Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Children who witness violence at home, including a parent’s incarceration, physical abuse, or violent death may develop a genetic “marker” that puts them at higher risk of developing a range of health problems later in life. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes may be more likely to develop, along with psychological issues like depression and anxiety, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The Wall Street Journal:
The study’s lead author, Tulane professor Stacy Drury, took a closer look at a genetic marker that’s been linked with negative health outcomes later in life: the length of a person’s telomeres.
Telomeres are DNA elements that cap the ends of chromosomes, and they become shorter when cells divide and age. But shorter telomere lengths have also been associated with stress-related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study surveyed and tested the DNA of 80 kids between the ages of 5 and 15 in New Orleans; those who had experienced more family-related violence at home were found to have shorter telomeres.
“The more adverse childhood events you have when you’re little, the greater the risk of pretty much any health condition when you get older,” Drury said in an interview. “That’s a biological type of scar that happens when you’re a kid.”
The new research adds to a growing body of information about the physical as well as emotional effects of violence on children–although at least one study has found that today’s kids are exposed to less violent crime than they were a decade ago.
Image: Sad boy, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 1st, 2014
Despite ongoing concerns about a violent culture and its affect on America’s youth, a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found that kids today may actually be exposed to less violent crime today than a decade ago. More from Time.com:
Mass shootings and severe cyberbullying cases have peppered the news over the past few years, suggesting that as a species, we’re getting more brutal, not less. But many researchers agree this is a common misconception. In actuality, violence is on the decline, and a new study published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics finds that kids’ exposure to violence in particular has dropped significantly.
The researchers analyzed surveys of over 10,000 kids and caregivers in 2003, 2008 and 2011, and found that nationwide there were major drops in assaults involving weapons and injuries; assaults by peers and siblings; physical and emotional bullying; and sexual victimization. While acknowledging that it’s possible the children surveyed were not all entirely forthcoming — for kids under 10, the parent stayed on the phone during the conversation; the rest were passed the phone by a parent — researchers think that overall, respondents told the truth about their exposure to violence. “We probably have an undercount,” says study author David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. “But the important thing for studying trends is that we have no reason to think that the undercounting is responsible for any of the trend findings.”
And the new results are consistent with other evidence that shows child maltreatment is dropping. The National Crime Victimization Survey, considered the nation’s premier source of information on criminal victimization, shows kids’ exposure to violent crime has fallen since 2008. Sexual abuse is also down, as are police reports of crime and homicide.
The researchers of the JAMA Pediatrics study have a few theories as to why. One is that the dissemination of violence prevention and intervention strategies, like school programs targeting bullying and dating violence, has been effective. Another, perhaps more surprising theory, is that the growing use of psychiatric medication among youth and adults has tamped down their aggression. And of course, there’s a theory that increased use of technology has resulted in less face-to-face violent confrontations.
There’s some contradictory evidence, though, too — for instance the data showing a rise in hospital-treated abusive-head-trauma cases from 2007 to 2009, and evidence that real-life bullying is still more prevalent than cyberbullying. “Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically … are largely exaggerated,” researcher Dan Olweus, a psychologist at the University of Bergen, Norway, said in a statement.
Image: Father and daughter hugging, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Older siblings may play a large role in the likelihood that their younger siblings will follow them down a criminal path–larger than the influence younger siblings exert on their older brothers and sisters in the same area. These are the findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University, as the university explains:
The findings provide insight into the social transmission of violent behaviors and suggest that environmental factors within families can be important when it comes to delinquent behavior. Down the road, the results may be used to inform strategies for prevention and treatment programs.
For some time, experts have recognized that violent criminal behavior runs strongly in families due to shared environmental factors such as poverty, divorce and poor parental supervision.
In a study, published online April 28 in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers examined a series of national databases from Sweden linking full sibling pairs and criminal conviction. The team conducted two analyses – one that looked at age differences in siblings, and one that examined the difference in the risk of being a younger sibling versus an older sibling of a proband with violent criminal behavior.
Researchers found that older siblings more strongly “transmit” the risk for violent criminal behavior to their younger siblings, rather than vice versa. The team also found that the closer in age that siblings are, the greater the risk for the transmission of violent behavior. The authors write, “Because older siblings often exert more influence on siblings than younger, the risk for violent criminal behavior should be greater when the older sibling has violent criminal behavior as compared to the younger sibling. However it is not just mere closeness in age, but rather the nature of the sibling relationship that often occurs when siblings are closer in age.”
Image: Jail, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 6th, 2012
Sarah McKinley, a young mother whose husband died of cancer in mid-December, shot and killed an intruder on New Year’s Eve who had broken into her home while she was alone with her 3-month-old baby, Yahoo! News reports. From the news story:
Sarah McKinley says that a week earlier a man named Justin Martin dropped by on the day of her husband’s funeral, claiming that he was a neighbor who wanted to say hello. The 18-year-old Oklahoma City area woman did not let him into her home that day.
On New Year’s Eve Martin returned with another man, Dustin Stewart, and this time was armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. The two soon began trying to break into McKinley’s home.
As one of the men was going from door to door outside her home trying to gain entry, McKinley called 911 and grabbed her 12-gauge shotgun.
McKinley told ABC News Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO that she quickly got her 12 gauge, went into her bedroom and got a pistol, put the bottle in the baby’s mouth and called 911.
“I’ve got two guns in my hand — is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?” the young mother asked the 911 dispatcher. “I’m here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?”
The 911 dispatcher confirmed with McKinley that the doors to her home were locked as she asked again if it was okay to shoot the intruder if he were to come through her door.
“I can’t tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby,” the dispatcher told her. McKinley was on the phone with 911 for a total of 21 minutes.
When Martin kicked in the door and came after her with the knife, the teen mom shot and killed the 24-year-old. Police are calling the shooting justified.
Image: 12-gauge shotgun, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, June 20th, 2011
Parenting magazine has published its annual list of the 100 best cities for families to live in, ranking cities based on 8,000 pieces of data covering school quality, home affordability, job availability, crime rates, and green space. The top 10 cities are:
- Washington, District of Columbia
- Austin, Texas
- Boston, Massachusetts
- St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Seattle, Washington
- Louisville, Kentucky
The magazine said this about Washington, DC, its top choice:
The history, the government, the breathtaking architecture and inspiring monuments—you don’t have to be a child to get an amazing education in this city. Our nation’s capital is also known for its plenitude of museums—in fact, there are 44, second only to the Big Apple! If your kid enjoys visiting the National Air and Space Museum, imagine fostering his love of airplanes with trips to nearby Gravelly Point Park for front-seat views of the takeoffs and landings at Reagan National Airport. The Capital Crescent Trail, a hard-surface trail from Georgetown to Bethesda, MD, developed on an abandoned rail bed, is a great bike trip that is off the beaten track.
Family dinner nights are easy at quirky local favorites like Matchbox restaurants or Busboys & Poets—both provide a place adults and kids can enjoy. And, of course, any child growing up in Washington, DC, will have a special place in his heart for the famous cherry blossoms and festival held each spring.
The bottom 5 cities are all in California (Fresno, Long Beach, Bakersfield, Riverside, and Anaheim), preceded by Las Vegas, Nevada.
Check out these Parents.com features on best places to raise your family:
The 10 Best Cities for Babies
90 More Best Cities for Babies
The Best Big Cities for Babies
The Best Small Cities for Babies
How do you feel your city should rank as a place for families to live?
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