Posts Tagged ‘ adolescents ’

Moving Tough on Adolescents’ Mental Health, Study Finds

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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

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Screen Time at Mealtime May Be Bad for Families

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Teenagers who watch television or use electronic devices during family meals are more likely to experience problems ranging from poorer nutrition to impaired family communication, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  More from Reuters:

Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.

“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email.

Fulkerson is the director of the Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis.

“Parents who are having family meals with media could choose to make some rules excluding media at mealtimes to spend more quality time with their children,” she said.

Fulkerson and her colleagues asked more than 1,800 parents how often their adolescent children watched TV, talked on the phone, texted, played games or listened to music with headphones during family meals.

They also asked parents if they set rules on media use at mealtime and whether they felt family meals were important. Children answered questions about how well their families communicated, including how often they talked about problems with their parents.

Two thirds of parents reported that their teens watched TV or movies during family meals at least some of the time. One quarter said the TV was on frequently.

Texting, talking on the phone, listening to music with headphones and using handheld games were less common. Between 18 and 28 percent of parents reported those activities happened at mealtime, according to findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Close to three quarters of parents said they set limits on mealtime media use.

Image: Family on cell phones at the dinner table, via Shutterstock

Try our 12-week plan that helps everyone in your home develop a healthy lifestyle.

Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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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

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To Limit Kids’ TV Time, Parents Should Control Their Own

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Parents who are concerned that their children watch too much television often try different approaches to solve the problem, from removing televisions from bedrooms and living areas to setting strict time limits on viewing.  But the best predictor of whether kids will have healthy TV viewing habits, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, is whether parents have good habits themselves.  More from Time.com:

According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, what’s most important in children’s viewing habits is how much TV (or DVDs or online entertainment) parents watch. The researchers interviewed 1550 parents with children 17 or younger about both their own and their children’s screen time, and when possible, they also asked the adolescents about how much television they watched.

The amount of TV the parents watched predicted the kids’ screen time, and this association was even stronger than that linked to parental restrictions on TV viewing, where the TVs were placed in the home, or how much television parents and children watched together.

On average, parents spent about four hours a day in front of a screen, and those who watched more media had kids who watched more. In fact, every hour that parents viewed TV was linked to nearly an additional half hour of screen time for their kids. There were some differences according to age, however. Restrictions on viewing had some effect for kids aged six to 11, and adolescents reported watching an hour more a day than their parents estimated.

For over a decade, pediatricians have been recommending less screen time for kids (a maximum of 2 hours a day for non-educational TV) because heavy viewing is linked to obesity, inactivity, poor sleep, and poor academic achievement. “Lots of parents are concerned about how much TV their kids watch,” says Amy Bleakley, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania. “We wanted to raise awareness of how their own media habits may be affecting that of their kids.”

Image: Child watching TV, via Shutterstock

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