Posts Tagged ‘ behavioral issues ’

Debate Over ‘Spoiling’ Children Continues

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The New York Times has published a provocative new essay by Dr. Perri Klass that outlines how the debate over whether American children are overindulged or spoiled is ongoing–and complicated.  From the essay:

In the pediatric office today, parents often bring up spoiling, as that mother did last week, in reference to young babies, sleep and feeding. It’s as if the later, more confusing questions about how to respond to a child’s demands crystallize in those early months when the new baby cries and the parents worry.

The official pediatric line — I said some version of this to that mother last week — is that you can’t spoil babies by taking good care of them. But even that doesn’t turn out to be simple.

“It’s important to be there and to be responsive and responsible, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to be totally at the whim of the baby,” said Dr. Pamela High, a professor of pediatrics at Brown University and medical director of the Fussy Baby Clinic at the Brown Center for the Study of Children. “You’re teaching them patterns and routine and regularity.”

Parents can meet a baby’s needs while still allowing her a chance to learn to settle down and sleep without being held. In a randomized study on babies with colic that was published this year by Dr. High’s group, when parents got help with issues of feeding, sleep, routine and their own mental health, those colicky babies cried less and slept more.

As children get older, setting limits and establishing family routines and expectations gets more complicated. But it’s still a question of balancing immediate gratification and larger life lessons.

It’s also an area where we still feel comfortable and righteous blaming and judging other parents — and ourselves.

Problematic childhood behaviors once attributed to incompetent or destructive parenting are now understood to be hard-wired, set by genetics, reflecting neurological differences. We don’t blame bad parenting for autism now, or A.D.H.D. But “spoiled” evokes traits and behaviors for which we’re often quick to hold parents responsible.

As Roald Dahl put it in 1964 in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “A girl can’t spoil herself, you know.”

Image: Angry girl, via Shutterstock

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Study: Fathers’ Depression Raises Risk of Childhood Emotional, Behavioral Issues

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A study that will be published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics shows that children whose fathers show signs of depression are 70 percent more likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems themselves.

The new research builds on earlier findings that show correlation between maternal depression and child depression. This is the first major study that examines paternal depression and its effect on children. reports:

“For years we’ve been studying maternal depression and how it affects children, but the medical community has done a huge disservice by ignoring fathers in this research,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatric medicine at New York University, in New York. “These findings reinforce what we already assumed — that fathers matter, too, and they matter quite a lot.”

The situation is predictably worse if both parents are depressed. Just 6% of children with two mentally healthy parents have serious emotional or behavioral problems, such as feeling sad or nervous, acting out at school, or clashing with family and peers, the study found. But that proportion increases to 11% if the father is depressed, 19% if the mother is depressed and 25% if both parents are depressed — a strikingly high number, Weitzman says.

Although the study doesn’t prove that a parent’s depression directly causes problems in children, rather than vice versa, previous research on mothers and children has clearly shown that it’s generally mothers who influence kids’ mental health, not the other way around.

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BPA in Pregnant Women Could Lead to Behavioral Issues in Girls

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Preliminary research into the effects of in-utero exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) has correlated high levels of the compound with behavioral issues in 3-year-old girls, The Associated Press reports.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that preschool-aged girls whose mothers had high levels of BPA during pregnancy scored worse–though still within normal range–on behavioral measures including anxiety and hyperactivity. For every 10-fold increase in BPA in the mothers during pregnancy, the study found that girls scored 6 points worse on the behavioral questionnaire given at 3 years.

The results did not seem to be replicated in boys.

Nearly all Americans have measurable BPA levels in their bodies (the pregnant women were given urine tests).  The chemical is found in some plastics and food can linings, though increasing numbers of companies are marketing “BPA-free” materials, especially in items intended for use by children.

Researchers called these results “preliminary” and called for further study of BPA’s effects on child health.  This study was specifically faulted for not tracking other potential behavior-influencing factors, such as the mother’s prenatal eating habits.

Parents can consult the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for information on current research and advice on managing BPA levels in children.

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Study: Fast-Paced Puberty Linked to Behavior Problems

Monday, September 5th, 2011

teensPuberty, the physical transformation from child to adult, is an epic event in a kid’s life.

A new study in the journal Developmental Psychology finds that the timing of that change (how early or late it begins) and the pace at which it takes place have a big impact on a child’s behavior and mood, The Los Angeles Times reports.

From the LA Times:

Researchers followed 364 white boys and 373 white girls for six years through puberty. In girls, they found, both an early timing of puberty (early compared with their same-age peers) and faster tempo (how fast or slow the puberty evolves from start to finish) were linked with problems related to symptoms of depression, anxiety, social withdrawal or vague physical complaints. A faster tempo was also linked to delinquent behaviors, such as lying and cheating.

In boys, faster tempo was linked to more behavioral problems. Boys who started puberty earlier than their peers and progressed through puberty faster than normal experienced the most problems.

The researchers commented that the puberty timeline can vary widely from child to child. From the LA Times:

“The thought is that when the major changes of puberty are compressed into a shorter amount of time, adolescents don’t have enough time to acclimate, so they’re not emotionally or socially ready for all the changes that happen,” the lead author of the study, Kristine Marceau, of Penn State, said in a news release. “This is the explanation that originally was attributed solely to early timing, but we suggest that the same thing also is happening if the rate of puberty is compressed.”

Readers, what do you think? What can parents do to help make these changes easier on kids?

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Study: ‘Late-Talking’ Toddlers Suffer No Lasting Problems

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

curious toddlerToddlers who start using words later than their peers are not likely to suffer lasting consequences from their delay, a study published online in the journal Pediatrics has found.

When they are 2 years old, children who are behind on vocabulary and other measurable language development milestones do tend to display more behavioral problems than their more verbal peers.  But over time–the children in the study were followed until they reached age 17–those issues disappeared, and the kids showed no increased behavioral or emotional delays or problems as long as other development was normal.

The study’s authors attribute the early behavioral issues to the children feeling frustrated at their inability to express themselves and be understood.  “When the late-talking children catch up to normal language milestones, which the majority of children do, the behavioral and emotional problems are no longer apparent,” the paper’s lead author, Andrew J. O. Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia told The New York Times.

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