Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
In a groundbreaking new study published in the journal Emotion, scientists studied high-quality audio recordings of over 100 toddlers having temper tantrums, and discovered that the emotional outbursts familiar to every parent actually have predictable rhythms and patterns that, when properly understood, can help parents, teachers, and caregivers tell the difference between a “normal” tantrum, and a sign of an emotional or behavioral disorder.
The scientists then analyzed the audio. They found that different tantrum sounds had very distinct audio signatures. When the sounds were laid down on a graph, the researchers found that different sounds emerged and faded in a definite pattern. Unsurprisingly, sounds like yelling and screaming usually came together.
“Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together,” Potegal said. “Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also hang together.”
But where one age-old theory of tantrums might suggest that meltdowns begin in anger (yells and screams) and end in sadness (cries and whimpers), Potegal found that the two emotions were more deeply intertwined.
“The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect,” Potegal said. “In fact, the anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous.”
Green and Potegal found that sad sounds tended to occur throughout tantrums. Superimposed on them were sharp peaks of yelling and screaming: anger.
The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn’t easy for parents or caregivers to do.
Image: Toddler having a tantrum, via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
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.
Add a Comment
“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.
Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
About half of all teenagers in the United States qualify a “shy,” a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. But only 12 percent of those shy teens meet the criteria for full-fledged, lifelong social anxiety or social phobia. Researchers hope the findings will help de-stigmatize shyness and defray accusations that calling someone “shy” suggests that they have emotional health problems. The Associated Press reports:
“Shyness is a normal human temperament,” says lead researcher Dr. Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health, whose teachers always noted her own childhood shyness on her report cards.
But just as it can be hard to tell when feeling sad turns into depression, “there is a blurred boundary between people who describe themselves as shy and clinically significant impairment,” Merikangas adds.
Add a Comment
The difference: The shy can be drawn out and adapt, while teens or adults with full-fledged social anxiety become so paralyzed during social situations that it interferes with everyday functioning.
Shyness also tends to be seen differently across gender lines, research shows:
In school-age boys especially, “shyness isn’t very well tolerated in the United States,” says [Children's Hospital Boston's Dr. Nancy] Snidman, who wasn’t involved with the new research.
Snidman and colleagues at Harvard Medical School have tracked infants to their college years, and know that babies who react very negatively to new people and objects tend to grow into shy children. That’s not a bad thing — caution is considered an important evolutionary adaptation.
Usually, the clinging tot does just fine as he or she grows older and finds a niche, Snidman says. Girls may think the shy teen boy is nice because he’s not macho, for example, or the shy kids wind up on the school newspaper so they can write instead of do public speaking. Many outgrow their shyness.
Yet a very shy child is considered more at risk than others of later developing some type of anxiety disorder — just as the opposite extreme, a very outgoing child, can be at greater risk for attention or conduct disorders, she says.
(image via: http://ruelmiralles-myblogmylife.blogspot.com/)