change dramatically” in the teens, says Jennifer Pfeifer, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Preliminary research in her lab also suggests cognitive empathy rises in teens. The discoveries serve as a new lens for exploring such teen behaviors as bullying and drug abuse.

Image: Teen friends, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Dermatologists Adopt Treatment Guidelines for Childhood Acne

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Children as young as seven years old are receiving more frequent diagnoses of acne, recent research on which has prompted a group of pediatric dermatologists to establish a new set of treatment guidelines to help these young patients.  The new guidelines were presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s summer meeting, and they call for aggressive and early treatment to minimize the physical and emotional scarring that can be associated with acne, especially when it comes on at an early age.  More from NBC News:

Doctors believe it’s likely linked to earlier onset puberty, which causes hormones called adrenal androgens to start increasing, triggering pimples to erupt sooner on these young faces.

Dr. Andrea Zaenglein, a co-author of the new treatment recommendations, estimates that she now sees around 10 or 15 new cases of pediatric acne every month.

“The principals of therapy for adolescent acne and pre-adolescent acne are exactly the same,” says Zaenglein, who this week presented the information at the American Academy of Dermatology’s summer meeting. “You want to treat it as aggressively as you need to, to get it under control.”

Most of these younger children have mild acne – mostly a spattering of whiteheads and blackheads, called comedones, on the forehead, nose and chin. In these cases, the recommended treatment is an over-the-counter product containing benzoyl peroxide; if that doesn’t work, a combination therapy involving benzoyl peroxide, an antiobiotic and/or a retinoid may be prescribed.

There’s a glimmer of an upside here: In cases of kids with acne, the parents are more likely to be more heavily involved, making sure their child sticks to the treatment prescribed by their dermatologist. But Zaenglein points out that while parents of teenagers know to watch out for skin problems, it may not occur to parents of younger children that this is a problem that may require professional care.

Image: Girl covering her face, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

No Football Tackles Before Age 14, Neurosurgeon Says

Monday, October 1st, 2012

A new book written by a neurosurgeon advises that tackling in football and heading in soccer should not be allowed until children are 14 years old and are showing signs of reaching puberty.  The reason for the recommendation is that those practices are believed to cause concussions that can lead to developmental, learning, and other health problems as children grow.  From CNN.com:

“If kids don’t have axillary (underarm) or pubic hair, they aren’t ready to play,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts and author of a new book, “Concussion and Our Kids.”

“And I have absolutely no problem with parents who want to hold a child out for longer, say 16 or 18.”

No tackling? No body checking before 14?

Heading a soccer ball before 14 in soccer might be sacrificed — if studies eventually bear out the debatable link to concussion — but tackling and body checking essentially define football and hockey.

In Cantu’s words, “These are sports in which smashing into your opponent isn’t just a possibility — it’s the object of the game.”

And there is some substance behind the argument for waiting until 14, says Cantu, not the least of which is protecting young, developing brains. At 14, he says, several things enhance the body’s ability to protect against head trauma.

Before 14, there is a size disparity between the head and the body, causing what concussion experts call a “bobble-head” effect — the head snaps back dramatically after it is hit.

“Our youngsters have big heads on very weak necks and that combination sets up the brain for greater injury,” said Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine.

However, around age 14, a child’s skull is about 90% the size of an adult’s, and the neck and body are strong enough to steel the head against the force of a blow, according to Cantu. The more developed the neck muscles, the less dramatically the head (and thus the brain) is rocked after a tackle or a body check.

Image: Child with football, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment