Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Children whose mothers work outside the home may be better prepared for and do better in kindergarten, according to a new study published by Boston University researchers. Though the study may ease the guilt some working moms feel, it is not a cut-and-dried finding that applies to every family. More from NBC News:
The effects are strongest for low-income kids. And in wealthy families, the older wisdom may hold true — the kids of working moms did not fare as well as children of at-home moms.
It’s only one study, and it contradicts a large body of older work. But the researchers, at Boston University, say it’s one of the first to look at 21st-century moms and kids.
Image: Working mom, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
A new study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University is looking at whether highly decorated kindergarten classrooms–adorned with colorful art, posters, and borders featuring things like dancing letters and numbers–are distracting to kids during that important first year in school. While the study wasn’t conclusive, it did indicate that some kids’ gazes and attention are drawn away from classroom activities by the decorations. More from the New York Times:
The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.
The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.
“So many things affect academic outcomes that are not under our control,” said Anna V. Fisher, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon and the lead author of the study, which was published in Psychological Science. “But the classroom’s visual environment is under the direct control of the teachers. They’re trying their best in the absence of empirically validated guidelines.”
In the early years of school, children must learn to direct their attention and concentrate on a task. As they grow older, their focus improves. Sixth graders, for example, can tune out extraneous stimuli far more readily than preschoolers, the study’s authors noted.
But could information-dense kindergarten classroom walls, intended to inspire children, instead be overwhelming? Could all that elaborate décor impede learning? Some experts think so.
“I want to throw myself over those scalloped borders and cute cartoon stuff and scream to teachers, ‘Don’t buy this, it’s visually damaging for children!’ ” said Patricia Tarr, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who researches early childhood education and art education. She was not involved in the study.
Image: Colorful classroom, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Parents who are involved in active play with their children during their toddler and preschool years may have better academic performance to look forward to, according to new research by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The findings come from a study of African American boys who were transitioning from preschool to kindergarten.
“The transition to kindergarten can be challenging for many children due to new expectations, social interactions, and physiological changes,” said Iheoma Iruka, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “Transitions may be even more arduous for African American boys, given the many challenges they are likely to face compared to their peers.”
Iruka found four patterns for African American boys after they transitioned—and her team also demonstrated the key role that parenting plays in these outcomes.
Just over half the boys (51%) showed increases in language, reading, and math scores in kindergarten, but a sizeable group (19%) consisted of low achievers in preschool who declined even further academically after transition. The smallest group (11%) included early achievers who declined in kindergarten both academically and behaviorally; by contrast, 20% of the boys in the study comprised a group of early achievers who remained on their high-performing academic and social paths after the transition.
According to Iruka, the results clearly suggest that some African American boys experience challenges to their academic achievement and social skills as they move into to kindergarten.
“In addition, the two groups of early achievers is especially revealing about the importance of effective parenting,” she said. “African American boys from homes where mothers frequently engaged in literacy activities and intentional teaching—and other activities like playing games and taking the child on errands—were likely to be in the high achieving groups.”
Iruka’s study also showed that parent-child interactions influence whether a high-achieving African American boy stays on course.
“It’s important to note that the early achievers who declined academically and socially were more likely to be from homes in which the parents were inattentive,” she said. “The group of boys with detached parents showed a significant decrease in their reading and math scores and an increase in aggression during the preschool-to-kindergarten transition.”
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Image: African American boy, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Kindergarteners who exhibit disruptive behaviors in school and receive interventions to help correct the issues may face a lower risk of abusing substances like drugs and alcohol during adolescence, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Alcohol and drug use are highly prevalent and problematic among young people, and the link between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent substance misuse is well-recognised. In this study, Canadian researchers set out to examine whether a two-year prevention programme in childhood could stop substance misuse problems in later life.
172 boys with disruptive behaviour participated in the study. They all came from low socio-economic backgrounds, and were a subsample from the Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study of Low SES boys, a kindergarten cohort which was initiated in 1984.
46 boys and their parents took part in the two-year intervention programme, when they were aged between 7 and 9 years old. The programme included social skills training for the boys at school, to help promote self-control and reduce their impulsivity and antisocial behaviour, as well as parent training to help parents recognise problematic behaviours in their boys, set clear objectives and reinforce appropriate behaviours. A further 42 boys received no intervention and acted as the control group.
The remaining 84 boys were assigned to an intensive observation group, which differed from the controls in that their families were visited in their homes by researchers, attended a half-day laboratory testing session, and were observed at school. All the boys were followed up until the age of 17, to assess their use of drugs and alcohol.
The researchers found that levels of drug and alcohol use across adolescence were lower in those boys who received the intervention. The reduction in substance use continued through the boys’ early adolescence right up to the end of their time at high school.
Researcher Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, of the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte Justine, Canada, said: “Our study shows that an two-year intervention aimed at key risk factors in disruptive kindergarten boys from low socioeconomic environments can effectively reduce substance use behaviours in adolescence — not only in early adolescence but up to the end of high school, eight years post-intervention. This finding is noteworthy because the effects are stronger and longer-lasting than for most substance use interventions that have been studied before.”
Image: Boy with adult, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 12th, 2013
Toddlers who watch an extra hour of television daily–”extra” meaning an hour more than the two-hour maximum for children two or older recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics–may suffer consequences when they enter kindergarten. The effects of the extra TV time, according to a new study by researchers by the University of Montreal, include diminished vocabulary and math skills, attention and concentration issues, physical prowess, and likelihood of victimization or bullying by classmates. ScienceDaily.com has more:
“This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates,” [Professor Linda] Pagani said. “These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence.”
Pagani conducted the study to discover the effect of television viewing prior to kindergarten. He said, “Much of the research on school readiness has focused on how kindergarten characteristics predict later success. Kindergarten entry characteristics predict long-term psycho-social adjustment and economic characteristics like income and academic attainment. Being innovative, my focus has been to examine what predicts kindergarten entry characteristics. Adding further originality, I also wanted to focus on neglected yet crucial aspects of school readiness such as motor skills, which predict later physical activity and reading skills, likelihood of being “picked-on,” which predict social difficulties, and skills at linked to doing what you are supposed to be doing when having been given instructions, which are in turn linked to attention systems that are regulated by the brain’s frontal lobe development.”
991 girls and 1006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing behaviour as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.
Pagani noted that the standard deviation is a commonly used statistic tool that tells us what is within a normal range compared to the average. One standard deviation from the average daily amount of television viewed by the toddlers in this sample (105 minutes) is 72 minutes. Some of the children who participated in the study were two or even three standard deviations away from the average, and their kindergarten indicators were correspondingly worse than those who were one standard deviation away.
This study only looks at the most common form of screen time, which is in the home. However, it may be an underestimate because many child care settings use television as an activity during care giving.
Image: Boys watching TV, via Shutterstock
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