Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Here’s some reassuring news: A study finds that stuttering is common among three- and four-year-olds, but those who stutter are unlikely to suffer long-lasting social or emotional damage.
More from USA Today:
The fact that the children who stutter were not more withdrawn than their peers who don’t stutter was a “very positive finding,” says Sheena Reilly, the study’s lead author.
Stuttering, sometimes called stammering, often includes repetition of words or phrases as well as prolongation of sounds. Some people can outgrow the speech disorder, which often begins in early childhood. It can persist into adulthood for others.
The study included 1,619 4-year-old children in Melbourne, Australia. They were recruited at 8 months.
The study found that the children who stutter had higher verbal and non-verbal scores than their peers who don’t stutter. Tests looked at what the kids understand, what they say and how they solve a puzzle.
The proportion of kids in this group who began stuttering by age 4 was 11%, an amount higher than reported in previous studies. Recovery from stuttering within 12 months of onset was 6.3%, a rate lower than expected, according to the study.
Reilly, associate director of clinical and public health research at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, says researchers will continue to follow this group of children to learn more about their recovery from stuttering.
Joseph Donaher, academic and research program director for the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says the finding about stuttering’s impact may help allay parents’ worries. “Reports like this help clinicians make the case that some stuttering, especially for a short period of time, doesn’t mean that your child is going to be negatively impacted in the future.”
Image: Preschool group, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 23rd, 2013
A surprising new study found links between certain personality traits and the likelihood that a person will have children. Researchers used data from Norway, which keeps detailed birth records and related personality test information, Science Daily reports.
The scientists found that “neurotic” men—those who tend to be moody and emotional—are having fewer children, a trend that applied only to men born after 1957. In contrast, men who are open and extroverted are having more kids, and women who show up on personality tests as “conscientious” are having fewer kids, regardless of the year they were born.
Vegard Skirbekk, who led the study, theorizes that personality might play a role in Europe’s declining birthrates.
More from Science Daily:
The study was made possible by Norway’s very detailed birth records and an integrated personality survey, which allowed the researchers to examine the connections between both female and male fertility and personality. “For men, often you don’t know exactly how many children they have because information is not matched in the registries, but for Norway we have very exact information,” says Skirbekk.
While the study only considers Norway, Skirbekk says that the findings likely apply more widely. “Norway is a leader country in terms of family dynamics,” says Skirbekk, “Many trends that have been observed first in Norway—increasing cohabitation, divorce rates, and later marriage, for example—have then been observed later in many other parts of the world. Of course it remains to be seen if this phenomenon will also spread.”
Image: Father and sons, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
A new study from Denmark suggests that moms who quit smoking right before or right after getting pregnant are more likely to give birth to normal-weight babies than women who continue to puff.
Of the nearly 1,800 women in the study, those who quit smoking did gain about six more pounds than those who continued to smoke, and they gained roughly the same amount in the year after delivery. But their babies weighed the same, on average, as the babies of moms who never smoked. Low-birth-weight babies face higher risk for infections, respiratory disorders, and learning disabilities.
Reuters has more details:
“The big thing to get out of this study is that quitting early in pregnancy is as helpful in respect to the birth weight of your baby as never having smoked while you were pregnant,” Dr. Amber Samuel, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said.
“I think that can be an inspiration to moms who are looking to make a change in their lives.”
According to the American Cancer Society, between 10 and 15 percent of women smoke during pregnancy. Studies have linked smoking to premature birth and other complications, such as birth defects, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
Infants have a three to four times higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome, or “crib death,” if their mothers smoke during and after pregnancy. Children exposed to secondhand smoke also have more ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and other health problems.
The new study included 1,774 women who were part of the “Smoke-free Newborn” study conducted in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 1996 and 1999.
Twice during pregnancy, researchers surveyed women about their smoking status. To double-check whether women who said they quit smoking really did, their saliva was checked for cotinine – created when nicotine is broken down in the body.
About 38 percent of women were smokers before becoming pregnant, and half of them quit right before or soon after, Dr. Line Rode of Copenhagen University Hospital and colleagues found.
During pregnancy, nonsmokers gained almost 30 pounds, on average, smokers gained 29 pounds and quitters gained 35 pounds.
Image: Pregnant belly with cigarette, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 19th, 2013
A new study suggests that the more soda kids drink, the more likely they are to experience behavior problems.
Researchers analyzed data on nearly 3,000 5-year-olds from 20 large U.S. cities. Their mothers completed checklists about the children’s behaviors over the previous two months, and also told scientists about the children’s habits, such as their diets and how much TV they watched, explains the study’s lead author, Shakira Suglia, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Here’s more from Reuters.com:
Aggressive behavior was measured on a scale between 0 and 100—with higher scores indicating more aggression. Suglia said the average score is 50, and 65 is usually used as a clinical marker of when children should be evaluated for a problem.
Kids who reportedly drank no soda scored 56 on the aggression scale, on average. That compared to 57 among kids who drank one serving per day, 58 among those who drank two servings, 59 among those who drank three servings and 62 for four soda servings or more per day.
After taking into account habits that may have influenced the results—such as how much TV the kids watched, how much candy they ate and their mother’s race and education—the researchers still found that drinking two or four or more servings of soda per day was tied to higher aggression scores.
Overall, kids who drank four or more servings of soda per day were twice as likely to destroy other people’s belongings, get into fights and physically attack people, compared to children who didn’t drink soda.
Soda drinkers also scored higher on scales measuring signs of withdrawal and attention problems, write the researchers in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Little boy drinking soda, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 19th, 2013
There’s been a flurry of recent headlines about giant babies born around the world, weighing in at 13 pounds or more. One British baby, born in March via vaginal delivery, clocked in at a whopping 15 pounds.
Researchers say the risk of having a big baby has increased because more mothers are obese when they give birth, and many women are delaying motherhood, boosting their risk of gestational diabetes, which contributes to over-sized babes.
This trend not only scares expecting moms, but also sets up newborns for poor health, reports NBCNews.com:
Along with the risk of a difficult birth, there is the impact on the health of the babies once they are born, says Dr. Irina Burd, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics and neurology and director of the integrated research center for fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
It’s not uncommon for overweight moms to have diabetes or to develop it during pregnancy. And some of the high blood sugar in the mom flows through the placenta to the baby. That, in turn, forces the baby’s pancreas to pump up insulin production, which can leave babies with low blood sugar after they are born, Burd says.
Another problem is that sugar acts like a growth factor, and not all the growth is in sync, says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, chief of maternal fetal medicine and vice chair for obstetrics at McGee Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“In some ways very large babies look more mature because of their size,” Simhan adds. “But in terms of their lungs, they may be immature.”
Even more concerning are the effects felt by big babies as they grow up. “So they’re not just obese at delivery, but there are epigenetic changes that program them for the rest of their lives,” Burd says. And those include a heightened risk for obesity and cancer, she says.
That’s why doctors have tried to encourage pregnant patients who are obese to gain very little weight during pregnancy.
Newborn baby on scale, via Shutterstock
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