Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
A decade-long education program aimed at teaching children self-regulation and other healthy cognitive techniques is showing results in reducing aggressive behavior when the schoolchildren become adults, according to new research published in the journal Psychological Science. More from the journal:
The research, led by psychological scientist Justin Carré of Nipissing University in Ontario, Canada, indicates that dampened testosterone levels in response to social threats may account for the intervention’s success in reducing aggression.
The Fast Track intervention program teaches children social cognitive skills, such as emotional regulation and social problem solving, and previous research suggests that the program may lead to decreased antisocial behavior and aggression in childhood and adolescence.
But it wasn’t clear whether the skills that children learned in the program would have impacts that carried over into adulthood.
Carré and colleagues suspected that the program would have long-term effects, and that those effects would be linked to a specific biological mechanism: alterations in testosterone reactivity to social provocation.
To test these hypotheses, the researchers recruited 63 participants from Fast Track schools in Durham, North Carolina. To ensure the participants in the sample were similar demographically, all of the participants were African American men who were about 26 years old.
Half of those participants were involved in the Fast Track program from ages 5 to 17, consisting of tutoring, peer coaching, home and family visits, and social-emotional learning lessons with friends. The rest of the participants attended the same schools but weren’t involved in the Fast Track program.
More than 8 years after the intervention ended, the researchers brought the participants into the lab to play a game, the goal of which was to earn as much money as possible by pressing three buttons: one which accrued money, one which prevented money from being stolen, and another which stole money from an opponent. The participants believed they were playing against an actual opponent, but the game was actually determined by a computer program. The fictitious opponent provoked participants during the task by stealing their hard-earned money.
Overall, participants who completed the Fast Track program showed less aggression toward their opponent – that is, they opted to steal less money from their opponent than did participants who didn’t complete Fast Track.
Participants who hadn’t received the intervention showed an increase in testosterone levels after having their money stolen, but Fast Track participants didn’t, a finding that could explain their reduced aggression.
“Interestingly, there were no differences between intervention and control groups in baseline testosterone concentrations or aggressive behavior at the beginning of the experiment,” Carré explains. “Differences in aggressive behavior and testosterone concentrations emerged only later in the game.”
Ultimately, the findings suggest that Fast Track was successful in reducing participants’ aggression toward a hostile peer in part because it changed the way their neuroendocrine systems responded to social provocation.
Image: Angry boy, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
As exasperating as parenting teenagers can be, new research is showing that yelling or shouting at them, or threatening them verbally, can have a negative impact on the teens’ overall mental health. More from Reuters:
“The take home point is that the verbal behaviors matter,” Annette Mahoney, who worked on the study, said. She’s a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“It can be easy to overlook that, but our study shows that the verbal hostility is really relevant, particularly for mothers who scream and hit, and for fathers who do either one,” Mahoney told Reuters Health.
All of the kids in her study had been referred to a community clinic due to mental health or behavioral problems.
Their mothers had to be both verbally and physically abusive to increase the kids’ risk for depression and behavior issues. But either kind of behavior alone from a father was sufficient to produce lasting ill effects.
The researchers realize that parents can be trapped in a vicious cycle.
Verbal abuse “has a cyclical nature to it,” said Mahoney. Kids with behavioral or mental health problems can be tough to handle, she said.
Image: Parent and teenager arguing, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
During an appearance on the OWN Networks’ “Where Are They Now?” program, former reality star Jon Gosselin shared that his eight children have faced “developmental issues” throughout their young lives. Kate Gosselin, Jon’s ex-wife and former co-star of their hit show “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” is fighting back in online statements, claiming that her ex-husband’s claims have no merit. More from Today.com:
On the OWN show that aired Sunday, Jon, when talking about how being featured “Jon & Kate” impacted his family, said, “I saw my kids not growing up normally. … Developmentally, they have problems with their peers … with wants and needs, and manners and morals and what’s right and what’s wrong, of course. I think more so than someone who grows up off TV.”
Kate countered his claim in her blog post, writing, “Each and every one of our children has met and continues to exceed all physical, mental and emotional developmental milestones throughout their lives. Their normal development is regularly monitored by myself, their pediatrician and school staff, as is usual with any family.”
As for adding fuel to this most recent fire, Kate explained that she’s speaking out against her ex, who is working as a waiter, because, “I want to be able to point them to this statement so that they know that I publicly set the record 100 percent straight on this one, for their sake.”
But Kate has admitted to TODAY in the past that two of her children have had anger issues. “They were acting out, having behavior things,” she said in 2010, a year after her divorce from Jon.
The mom of eight is currently involved in a lawsuit against her ex, claiming that he hacked her phone and computer to gain access to information for an author who was writing a tell-all book about her.
Image: Kate Gosselin, via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
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Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Significantly more girls than boys have committed an act of physical violence when dating, according to a longitudinal study presented this week at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting. More from NBC News:
For her study, Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal study among 625 students starting in grades 5, 6, and 7, and followed them over a period of four years. Researchers interviewed the students at intervals over that time.
The study looked at a spectrum of behaviors, ranging from name calling and expressing anger, spreading rumors, and using controlling behaviors such as keeping track of dating partners, to physical violence such as slapping, hitting and biting, and sexual violence including forced kissing. Taken as a whole, one in three reported being the victim of at least one of the behaviors on that spectrum.
While most of us may not rank name-calling, or bad-mouthing another to their friends as “violence,” the researchers say they included the psychological and relationship tactics because they can have a profound impact.
“We see in other research that the psychological stuff has just as much of a negative impact on health outcomes as the physical and sexual” violence, said Carlos Cuevas, associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, who is also presenting a study on youth dating violence at meeting.
Image: Teen couple arguing, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Teenagers almost universally wrestle with angst, moodiness, and anger, but a new study has found that as many as 1 in 12 American adolescents may suffer from an anger disorder called intermittent explosive disorder (IED). From CNN.com:
Study author Katie McLaughlin, a clinical psychologist and psychiatric epidemiologist, says IED is one of the most widespread mental health disorders – and one of the least studied.
“There’s a contrast between how common the disorder is and how much we know about it,” she said.
IED is characterized by recurrent episodes of aggression that involve violence, a threat of violence and/or destruction of property, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It often begins around the age of 12, but scientists don’t know whether it continues into adulthood. (A similar study which focused on adults found 7.2% met the criteria for IED).
“Intermittent explosive disorder is as real or unreal as many psychiatric disorders,” wrote CNN’s mental health expert Dr. Charles Raison in an e-mail. “There are people who get really pissed off really quick and then regret it, just as there are people who get unreasonably sad and depressed. In both cases, but especially with [IED], it’s really just a description of how people behave.”
In this large study, researchers authors interviewed 6,483 adolescents and surveyed their parents. They excluded anyone who had another mental health disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder(ODD) or conduct disorder (CD).
Of the teenage participants, 7.8% reported at least three IED anger attacks during their life. More than 5% had at least three attacks in the same year.
Image: Angry teenager, via Shutterstock
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