Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Though certain lifestyle habits, including watching television and eating school lunches, are linked with childhood obesity, sixth grade girls and boys also face some gender-specific risk factors. Reuters reports:
Involvement in sports, for example, was tied to a lower risk of obesity in boys but not girls and drinking milk was linked to lowered risk among girls but not boys, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, write in the journal Pediatrics that understanding obesity risk factors for specific genders may help target programs aimed at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 17 percent of children and teens are obese.
For the new study, Jackson and her colleagues used data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 1,714 sixth-grade students at 20 middle schools in and around Ann Arbor.
Overall, about 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls were obese, which is defined as children who are in the top-fifth percentile of body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height.
Among boys who were not obese, about 56 percent participated in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, compared to about 43 percent of boys who were obese.
But there was no difference between the percentage of obese and non-obese girls who reported regular vigorous physical activity.
Playing on at least one sports team was also linked to decreased risk of obesity for boys but not girls.
The lack of an association between obesity and physical activity in girls may be explained by girls not reporting some activities like cheerleading or dance, because children may not consider those activities sports, the researchers write.
They did find, however, that drinking two or more servings of milk per day was tied to about a 20 percent decreased risk of obesity among girls but not boys. One possible explanation is that milk is displacing sugary drinks in the girls’ diets, Jackson’s team writes.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
The popular children’s clothing store The Children’s Place has apologized after a photo of a t-shirt went viral and prompted accusations that the shirt perpetuates the stereotype that girls are more interested in shopping than math. As Boston.com reports, the store apologized via Twitter, saying, “We take feedback from our customers seriously. We pulled the tshirt from our stores and express apologies to anyone we may have offended.”
Apparently there are at least two versions of the shirt, with one customer, who purchased her shirt in Canada, posting a photo that shows the “Math” box checked along with “Shopping,” “Music,” and “Dancing.”
The company’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from some parents who are enraged at the shirt’s seemingly anti-intellectual message, and others who feel the issue is much ado about nothing.
Image via Twitter
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Thursday, May 30th, 2013
In a quarter of American families, working mothers earn more money than their husbands–the highest level in history. Though mothers are often have at least as much education as their husbands, a majority of fathers still earn more than their wives. But the changes are still striking, as NBC News reports:
Overall, women — including those who are unmarried — are now the leading or solo breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households, compared with just 11 percent in 1960, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau analyzed by Pew.
That’s both good news and bad news, depending on which end of the scale you examine. At the top level, educated women are catching up with men in the workforce. But at the bottom rungs, there are more single mothers than ever and most of them are living near the poverty line.
“It’s a long-term trend since the ’60s that the breadwinner moms have gone up,” said Wendy Wang, a Pew research associate and the lead author of the report.
Of the married women making more money than their spouses, 71 percent of the husbands are working and they have a median family income of $80,000, according to 2011 numbers.
In 1960, only 4 percent of married moms were making more than their husbands; now it’s 23 percent. That translates into 5.1 million married “breadwinner moms.”
Of the women making more than their husbands, 49 percent have a college degree or higher and 65 percent are white. Most are also in their peak earning years — 67 percent of these women are between the ages of 30 and 50.
Image: Working mother, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013
A first-grade Colorado child who was born a boy but identifies as a girl is the subject of a discrimination complaint filed by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Last December, Eagleside Elementary School decided that first-grader Coy Mathis was no longer allowed to use the girl’s bathroom, prompting the complaint. More from CNN:
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Mother Kathryn Mathis said she and her husband were shocked.
“We were very confused because everything was going so well, and they had been so accepting, and all of a sudden it changed and it was very confusing and very upsetting because we knew that, by doing that, she was going to go back to being unhappy,” she told CNN. “It was going to set her up for a lot of bad things.”
Coy was born with male sex organs but has identified as female since she could express herself, her mother said. The child had attended classes during her kindergarten year with no problems and no complaints from anyone at the school, Mathis told reporters at the Colorado Capitol in Denver, where she was flanked by her husband, Jeremy, and four other children.
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
The gender discrepancy in diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has long been studied, with boys being diagnosed far more often than girls. Researchers, in a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may be honing in on scientific explanation for why girls seem to have a “female protective effect” against ASD. More from The Boston Globe:
Researchers used two large databases of thousands of fraternal twins that included information about autistic behaviors, including problems with social interactions, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Since the siblings share similar genetic risk factors and environmental exposures, studying how the autistic traits the children in each family had was one way of trying to isolate the role gender could play in the disorder.
What the researchers found was a clear signal that girls were protected; in other words, females needed to have a greater burden of familial risk factors in order to manifest classical autistic behaviors. The researchers figured that out by comparing the siblings of two groups: girls whose behaviors put them in the top 10th percentile of autistic behaviors and boys who were similarly ranked. If gender had a protective effect, the researchers would expect girls to be more likely to have a sibling with autistic traits than boys in the same group. That’s because girls would need more familial risk factors to overcome the protective effect, and those same risk factors would also be experienced by their siblings.
John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusettts Institute of Technology, said that the study was striking because it shows evidence that something biological—in the genes or environment—is “muting” autistic traits in girls.
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“It’s worth studying, practically, because it is so impressive. Because if you understood some of these mechanisms, maybe it would be a suggestion of a treatment for boys or prevention for boys, or a naturally-occurring preventive treatment,” Gabrieli said.
Image: Happy girl, via Shutterstock