Posts Tagged ‘ new research ’

The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Later School Start Times for Teens

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Pediatricians Recommends Later School Start Times for TeensAs teenagers across the country head back to school, many are starting what will be yet another year of little sleep. But consider this: A consistent lack of shuteye can be much more serious than feeling fatigued in biology.

Studies show sleep deprivation puts teens at risk for things like car accidents and can lead to poor academic performance and ill health. Citing this topic as an “important public health issue,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a recommendation that middle schools and high schools start classes at or after 8:30 a.m. to allow students the chance to get more sleep regularly.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, in an AAP press release.

The AAP states that the optimal amount of sleep time for teens is between 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 hours per night. But as students get older and responsibilities pile up, a mix of homework, extracurricular activities, and after-school jobs leads to even later nights, which can make it very difficult to meet the sleep goal.

The possibility of making this policy change in schools across the nation is also tough. School districts struggle with financial and logistical challenges that include providing school busing services for elementary, middle, and high schools. It can be difficult for enough buses to shuttle kids to all of the schools in one time frame, which can also strain school district budgets. Ultimately, “the issue is really cost,” Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, told the AP.

Does your child’s lack of sleep affect her performance at school? Take a look at these tips to boost her school success.

Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School

Photo of girl sleeping courtesy of Shutterstock.

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New Study Reveals Kids With Autism Have Too Many Synapses

Monday, August 25th, 2014

New Autism Research Links Synapse Pruning to Brain DevelopmentNew insight was gained recently into the brains of children with and without autism, according to a study published in the journal Neuron.

Although there are many neurological variations, one major difference between the brains is that the number of synapses (the channels through which neurons send messages) were found to be more than 50 percent higher in children with autism, Reuters reported.

Researchers learned that children whose brains develop normally begin to prune synapses as they age, but children with autism failed to do that effectively. It’s important to note that their brains weren’t producing more synapses; just having trouble paring them down. The overabundance of synapses correlates with the understanding that children with autism deal with sensory overload, as the synapses can stimulate the brain with too much light and sound.

The same study also found that the drug rapamycin had positive effects on lab mice with a specific, rare genetic disease associated with autism. After being given the drug, the mice experienced an improved synapse pruning process, and their autistic-like social behaviors (avoiding interactions) were reversed. “We were able to treat mice after the disease had appeared,” neurobiologist David Sulzer of Columbia University Medical Center, who led the study, told Reuters. Although the drug is currently too dangerous to test on humans, it offers a possibility that a treatment for autism is in reach, “though there is a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Sulzer said.

The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 68 children has some form of autism, which has no treatment plan. If successful, the drug has the potential to be groundbreaking. The nonprofit, Autism Speaks, is already funding multiple studies on rapamycin.

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

If your child has been diagnosed with autism, download these free family support tool kits from Autism Speaks.

Photo of chalk drawing courtesy of Shutterstock.

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1 in 8 Children Abused Before 18th Birthday, Study Finds

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Child Abuse GirlOne in eight American children have experienced a form of abuse, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers tracked child-abuse cases of more than 5.6 million children and categorized abuse to included beatings, neglect, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse. The study reveals that girls, racial minorities, and children under the age of one had higher percentages of abuse than their counterparts. More from HealthDay.com:

More than 12 percent of kids in the United States experience beatings, neglect or sexual or emotional abuse, according to a new study.

“One in 8 American children, at some point between birth and their 18th birthday, will be maltreated,” said study researcher Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of sociology at Yale University.

Although the percentage of confirmed cases of abuse and neglect is lower than 25 years ago, it’s higher than Wildeman had anticipated. “We compulsively checked our numbers when it came back as 12 percent,” he said.

The study, published online June 2 in JAMA Pediatrics, used information from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File. The database contains only confirmed reports of maltreatment.

The researchers defined confirmed maltreatment as “any report that was substantiated or indicated, meaning sufficient evidence existed for [child protective services] to conclude that abuse or neglect had occurred.”

More girls were mistreated than boys (13 percent versus 12 percent), and certain minority groups were more prone to abuse than others, the researchers said.

More than 20 percent of black children are mistreated, they found. “For Native Americans, the risk is closer to 15 percent,” Wildeman said.

For Hispanic children, the percentage is about 13 percent and for whites, close to 11 percent. “Asians had the lowest, at about 3 to 4 percent,” he said.

Risk is highest early in life, with 2 percent of children having a confirmed report by their first birthday, and nearly 6 percent by their fifth birthday, the researchers said.

However, fewer children suffer abuse now compared to several decades ago, Wildeman said. “There have been big declines in child maltreatment in the U.S. in roughly the last 25 years,” he said, citing other research.

About 80 percent of the cases the team evaluated were neglect, not abuse, he said.

The researchers tracked cases for the years 2004 through 2011, which included about 5.6 million children. They then estimated the cumulative prevalence of confirmed maltreatment by age 18.

The new numbers don’t surprise Janet Currie, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Child maltreatment is a huge and underappreciated public health problem,” said Currie, who was not involved in the study.

In her own recent research, she found that child maltreatment is the leading cause of death from injuries in children older than 1 year.

Because the new report only focuses on confirmed cases, she said it might underestimate the scope of the problem. “Cases may not be confirmed for various reasons, including lack of child welfare staff available to investigate a report,’” she said.

Anyone who suspects a child is mistreated should notify their local or state child protective services or police department, experts say. “Many suspected cases are not verified, but it is better to be safe than sorry about this,” she added.

Telltale signs of abuse include unexplained bruises or burns; fear of going home; age-inappropriate behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting, or inappropriate sexual behaviors. A child who is chronically unwashed may be neglected. Other signs of possible neglect are lack of medical or dental care or drug or alcohol abuse, experts say.

To reduce the risk of mistreatment, friends and family should be especially attentive to the needs of parents of very young children, Wildeman said. “The risk of childhood maltreatment is about four times higher in the first year than any other age,” he said, citing his research.

Having loved ones pitch in during that time might ease the burden and the stress, Wildeman said.

Protect your child from predators with these important tips!

Baby Care Basics: What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Baby Care Basics: What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Baby Care Basics: What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

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Daughters of Domestic Dads Have Higher Aspirations, Study Finds

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Father Dad Daughter ChoresDaughters who see their dads do household chores are more likely to dream of less traditional, higher paying careers, according to the Association for Psychological Science. The study found a strong connection between the way daughters view gender roles and their fathers’ attitude (and action) toward housework. More from PsychologicalScience.org:

Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to less traditional, and potentially higher paying, careers, according to research forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study findings indicate that how parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties plays a key role in shaping the gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.

This is a photo of a father and daughter doing laundry. While mothers’ gender and work equality beliefs were key factors in predicting kids’ attitudes toward gender, the strongest predictor of daughters’ own professional ambitions was their fathers’ approach to household chores.

“This suggests girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents,” says psychology researcher and study author Alyssa Croft, a PhD Candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology. “How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role.”

The study results suggest that parents’ domestic actions may speak louder than words. Even when fathers publicly endorsed gender equality, if they retained a traditional division of labor at home, their daughters were more likely to envision themselves in traditionally female-dominant jobs, such as nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home-mom.

“Despite our best efforts to create workplace equality, women remain severely under-represented in leadership and management positions,” says Croft. “This study is important because it suggests that achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded.”

The study involved 326 children aged 7-13 and at least one of their parents. For each household, researchers calculated the division of chores and paid labor. They also determined the career stereotypes that participants identified with, their gender and work attitudes and children’s career aspirations.

The study found mothers shouldered more of the burden of housework than men, which echoes previous findings. Parents and kids associated women more than men with childcare and domestic work, and girls were significantly more likely than boys to say they want be like adults who take care of kids rather than someone who has a career.

“‘Talking the talk’ about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads ‘walk the walk’ as well — because their daughters clearly are watching,” says Croft, noting that girls might be learning from an early age to take on additional roles, rather than different roles, compared to boys.

What career will your child have when she grows up? Take our quiz to find out!

Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do

Image: Father and daughter cleaning in the kitchen, sweep floor at home via Shutterstock

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Number of Live Births, Cardiovascular Health Linked in Women

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Mom with Seven KidsWomen who have given birth four or more times are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease according to a new study. Compared to women who’ve had fewer pregnancies, in the study of more than 1,500 women, moms with more children showed increased evidence of plaque in the heart and thickening of arteries. More from American College of Cardiology:

Women who give birth to four or more children are much more likely to have evidence of plaque in their heart or thickening of their arteries – early signs of cardiovascular disease – compared with those having fewer pregnancies, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

While earlier studies have shown an association between several aspects of pregnancy – physiological changes, complications, number of pregnancies – and future heart disease risk, many questions remain about how pregnancy might affect cardiovascular risk. To better understand the potential link, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to determine whether the number of live births is associated with early signs of cardiovascular disease.

“This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” said Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead investigator of the study. This is the first study to look at two markers of subclinical atherosclerosis – a gradual narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can eventually block blood flow and lead to stroke and heart attack.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight into a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”

The study included 1,644 women from the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic population-based cohort, who had both self-reported information about the number of live births and relevant imaging study data available. The average age at the time of analysis was 45 years and slightly more than half of the women (55 percent) were African-American. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were measured using computed tomography imaging and aortic wall thickness (AWT) by magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether or not women had evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis in the heart and artery walls. CAC was positive if it was greater than 10 and AWT was abnormal if it was greater than the 75th percentile for age and gender. These tests were done as part of standard subject participation in the Dallas Heart Study.

Using women who had two or three live births as a reference, women who had given birth to four or more children had an approximately two-fold increased risk of having abnormal CAC or AWT. This association remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, education, race and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower socioeconomic status.

Curiously, women who had zero or just one live birth were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis – revealing a U-shaped relationship.

Authors say it is unclear why this might be the case. But Sanghavi and others speculate they may have captured some women in this group who have an underlying condition that prevents them from carrying a first or second pregnancy to term, which may also predispose them to cardiovascular disease or risk factors. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can have menstrual irregularities and trouble getting pregnant, but they may also have other health changes such as excess body weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Pregnancy itself sparks a cascade of changes that can place more strain on a woman’s cardiovascular system. For example, the volume of blood being pumped through the heart increases by 50 percent. In addition, other physiological and metabolic changes occur (e.g., increased insulin resistance and higher cholesterol levels).

“Pregnancy has been called ‘nature’s stress test,’ and for good reason,” Sanghavi said. “It may also help identify women who are at increased risk [for heart disease], even though right now they may not have any risk factors.”…

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Postpartum Exercise: Tips For New Moms
Postpartum Exercise: Tips For New Moms
Postpartum Exercise: Tips For New Moms

Image: Big happy family – a mother and seven children drawing a heart together at home via Shutterstock.

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