Monday, July 15th, 2013
At a mere five months of age, babies appear to be able to understand each other’s emotions, and identifying which sounds match with which feelings (for example, a happy baby laughs, an upset baby cries). More from Today.com:
The takeaway for parents is that babies are very much aware of emotion, said Ross Flom, as associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University and the co-author of the new study — the first to study “peer matching” ability with children this young. The research was published in the journal “Infancy.”
“It highlights the fact that babies are really sensitive to our communicative intent,” Flom told TODAY Moms.
“They can really understand how we’re saying something, so if you’re talking to a young infant, they might not understand exactly what you’re saying but they would certainly understand how it’s being conveyed.”
Researchers weren’t too terribly surprised at the results. Studies have shown babies can match emotions in adults at 7 months of age and younger. But there has been little research so far looking into infants’ perception of the emotional expressions of other infants.
Forty babies took part in the study: half were 3.5 months old, and the other 5 months old.
Image: Babies looking at each other, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 10th, 2013
“Tummy time,” the daily periods when parents are urged to place an infant on his or her stomach to encourage motor development, may not be as helpful as initially believed, according to a new study published in the journal Early Human Development. More from The New York Times:
Canadian researchers compared 1,114 infants born from 1990 to 1992, just before the “back to sleep” campaign began, with 351 infants born 20 years later. They found no difference between the two groups in the age at which prone to supine or supine to prone rolling began, or in the order in which those behaviors appeared.
They were not able to measure the effect of “tummy time,” but they note that it is not known how many parents consistently use the procedure and that, anecdotally, most who do find it difficult to keep their babies on their bellies for any length of time.
Whether tummy time helps or not, said the lead author, Johanna Darrah, a pediatric physical therapist at the University of Alberta, “the back to sleep campaign has not adversely affected motor development. Motor development happens.”
Image: Baby on tummy, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Doctors are increasingly making the diagnosis of “GERD,” or gastroesophageal reflux disease, in infants, and the label may be prompting parents to medicate for infant issues that pediatricians would otherwise regard as normal, such as crying and spitting up.
A new report published in the journal Pediatrics argues that the use of the disease label is leading to the growing use of medication. “Labeling an otherwise healthy infant as having a “disease” increased parents’ interest in medicating their infant when they were told that medications are ineffective,” the article concludes. “These findings suggest that use of disease labels may promote overtreatment by causing people to believe that ineffective medications are both useful and necessary.”
Previous research has already established the growing number of medical interventions for GERD. One 2010 study by the Food and Drug Administration found that the prescription rate for a particular class of acid blockers increased 11-fold in the years between 2002 and 2009 for babies under age 1.
The new study, which was conducted as a survey of parents in a general pediatric clinic, attributes the rise to the use of the disease label GERD. From the survey’s abstract, “Parents who received a GERD diagnosis were interested in medicating their infant, even when they were told that the medications are likely ineffective. However, parents not given a disease label were interested in medication only when medication effectiveness was not discussed (and hence likely assumed).”
Image: Crying newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Babies as young as a year-and-a-half can guess what adults are thinking and demonstrate remarkable empathy and “mind reading,” according to a new global study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society this week. This ability to understand other people’s perspectives, wishes, and feelings had previously been believed not to appear until children are much older. More from LiveScience:
The findings may shed light on the social abilities that differentiate us from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, said study author H. Clark Barrett, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study used a form of the false-belief test, one of the few cognitive tasks that young children, but not primates, can do.
Humans are “very good at inferring other people’s mental states: their emotions, their desires and, in this case, their knowledge,” Barrett said. “So it could play an important role in cultural transmission and social learning.”
In the classic test of children’s understanding called the false-belief task, one person comes into a room and puts an object (such as a pair of scissors) into a hiding place. A second person then comes in and puts the scissors into his pocket, unbeknownst to the first individual. When that first person returns, someone will ask the child, “Where do you think the first person will look for the scissors?”
The task is tricky because the children need to have a theory of mind, or an ability to understand other people’s perspectives, in this case that of the individual who didn’t see the scissors being retrieved by another.
By ages 4 to 7, most children in Western countries can answer that the first person will look in the original hiding place, because the individual doesn’t know the scissors have moved. But children across the globe tend to give that answer at different ages.
However, past work showed that if researchers don’t ask babies the question, but instead follow the infants’ eye movements, the children seem to understand the concept much earlier. Barrett and his colleagues wondered whether cultural differences in dealing with adults could be obscuring the amazing cognitive leap children were taking.
Image: Baby and adult, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Fussy infants are more likely to be put in front of a television in a parent’s attempt to calm and occupy them, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The finding is despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children not be shown television until age 2. More from Time.com:
In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers analyzed data from 217 African-American mother and infant pairs from the Infant Care and Risk of Obesity Study. At 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 months after birth, the infants’ mothers reported on their babies’ temperament—how fussy or complacent they were—as well as their own TV viewing habits, including how long the TV was on during the day and how often they fed their babies while watching TV. Overall, mothers spent a significant amount of time watching television, and reported that they spent quite a bit of time feeding their infants in front of the TV as well. Infants just 3 months old were exposed to an average of nearly three hours of TV or videos daily, and nearly 40% of the youngsters were exposed to three hours of TV every day by the time they were a year old.
More active and fussier infants were more likely to spend extended periods of time in front of the TV. The exposure was also higher among obese mothers, especially those with the fussier kids, leading the researchers to suggest that the television may serve as an easy entertainment strategy.
The scientists were also able to find some factors that contribute to fewer hours in front of the screen, however. Moms with a high school diploma or any additional education were less likely to have TVs in their infants’ room, and less likely to keep the television on during meals.
“In the last decade or so there has been a lot of attention paid to parenting style and care giving. One component has to do with feeding and focus placed on the feeding environment,” says Margaret E. Bentley, Associate Dean of Global Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the principal investigator of the study. “Half of the time, infants are being fed with the television on, which is a feeding strategy we do not recommend.”
Eating in front of the television can lead to unhealthy dining habits that linger into childhood and adulthood, Bentley and her colleagues say, since mothers feeding infants while watching TV might be distracted and not as alert to subtle cues babies send when they feel full, which can lead to overfeeding.
Image: Baby watching television, via Shutterstock
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