Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
The extent to which toddlers exhibit aggressive behaviors like hitting, kicking, or biting may be associated as much, if not more, with genetics than environment, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal. More from Science Daily:
“The gene-environment analyses revealed that early genetic factors were pervasive in accounting for developmental trends, explaining most of the stability and change in physical aggression, ” [researcher Eric] Lacourse said. “However, it should be emphasized that these genetic associations do not imply that the early trajectories of physical aggression are set and unchangeable. Genetic factors can always interact with other factors from the environment in the causal chain explaining any behavior.”
Over the past 25 years, research on early development of physical aggression has been highly influenced by social learning theories that suggest the onset and development of physical aggression is mainly determined by accumulated exposure to aggressive role models in the social environment and the media. However, the results of studies on early childhood physical aggression indicate that physical aggression starts during infancy and peaks between the ages of 2 and 4. Although for most children the use of physical aggression initiated by the University of Montreal team peaks during early childhood, these studies also show that there are substantial differences in both frequency at onset and rate of change of physical aggression due to the interplay of genetic and environmental factors over time. Genetically informed studies of disruptive behavior and different forms of aggression across the lifespan generally conclude that genetic factors account for approximately 50% of the variance in the population.
Lacourse and his colleagues posited and tested three general patterns regarding the developmental roles of genetic and environmental factors in physical aggression. First, the most consensual and general point of view is that both sources of influence are ubiquitous and involved in the stability of physical aggression. Second, a “genetic set point” model suggests a single set of genetic factors could account for the level of physical aggression across time. A third pattern labeled ‘genetic maturation’ postulates new sources of genetic and environmental influences with age. “According to the genetic maturation hypothesis, new environmental contributions to physical aggression could be of short duration in contrast to genetic factors,” Lacourse explained.
Image: Aggressive toddler, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 25th, 2013
Pregnant women who take Tylenol or over-the-counter pain-relieving medications that contain acetaminophen may be putting their babies at higher risk of developing language issues or behavioral problems, a new study conducted in Norway has found. More from NBC News:
The new study is the first to look at young children whose mothers took Tylenol while pregnant.
“Our findings suggest that (acetaminophen) might not be as harmless as we think,” Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen said. She led the study at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo in Norway.
She and her co-authors studied 48,000 Norwegian children whose mothers answered survey questions about their medication use at weeks 17 and 30 of pregnancy, and again six months after giving birth.
Mothers filled out a follow-up questionnaire about their child’s developmental milestones three years later.
Close to 4 percent of women took Tylenol for at least 28 days total during pregnancy.
Their children seemed to have poorer motor skills than kids whose mothers had taken the drug fewer times or not at all. Tylenol-exposed kids also tended to start walking later, have poorer communication and language skills and more behavior problems.
It’s difficult to define risks for pregnant women and their children, since rigorous tests and controlled studies of drug exposure aren’t ethical, Brandlistuen said. All researchers can do is closely observe women in the real world.
But this study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, involved a large number of women, and researchers also looked for any link to ibuprofen, a pain-relief alternative without acetaminophen.
They found no development problems tied to ibuprofen.
“Long-term use of (acetaminophen) increased the risk of behavior problems by 70 percent at age three,” Brandlistuen said. “That is considerable.”
Heavy users most often reported taking the drug for five to seven days in a row a few times during pregnancy, she said.
Image: Pregnant woman taking medication, via Shuttestock
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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Kindergarteners who exhibit disruptive behaviors in school and receive interventions to help correct the issues may face a lower risk of abusing substances like drugs and alcohol during adolescence, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Alcohol and drug use are highly prevalent and problematic among young people, and the link between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent substance misuse is well-recognised. In this study, Canadian researchers set out to examine whether a two-year prevention programme in childhood could stop substance misuse problems in later life.
172 boys with disruptive behaviour participated in the study. They all came from low socio-economic backgrounds, and were a subsample from the Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study of Low SES boys, a kindergarten cohort which was initiated in 1984.
46 boys and their parents took part in the two-year intervention programme, when they were aged between 7 and 9 years old. The programme included social skills training for the boys at school, to help promote self-control and reduce their impulsivity and antisocial behaviour, as well as parent training to help parents recognise problematic behaviours in their boys, set clear objectives and reinforce appropriate behaviours. A further 42 boys received no intervention and acted as the control group.
The remaining 84 boys were assigned to an intensive observation group, which differed from the controls in that their families were visited in their homes by researchers, attended a half-day laboratory testing session, and were observed at school. All the boys were followed up until the age of 17, to assess their use of drugs and alcohol.
The researchers found that levels of drug and alcohol use across adolescence were lower in those boys who received the intervention. The reduction in substance use continued through the boys’ early adolescence right up to the end of their time at high school.
Researcher Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, of the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte Justine, Canada, said: “Our study shows that an two-year intervention aimed at key risk factors in disruptive kindergarten boys from low socioeconomic environments can effectively reduce substance use behaviours in adolescence — not only in early adolescence but up to the end of high school, eight years post-intervention. This finding is noteworthy because the effects are stronger and longer-lasting than for most substance use interventions that have been studied before.”
Image: Boy with adult, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Children who grow up alongside an ill or disabled sibling may be at higher risk of emotional complications like relationship issues, behavioral problems, and academic difficulty, according to a new survey of parents conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. More from Reuters.com:
The study could not explain why the siblings of disabled kids were more likely to have problems functioning socially or emotionally than kids without a special needs brother or sister. But Anthony Goudie, the report’s lead author, said he’s convinced it has to do with the family situation.
“That’s driven by the disproportionate or increased financial strain and stress within these households, the psychological stress…and the emotional stress on caregivers and parents, and the amount of time they have to spend devoting to the child with a disability,” said Goudie, who is an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
Goudie said the findings are important because the functional problems for which the non-disabled siblings appear to be at increased risk have been tied to higher odds of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders, that require treatment.
His study is perhaps the largest to date looking at the day-to-day difficulties for siblings of kids with a disability.
Image: Sad boy, via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 26th, 2013
Breastfed babies may carry a lower risk of being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children, according to new research conducted at Tel Aviv University. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Seeking to determine if the development of ADHD was associated with lower rates of breastfeeding, Dr. Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of the Child Neurodevelopmental Center in Loewenstein Hospital, and her fellow researchers completed a retrospective study on the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: a group that had been diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those diagnosed with ADHD; and a control group of children without ADHD and lacking any genetic ties to the disorder.
The researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration. Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period. These results have been published in Breastfeeding Medicine.
Image: Breastfeeding mother, via Shutterstock
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