Monday, August 12th, 2013
Mothers with a specific gene that makes them more prone to stress during times of transition and uncertainty may be more likely to treat their children harshly or abusively during times of economic downturn, according to a new analysis of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. CBS News has more:
Moms who had a variation in a gene called “DRD2 Taq1A genotype” were shown in a new study to be more likely to react negatively to economic changes in their environment compared to moms who didn’t possess the variant.
The DRD2 Taq1A genotype has been shown to control how the body creates dopamine, a neurotransmiter that regulates behavior in the reward-based pathway in the brain.
The researchers looked at data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFS), which included almost 5,000 children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The mothers were interviewed after giving birth, and when their child was 1, 3, 5 and 9 years of age. Information on parenting behavior was gathered when the child was 3, 5 and 9 years old.
Harsh parenting was determined by the mother’s score on the Conflict Tactics Scale, which included questions on five items on psychological harsh parenting — like shouting or threatening the child — and five more items on corporal punishment, like slapping or spanking.
Saliva DNA samples were also collected from 2,600 mothers and children when the child was nine to test for the genetic variant.
After gathering the data, the researchers took into account the economic conditions where the subjects were living, focusing on unemployment rates. They then discovered that moms who had the “sensitive” allele or variation of the DRD2 Taq1A genotype — which they called the “T allele” — were more abusive towards their children when the economy was bad, such as during the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Mothers without this genetic variation were no more likely to act harshly towards their children during this time.
When economic situations improved, mothers with the sensitive T allele were not as harsh compared to the other mothers.
They also discovered that high levels of unemployment among the subjects did not increase how abusive a mom was. Mothers with the T allele were more likely to be mean with their children when the economy was bad, even if they personally did not lose their job or had any personal changes because of the recession.
Instead, the overall unemployment rate of the city they lived in and their confidence in the economy played a larger role. A 10 percent increase in the overall unemployment rate was linked to a 16 percent increase in maternal harsh parenting among those with the T allele.
Image: Angry mother and daughter, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 14th, 2012
The number of children who are abused or neglected in America has dropped for the fifth year in a row, an annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services has announced. More from The Huffington Post:
The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Wednesday, estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That’s down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007.
“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.”
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 – down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About fourfifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities, with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Regarding the overall maltreatment figures, white children accounted for almost 44 percent of the victims, black children for 21.5 percent and Hispanic children for 22.1 percent. About 11 percent of the victims were physically or mentally disabled.
Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 – down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. About four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of maltreatment, according to the report.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
The mother of a 14-year-old star of the hit ABC sitcom “Modern Family” is denying allegations that she abused her daughter, actress Ariel Winter (real name Ariel Workman) by hitting her, insulting her weight, and depriving her of food. Instead, says mother Chris Workman, the allegations are falsified because Ariel, who plays Alex Dunphy on the show, wants to continue a romantic relationship with an 18-year-old man. CNN.com has more on the allegations and the guardianship proceedings that are resulting:
“Since I have asked Ariel to end her relationship … she has been bad-mouthing me and spreading rumors and lies about me to substantiate this Guardianship proceeding,” the mother said in documents filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court. “Ariel is young and does not understand the severity of the consequences of her actions….”
Last month, a Los Angeles judge ordered the young actress to be placed in temporary guardianship of her older sister, Shanelle Gray….
“Ariel is upset and is using her sister’s vulnerabilities to her advantage so she can see her boyfriend,” Workman said in the court documents. “I caught Ariel and (the teen) engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior, which is when I became adamant that she end her relationship with him. Out of concern for Ariel, I notified the police since Ariel is a minor.”
Image: Ariel Winter, via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
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Friday, October 19th, 2012
Following a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has released the secret files that tracked accusations of child sexual abuse against Scout leaders and volunteers. The files are referred to as “ineligible volunteer” files, which is a change from their previous name “perversion files,” and they detail more than 1,200 cases between the years 1965 and 1985. Late last month, the BSA admitted in an open letter that it had made an “insufficient response” to the abuse charges over the years.
Attorney Kelly Clark has published the files on his website in .pdf format. Victims’ names and the names of those who reported the abuse have been redacted from the documents, and abusers’ names are only listed if they were employees of the BSA.
NBC News has more:
People will see in the files “over and over again where there is a concern that this material not get out … this will make Scouting look bad,” Clark said. Alleged offenders were also being “given second chances,” he added.
“In too many of these individual situations what happened was a de facto cover-up. I don’t believe that anybody woke up and conspired and said, ‘How do we create a system that would cover up child abuse?’ But when they put the interest of the organization ahead of the safety of kids, pretty soon they were engaged in a de facto cover-up of abuse,” Clark said….
Some of the findings included:
– 486 of the men identified in the files as suspects were arrested at some time for a sex crime. It may have occurred before they got involved with Scouting, as a result of the incident noted in their file or after they left the organization.
– In 531 of the cases, there was information indicating alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple youths.
– In 252 of the cases, the available information indicated alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with only a single victim.
– 128 of the men in the files had their registration revoked within a year of signing up.
– Police were involved in the investigation of 523 cases.
Image: Vintage Boy Scout badge, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach, was sentenced Tuesday to between 30 and 60 years in prison for his sexual abuse of boys who were enrolled in a football program he led. From CNN.com:
During Tuesday’s hearing, some of Sandusky’s victims addressed the court, while others had statements read by prosecutors, all in an effort to persuade the judge to impose a harsh sentence.
“The pain is real and it will be inside me forever,” said a man identified as Victim No. 5.
He added that he will never forget the image of Sandusky “forcing himself on me and forcing my hand on him.”
Another victim, No. 6., described the “deep wounds” that left him praying for help. “It’s time for you to admit your sins,” he said.
But Sandusky did the opposite.
“I did not do these disgusting acts,” he told the court several times, calling his situation “the worst loss of my life.”
“I will cherish the opportunity to be a candle for others,” he said, adding that “somehow, some way, something good will come out of this.”
Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
Image: Football, via Shutterstock
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