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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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Bullying that happens between siblings should be considered to be as serious an issue as bullying among peers or schoolmates, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. NBC News has more:
As with peer bullying, sibling bullying is also harmful to a child or teenager’s mental health, the new research finds.
“Historically, sibling aggression has been unrecognized, or often minimized or dismissed, and in some cases people believe it’s benign or even good for learning about conflict in other relationships,” says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire.
“That’s generally not the case in peer relationships. There appears to be different norms for what is accepted. What is acceptable between siblings is generally not acceptable between peers.”
The mental health consequences of bullying between siblings are real, researchers say. Tucker’s report used data from The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a phone survey that collected the experiences of 3,599 children aged 1 month to 17 years who had at least one sibling younger than 18 living in the household at the time of the interview. One child was randomly selected to be the subject of three telephone interviews.
Children ages 10 to 17 answered the questions themselves; for children younger than 10, the parents answered the questions. (Tucker acknowledges this is a potential limitation of the study, as parents may not know as much about sibling conflicts as they might think — particularly if the children share a bedroom.)
The interviewers asked about incidences of sibling aggression in the past year, and they also assessed mental health by asking how often the children experienced anger, depression and anxiety.
Of the children interviewed (or interviewed by proxy), 32 percent reported experiencing at least one type of sibling victimization in the past year. Researchers found that “all types of sibling aggression, both mild and severe, were associated with significantly higher distress symptom scores for both children and adolescents,” the study authors write.
Image: Siblings fighting, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Babies who have not yet had their first birthdays may be able to express sympathy, or the feeling of concern for the well-being of others. This is the finding of a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, which found that babies preferred the victim to the aggressor in a bullying-type encounter they watched on a video screen. More from LiveScience:
Because 10-month-olds can’t yet express sympathy verbally, Kyoto University researcher Shoji Itakura and colleagues turned to a common tactic in baby-brain research: using simple animations to determine what infants prefer. They showed 40 babies an animation of a blue ball and a yellow cube.
Half of the infants watched a short clip in which the blue ball chased the yellow cube around the screen, hitting it seven times before finally squishing it against a wall. The other half of the group saw the same movements, including the squishing, but the two shapes moved independently without interacting.
In some cases, the “bully” and “victim” roles were swapped, so that the yellow cube was the bad guy. After watching the show, the babies were shown a real yellow cube and a real blue ball, and given the chance to reach for one of the objects.
In cases where the babies had seen one shape beating up on the other, they overwhelmingly reached for the victim, 16 out of 20 times. In comparison, when the shapes hadn’t interacted, the babies’ choices were basically random — nine went for the shape that had gotten squished, and the other 11 went for the nonsquished shape.
The results could have simply indicated that babies preferred to steer clear of a nasty character, not that they felt sympathy for the bullied one. To rule out that possibility, the researchers conducted a second experiment with 24 babies, also 10 months old. These babies saw a show nearly identical to the first, except there was a third character: a red cylinder. The red cylinder was a neutral presence on-screen, neither bullying nor being bullied.
After watching the animation, the babies were again given a choice of two toys. Half could pick between the “victim” shape and the neutral shape, while the other half got to choose between the bullying shape and the neutral shape.
This time, 10 out of 12 babies given the neutral-or-bully option went with the neutral cylinder. Meanwhile, of the 12 given the neutral-or-victim option, 10 picked the victim.
In other words, even when there was no mean character present that a baby might want to avoid, the babies still picked the victim.
Though researchers caution this study should not be taken as solid proof of sympathy in babies, it does follow other recent research, including a study published in January that found that babies could demonstrate signs of empathy, or being able to guess what another person is feeling.
Image: Baby, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 15th, 2013
Babies may prefer to be around individuals who pick on, or even mildly bully, members of a group who are different in some way from the others. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia have determined their findings based on a study of babies who were observing puppets, beans, and balls. The results may help scientists better understand the roots of violence and discrimination, the Boston Globe reports:
Led by scientists at Yale University and the University of British Columbia, the researchers posed a complicated social scenario to 9-month-old and 14-month-old babies: If they saw a rabbit puppet who was either similar or different from them in some fundamental way—in this case, preferring graham crackers or green beans—would they care how others treated the rabbit?
The researchers already knew two basic things about the choices and preferences of infants. Just like adults, who tend to like people who are similar to them, babies are drawn to others who share their tastes in food and toys. Hollywood movies leverage our impulse to cheer for do-gooder heroes over villains; babies similarly prefer a character that helps someone else climb a mountain rather than pushing them down it, a previous study had shown.
But would babies always, universally, prefer heroes to villains? Or would their preference depend on who was being helped or hindered? The researchers wondered: would they see the enemy of their enemy as a friend?
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“I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone, when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes” the rabbit puppet that did not share the baby’s preference, said Karen Wynn, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale and senior author of the work, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Image: Rabbit puppet, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Kids with serious food allergies live with the fear they may come into contact with a triggering food. But a new study out this week suggests that they may also face a social challenge because of their allergy: bullies could wield allergens in attempts to intimidate and terrorize allergic kids. More from CNN.com:
A study released last week suggests that almost half of children who have food allergies have been bullied — sometimes by having food thrown at them.
“Clearly, it’s an issue for these school-aged children in terms of how they interact with their peers,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. “Immediately, when there’s a diagnosis of food allergy, there’s a little bit of a stigma.”
The new study furthers the mounting evidence that many kids with food allergies may endure social ostracism while also trying to eat safely.
A 2010 study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology said that 35% of kids over age 5 with food allergies have endured bullying, teasing or harassment. Parents of children with food allergies reported in the study that these incidents — both physical and verbal — happened because of food allergies.
Food allergy is a growing problem in young people. As many as 8% of children in the United States have at least one food allergy, according to research data.
There is no cure for food allergies. The only way to stop a life-threatening reaction, called anaphylaxis, is an epinephrine auto-injector, which allergists recommend that everyone with severe food allergies should carry.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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