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Thursday, October 4th, 2012
The number of children born in the U.S. declined in 2011 for the 4th year in a row, though last year’s drop was only 1 percent over 2010′s birth rate, a government research organization is reporting. From The Associated Press:
The decline in 2011 was just 1 percent — not as sharp a fall-off as the 2 to 3 percent drop seen in other recent years.
“It may be that the effect of the recession is slowly coming to an end,” said Carl Haub, a senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
Most striking in the new report were steep declines in Hispanic birth rates and a new low in teen births. Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the flagging economy, experts say, and teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years.
Falling births is a relatively new phenomenon in this country. Births had been on the rise since the late 1990s and hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007.
But fewer than 4 million births were counted last year — the lowest number since 1998.
Image: Mother and baby, via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Newborns and infants do their first learning by gazing into the eyes of their parents and caregivers. But when it’s time for them to learn to speak, they begin to “read lips,” a new study published by Florida Atlantic University researchers has found.
The Associated Press reports on how developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz performed their study:
He and doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift tested nearly 180 babies, groups of them at ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.
How? They showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to babies of English speakers. A gadget mounted on a soft headband tracked where each baby was focusing his or her gaze and for how long.
They found a dramatic shift in attention: When the speaker used English, the 4-month-olds gazed mostly into her eyes. The 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth.
At 12 months, attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes.
It makes sense that at 6 months, babies begin observing lip movement, Lewkowicz says, because that’s about the time babies’ brains gain the ability to control their attention rather than automatically look toward noise.
But what happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.
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That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies’ brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That’s one reason it’s easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.
Image: Happy baby girl, via Shutterstock
Monday, October 31st, 2011
Around the world, babies born Monday are being noted as symbolically bringing the world human population up to 7 billion people. The United Nations is marking the event with celebrations and festivities around the world, as part of the U.N.’s 7 Billion Actions initiative.
The program is meant to encourage action and communication around issues of population growth, international understanding, and environmental sustainability. “A world of seven billion has implications for sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment – however, it also offers a rare call-to-action opportunity to renew global commitment for a healthy and sustainable world,” the U.N. website says.
The Associated Press reports on the demographics of the 7-billion milestone:
Demographers say it took until 1804 for the world to reach its first billion people, and a century more until it hit 2 billion in 1927. The twentieth century, though, saw things begin to cascade: 3 billion in 1959; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1998.
The U.N. estimates the world’s population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could vary widely, depending on everything from life expectancy to access to birth control to infant mortality rates.
(image via: http://people.howstuffworks.com/)
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Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Television and other media exposure has no educational or developmental benefits for children under age 2, and in fact it has been associated with negative health issues including obesity, poor attention, and sleep issues. These are the main findings of a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), released this week at the group’s annual meeting in Boston.
The AAP had recommended in 1999 that parents all but ban television exposure for their babies. This report is meant to clarify and update that recommendation, urging parents to minimize media exposure because, among other reason, time spent in front of the screen is time not spent doing educational, family, or imaginative activities that babies need to develop.
Among the specific recommendations from the AAP:
- Do not place a television in your child’s bedroom.
- Refrain from watching adult-oriented television while young children are in the room. This has been shown to distract parents, even if the program is “background noise” to the child.
- If a young child is watching television, parents should monitor the programming and watch with the child whenever possible.
The recommendations also urge pediatricians to discuss media use, and encourage “media limits” before age 2, at well visits.
(image via: http://babyshrink.com/)
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Monday, August 29th, 2011
If you’ve ever gone weak in the knees at the sight of a chubby infant, a forthcoming study in the journal Emotion will be no surprise. A Kansas State University psychologist says “baby fever,” the sudden emotional and physical urge to have a baby, is real, MSNBC.com reports.
And women aren’t the only ones to be struck with it: “Women reported that it happened more frequently and more strongly but it’s there for both men and women,” says Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology, who with his wife, Sandra Brase, has studied baby fever for more than ten years. The couple has two children.
They surveyed more than a thousand people, including college students and people from the general population and found that three factors were especially important in predicting the intensity of a person’s baby lust. From MSNBC:
“The first two had to do with the visual sensory things,” says Brase. “Seeing a baby, hearing a baby, smelling a baby led some people to want to have a baby.”
Conversely, hearing a baby screaming, smelling a dirty diaper or being exposed to spit-up or other “disgusting” aspects of babies, led other people to not want a baby or come down with what you might call “anti-baby fever.”
A third factor had to do with trade-offs that come with having children.
“People would say, ‘I don’t want to have a baby because I don’t have money or I don’t have time or I don’t have a partner,’” he says. “All of the rational thoughts. That showed up as a third factor.”
The researchers plan future studies on the role of hormones in baby fever.
Have you ever experienced baby fever? What set it off?
(image via: http://eatacheeseburger.net)
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