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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Parents who are involved in active play with their children during their toddler and preschool years may have better academic performance to look forward to, according to new research by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The findings come from a study of African American boys who were transitioning from preschool to kindergarten.
“The transition to kindergarten can be challenging for many children due to new expectations, social interactions, and physiological changes,” said Iheoma Iruka, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “Transitions may be even more arduous for African American boys, given the many challenges they are likely to face compared to their peers.”
Iruka found four patterns for African American boys after they transitioned—and her team also demonstrated the key role that parenting plays in these outcomes.
Just over half the boys (51%) showed increases in language, reading, and math scores in kindergarten, but a sizeable group (19%) consisted of low achievers in preschool who declined even further academically after transition. The smallest group (11%) included early achievers who declined in kindergarten both academically and behaviorally; by contrast, 20% of the boys in the study comprised a group of early achievers who remained on their high-performing academic and social paths after the transition.
According to Iruka, the results clearly suggest that some African American boys experience challenges to their academic achievement and social skills as they move into to kindergarten.
“In addition, the two groups of early achievers is especially revealing about the importance of effective parenting,” she said. “African American boys from homes where mothers frequently engaged in literacy activities and intentional teaching—and other activities like playing games and taking the child on errands—were likely to be in the high achieving groups.”
Iruka’s study also showed that parent-child interactions influence whether a high-achieving African American boy stays on course.
“It’s important to note that the early achievers who declined academically and socially were more likely to be from homes in which the parents were inattentive,” she said. “The group of boys with detached parents showed a significant decrease in their reading and math scores and an increase in aggression during the preschool-to-kindergarten transition.”
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Image: African American boy, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
Boys are slightly more likely than girls to be born prematurely, a new international study on newborn health has found. Additionally, boys don’t tend to fare as well as girls world-wide. More from The Associated Press:
“This is a double whammy for boys,” said Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the team of researchers. “It’s a pattern that happens all over the world.”
The gender difference isn’t large: About 55 percent of preterm births in 2010 were male, the report found. Nor is it clear exactly why it happens.
The finding comes from a series of international studies being published Friday that examine newborn health and prematurity. About 15 million babies worldwide are born too soon, most of them in Africa and parts of Asia where survival is difficult for fragile newborns. Globally, about 1 million babies die as a direct result of preterm birth and another million die of conditions for which prematurity is an added risk, the researchers calculated.
Friday’s report offers some of the first estimates of how many preemie survivors go on to suffer certain disabilities, and found that where these babies are born, and how early, determines their risk.
Overall, Lawn said about 7 percent of survivors have two of the most burdensome disabilities: neurologic-developmental impairment ranging from learning disabilities to cerebral palsy, and vision loss.
But the biggest risk is to the youngest preemies, those born before 28 weeks gestation. Worldwide, 52 percent of them are estimated to have some degree of neurodevelopmental impairment, the report found.
Moreover, the risk of impairment in middle-income countries is double that of wealthy countries like the U.S.
For example, China is saving more preemies’ lives but at the cost of their vision, Lawn said.
Middle-income countries are missing out on a lesson the U.S. learned the hard way several decades ago, that giving these tiny babies too much oxygen can trigger a potentially blinding condition called retinopathy of prematurity.
“Disability is not something that’s inevitable. It’s preventable,” she said, calling for improved quality of care including eye checks to prevent or reduce vision loss.
The March of Dimes reported this month that 11.5 percent of U.S. births now are preterm. That rate is inching down, thanks mostly to fewer babies being born just a few weeks early as standards for elective deliveries have tightened, but it still is higher than in similar countries.
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 14th, 2013
The blogosphere has lit up over the writings of a South Dakota mom whose blog went from 8 followers to more than 750,000 hits after she wrote a post advocating that boys should be allowed to play with guns, said kids who are being bullied should “toughen up,” and lamented a culture of over-protective parents. More from ABC News:
Stephanie Metz’s maternal outburst has the provocative title, “Why My Kids Are NOT The Center Of My World.”
“I think a lot of people have kids and raising kids is never easy,” Metz, 29, of Rapid City, S.D., told ABC News. “There are many viewpoints, but I think a lot of people agreed with what I said and they just want to share my post.”
Metz was inspired to write her post on Oct. 25 after her son Hendrix, 4, (she has another son Jameson, 2) decided to bring a different object to show and tell, after he told his mother his initial choice may resemble a weapon. That original toy, which is pictured below, may get him in trouble, he told his mother.
This, she writes, is what infuriates her. “How long will it be before their typical boy-ish behavior gets them suspended from school?” she worries.
“The mentality of our society in 2013 is nauseating to me, friends,” Metz writes in her blog.
Metz warns parents that constantly sheltering their children and protecting them from all things “evil” sets a child up for failure.
“Kids are being raised to never have to deal with adversity,” Metz told ABC News. “I don’t think we are raising a generation that will be able to function in the real world.”
“Society is constantly coddling your kids,” Metz said. For example, she says, kids are awarded with trophies even if they didn’t win.
Some of her blog examines the topic of bullying, for which Metz said she has received the most backlash about.
“Understand I am not condoning kids to be cruel to each other, but I think kids need to toughen up when kids are not nice to them,” Metz said.
Read one reaction to Metz’s post here, in which the writer argues that the culture of protection and reaction against all forms of bullying is “more reaction than cause.”
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Monday, September 2nd, 2013
A new government report reveals that a surprising number of boys received the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) last year, the first year that it was recommended for adolescent boys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 5 boys received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, NBC News reports.
Shared through sexual contact, HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts in both sexes, and in rare cases, throat and anal cancer. The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 beginning in 2006, and then recommended for boys in 2011. More from NBC News:
The shots are largely intended not to protect boys from disease, but to stop them from spreading a sexually transmitted virus to girls that could cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine hasn’t been very popular among girls. The government report issued Thursday is the first real sense of how many boys are getting the shots.
“It’s a good start,” said Shannon Stokley, a vaccination expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Introduced in 2006, the vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, which is spread during sex. Most infections go away on their own, without people developing symptoms. But the virus can cause cervical cancer in females, genital warts in both sexes, and some other, less common conditions like throat and anal cancer.
The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 because it works best if given before a teen starts to have sex. In 2011, it was also recommended for boys that age to help prevent the virus’s spread.
The CDC report covers vaccination rates for last year, the first full year since the shots were advised for boys. It’s based on telephone calls to families for about 19,000 boys and girls ages 13 to 17.
About 21 percent of the boys had gotten at least one of the three doses. Less than 7 percent were fully vaccinated.
The rates look relatively good compared to the initial rates for some other vaccines aimed at adolescents. For example, the initial rate for a meningococcal vaccine was just 12 percent.
Rates tend to start low when a vaccine is first recommended and build after. So the HPV numbers for boys are reason to be optimistic, said the CDC’s Dr. Melinda Wharton, although she added a word of caution.
“Given how the coverage level has stalled for girls, though, a solid start isn’t enough,” she said.
Image: Three teen boys, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 23rd, 2013
A report by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals that circumcisions of newborn boys in U.S. hospitals have dropped 6 percentage points over the last 30 years, from 64.5 percent in 1979 to 58.3 percent in 2010. The sharpest declines took place in Western states, Reuters reports. The federal analysis shows that circumcision rates have risen and fallen over the years, possibly in response to changing advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last year the academy revised its policy on circumcision, saying that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.
The analysis didn’t include circumcisions performed outside the hospital in religious ceremonies, for example, or those performed when a boy is older.
Here are further details from USA Today:
One factor that may account for the overall decline in hospital-based circumcisions may be the decreased time babies now spend in the hospital, says pediatrician Douglas Diekema of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“Often they’re going home within 24 hours, so in some places, these procedures are increasingly being done by the pediatrician during the follow-up period in the doctor’s office or clinic as opposed to the hospital,” Diekema says.
The steep decline in the West may be related to higher rates of immigrants from countries where circumcision is less common, he says.
Recent research suggests circumcision does “help prevent certain kinds of infections,” says pediatrics group president Thomas McInerny. In particular, “there is some evidence that the cells that make up the inner surface of the foreskin may provide an optimal target for the HIV virus.” Research also shows that circumcised males have a lower risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer, he says.
Complications associated with circumcisions are rare, and include minor bleeding, local infection and pain, says Diekema, but those factors can be easily treated.
A cost study reported last year in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine said falling infant circumcision rates in the U.S. could end up costing the country billions of health care dollars when men and their female partners develop AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and cancers that could have been prevented.
The health benefits evidence was not so strong that the AAP felt compelled to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, says McInerny. “We wanted to give parents the information as we understand it from the research and let them make the decision.”
Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock
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