Friday, June 21st, 2013
A growing body of research is emerging around the emotional health of babies who are born via gestational surrogate or donor eggs, which is a phenomenon that’s been on the rise in recent years. A new British study from the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge has found that children born via surrogates are more likely to have emotional adjustment problems by age 7 than those who were born by means of a donor egg or sperm. More from NBC News:
Their results, published in the June issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggest that it’s more difficult for youngsters to deal with the idea that they grew in an unrelated woman’s womb, than with the concept that they are not biologically related to one or both parents.
With the number of births involving a surrogate or donated sperm or eggs on the rise, this issue may become increasingly relevant.
The latest statistics from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) show that the number of children who were created with a donated egg rose more than 30 percent from 7,284 in 2004 to 9,541 in 2011, while the number of births involving a surrogate jumped more than 200 percent, from 530 in 2004 to 1,179 in 2011. No one knows how many births have resulted from sperm donations, but estimates range from 30,000 to 60,000 per year, according to a New York Times report.
For the study, [family research professor Susan] Golombok and her colleagues followed 30 surrogacy families, 31 egg donation families, 35 sperm donation families and 53 natural conception families until the children were 10 years old. The researchers surveyed the moms when the children were ages 3, 7 and 10 to get an idea of how well-adjusted the youngsters were.
“Signs of adjustment problems could be behavior problems, such as aggressive or antisocial behavior, or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression,” Golombok says.
There was no difference between children born through egg and sperm donation or children conceived naturally in terms of behavioral adjustment, the researchers found.
While all the children seemed to be doing well by age 10, Golombok says, the concern is, trouble could crop up later as kids hit their adolescence and are trying to find their identities and place in the world, experts say.
The most important thing, experts agree, is for parents to find a way to tell their kids about their beginnings.
Golombok and her team hopes to revisit the subjects when they are 14 years old, to see how these emotional issues play out in adolescence.
Image: Mother and daughter, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Bullying that happens between siblings should be considered to be as serious an issue as bullying among peers or schoolmates, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. NBC News has more:
As with peer bullying, sibling bullying is also harmful to a child or teenager’s mental health, the new research finds.
“Historically, sibling aggression has been unrecognized, or often minimized or dismissed, and in some cases people believe it’s benign or even good for learning about conflict in other relationships,” says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire.
“That’s generally not the case in peer relationships. There appears to be different norms for what is accepted. What is acceptable between siblings is generally not acceptable between peers.”
The mental health consequences of bullying between siblings are real, researchers say. Tucker’s report used data from The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a phone survey that collected the experiences of 3,599 children aged 1 month to 17 years who had at least one sibling younger than 18 living in the household at the time of the interview. One child was randomly selected to be the subject of three telephone interviews.
Children ages 10 to 17 answered the questions themselves; for children younger than 10, the parents answered the questions. (Tucker acknowledges this is a potential limitation of the study, as parents may not know as much about sibling conflicts as they might think — particularly if the children share a bedroom.)
The interviewers asked about incidences of sibling aggression in the past year, and they also assessed mental health by asking how often the children experienced anger, depression and anxiety.
Of the children interviewed (or interviewed by proxy), 32 percent reported experiencing at least one type of sibling victimization in the past year. Researchers found that “all types of sibling aggression, both mild and severe, were associated with significantly higher distress symptom scores for both children and adolescents,” the study authors write.
Image: Siblings fighting, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is marked by heightened levels of anxiety, disruptive repetitive thoughts, and compulsively repeated behaviors, strikes new mothers at higher rates than it affects the general population, a new study to be published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine has found.
OCD during the postpartum weeks and months may take the form of repeatedly checking to make sure baby is breathing, repeatedly washing bottles, or worrying unceasingly about germs and safety. More from RelaxNews:
Previous studies have suggested that women experience OCD symptoms during the postpartum period, but these studies were based on subjects’ recall of past events, LiveScience reports. However, the new study followed moms throughout the first six months after a baby was born, asking partipants to respond to survey questions. More than 460 new moms participated in the study. About half of the subjects who reported symptoms at two weeks improved by six months, while other women’s OCD symptoms sparked at six months. Stress is a well-known trigger to OCD, so the stress of being a new mom could trigger a preexisting condition in some women, the researchers noted. Postpartum hormone levels could play a role as well.
Image: Baby bottles on drying rack, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 1st, 2013
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may share genetic codes with mental illnesses including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, according to new research published this week in the journal The Lancet. The New York Times has more:
[The study] was based on an examination of genetic data from more than 60,000 people world-wide. Its authors say it is the largest genetic study yet of psychiatric disorders. The findings strengthen an emerging view of mental illness that aims to make diagnoses based on the genetic aberrations underlying diseases instead of on the disease symptoms.
Two of the aberrations discovered in the new study were in genes used in a major signaling system in the brain, giving clues to processes that might go awry and suggestions of how to treat the diseases.
“What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, lead author of the paper and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”
The new study does not mean that the genetics of psychiatric disorders are simple. Researchers say there seem to be hundreds of genes involved and the gene variations discovered in the new study only confer a small risk of psychiatric disease.
Steven McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., said it was significant that the researchers had found common genetic factors that pointed to a specific signaling system.
“It is very important that these were not just random hits on the dartboard of the genome,” said Dr. McCarroll, who was not involved in the new study.
Image: Genetic markers, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Some kids handle the pressures of their young lives–chiefly their abilities to score well on standardized tests in school–while others crumble under the anxiety of the pressure to succeed. An article in this weekend’s New York Times magazine looks at this fact through the lens of what it can teach us about anxiety and panic in children. The article chronicles a growing body of research on this question and concludes that though biology plays a role in a child’s ability to manage anxiety, it is far from the only factor in the equation:
An emerging field of research — and a pioneering study from Taiwan — has begun to offer some clues. Like any kind of human behavior, our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors — how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses. There is also a genetic component: One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.
Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine. Unlike long-term stress, short-term stress can actually help people perform, and viewing it that way changes its effect. Even for those genetically predisposed to anxiety, the antidote isn’t necessarily less competition — it’s more competition. It just needs to be the right kind.
Read the full New York Times article for details on the new research into childhood anxiety.
Image: Standardized test, via Shutterstock
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